One of the most memorable moments in the 1972 film Deliverance is the banjo/guitar duel of Billy Redden and Ronny Cox. Musicians looking to add some of that plucky magic to their own compositions could nip out and buy a banjo and lock themselves away while learning to play. They may choose to follow the lead of Bow Thayer and create a new hybrid instrument. Or they could seek some digital emulation wizardry. After being unsatisfied with the latter, guitarist Jon Langberg came up with another way. The Guitar-Jo accessory gives an electric six-string an identity crisis by making it sound like a banjo.
Langberg discovered that dampening guitar strings using a cloth produced a sound not a stone's throw away from a banjo. Sometimes. The results were inconsistent, with the cloth often falling out during a performance. So he started working on making something a little more reliable and came up with a plexiglass dampening device that was attached to a guitar near the bridge with suction cups. A bar with fabric material on its underside could then be lowered onto the strings, or raised, to suit. The device's creator says that it produced a sound that was much more consistent with that of a real-world banjo.
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Encouraged by a healthy amount of interest in his invention, Langberg filed for a provisional patent and started working on a design that he could market. This led to a couple of crowdfunding efforts earlier this year, but the device didn't make it into production. Now a further redesign has prompted Langberg to take another dip in crowdfunding waters.
Unlike previous flavors, the latest iteration sits under the strings, between the pickups, and is mounted on the body or pickguard using micro-suction technology. This is reported to make it easy to attach or remove the device as needed without causing damage to the host instrument. The Guitar-Jo has three circular dampeners located to the front of the slim block body, each taking pressure application duties on two strings. The height of each dampener can be adjusted at the top of the device.
The Kickstarter campaign launched to bring the Guitar-Jo into production has a somewhat modest funding target of US$2,900 and runs until September 25. Pledge levels for single units start at $45, with shipping slated for October if all goes to plan. The accessory can be seen in action in the video below.