Guitars like Gibson's iconic Flying V, just about any BC Rich model, or Bob Wiley's Ministar travel guitars may well stand out in any crowd, but they're not exactly built for comfort. Guitar maker Shawn Steen has spent the last two years tweaking and testing an instrument designed to comfortably fit the shape of a player's body, while looking good and sounding great. The final adjustments have been made, all the choice components selected, and the first show models created. Now it's launch time for the new line of hand-made ergonomic guitars.
The contoured body of the Steen guitar is made from African White Limba, a light and balanced tone wood used by Gibson for its 1958 Explorer guitars. The bottom cutaway has been positioned and shaped for optimum comfort while seated, and the cut at the front designed to give the player full access to the higher frets.
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"Beside the contours and correctly positioned cuts for the leg and hands, the balance of weight was crucial," says Steen. "When you play it sitting down and then try it with a strap it stays in the exact same position. Seems like a small thing until you compare it with a guitar that neck dives. You realize you don't have to hold the neck in position (up or down) while you are playing. This balance makes a huge difference in comfort."
The 25-inch scale maple neck with rosewood fretboard (sporting 22 medium jumbo frets) has been treated to a satin finish. Steen selected a bolt-on neck design to make the instrument more affordable, while having more give and flex, with a feel that the designer prefers over through neck models. The headstock is angled at 10 degrees to the neck and the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners are positioned in line with a frictionless graphite nut and roller bridge combined with a stop tail, which Steen says makes for optimum tuning and great sustain.
The guitars pack either Lace Alumitone or Hemi pickups (though model #5 does come with Gibson humbuckers), and come with CTS volume and tone pots. The #2 model comes with a Dusenberg Le Trem whammy bar, but a B5 Bigsby or Le Trem can be fitted to any model for a couple of hundred bucks extra.
All models feature a 5-way pickup selection switch that can be positioned before or after the tone and volume knobs, and a heavy duty instrument jack. They're hand-dyed in colors ranging from green to yellow to white, and are shipped pre-strung with Dunlop 10-46 gauge strings.
For the most part, all Steen guitars are built to order in the US (though some may be available from shop stock). As such, options like all-gold hardware (instead of the standard chrome or black finish, or a gold/silver combination), customer-chosen volume or tone knobs, or non-standard pickguards can be added in during the ordering process. Prices start at US$1,299.
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