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Ergonomic Electric Guitar Project

The ergonomic guitar has a cream colored body with a cutout in back, a tortoise shell pickguard and a roasted maple neck. The double cutout is for playing in the classical style.

Here's the end result of my ergonomic guitar project.  I'll explain more about the shape of the body below, but in summary, the two main goals I had for this guitar were: 

1. I wanted to be able to play sitting-down without my back hurting 

2. I wanted the guitar to be in the same position relative to my body when I was playing standing as when I was playing sitting. 

There's also a generous arm carve to help with ergonomics.

You probably recognize this ergonomic guitar is built on the T-stye (aka Telecaster) platform. The body outline is different, but the bridge, single-coil pickups, control plate, headstock, etc. are all Telecaster-style. 

The guitar has a  roasted maple Warmoth neck, stainless steel frets and staggered Fender locking tuners.

This picture of the ergonomic guitar shows the headstock and roasted maple neck

Shows a person playing the ergonomic guitar seated in the classical position.

I need to find a better looking guitar model, but this image shows why the ergonomic guitar body has the shape it does. There's a ton of good information online about proper guitar playing posture so I won't go into that, but in summary I wanted the following for my ergonomic guitar posture:

1. Sit with back straight and feet flat on the ground

2. Guitar weight evenly distributed on right and left legs

3. Guitar neck at 45 degree angle.

This is pretty much the standard classical guitar posture, but better. Because the ergonomic electric guitar does not have the size and shape constraints of an acoustic guitar; there is no need for a foot stool, rest, support, etc. 

I really need to find a more attractive guitar model, but for now, I will just make the picture small. Note how the ergonomic guitar is in the same position relative to my body when I am standing and playing as when I am sitting. This obviously makes it easier to transition between the two.

Shows a person playing the ergonomic guitar standing a using a strap.

Cobra blue ultra telecaster guitar and electric guitar  leg rest in carry case

My ergonomic guitar project started during covid when I decided to learn to play guitar with all the time I would have at home. I bought this fancy Telecaster and started practicing every day. At first I sat in the "folk" position with the guitar on my right leg, but within a few months my back hurt.

It didn't take much research to learn that a classical guitar posture was superior to the folk posture, so I switched.

Unfortunately, my fancy blue Telecaster isn't a very ergonomic electric guitar and it didn't sit on my left leg very well so I tried a footstool and then a little cushion, but ultimately I made a rest that worked pretty well. It was made of aluminum, plastic, felt, longer on back, sandpaper on bottom

Electric guitar leg rest installed on cobra blue telecaster ultra

Ergonomic electric guitar on top of regular Telecaster showing differences in body shape

The material added to the bottom of the body eliminates the need for the rest and the horn on top moves the attachment point for the strap about two inches forward.

Moving the attachment point forward makes the guitar better balanced on the strap and prevents neck dive.

I was concerned about neck dive because I was cutting quite a bit of material off the back of the guitar. 

Moving the front strap forward pretty much cancels out the effect of cutting wood off the back and  the balance of the ergonomic guitar feels like a traditional T-style guitar.

This shows the material cut out of the back of the body.

Two volume controls (one for each pickup) with the jack in the control plate. Adjusting the relative volume of each pickup "blends" their effects. I may change  to a single volume and 4-way switch. The jack is in the control plate so it doesn't get in the way when sitting.

The pickups are wired in parallel and in a  humbucking configuration, but the humbucking isn't fully effective unless both pickups are set at the exact same volume. The guitar is pretty quiet even without the humbucking. I was careful to shield everything and twist the wires from the pickups to the control cavity.

The actual piece that was cutout from the back of the ergonic guitar body sitting next to the guitar body

Ergonomic guitar body only showing copper tape lining pickup routes and control cavity.

Here's the ergonomic guitar body showing the cavities lined with copper tape. I was pretty careful with wiring and shielding since the guitar uses single-coil pickups. 

The outline of the body  is different, but the neck pocket, pickup routes, control cavity routes, etc. are all the same as a traditional Telecaster..

The body is very heavy and dense Northern Ash, but because the body has less total wood than a traditional Telecaster body  the weight of the guitar came in at a reasonable eight pounds. I think the hard dense wood makes is sound heavier than it is, but that could easily be listener bias.

Here's a high-res scan of the original sketch of the ergonomic T-style guitar. I enlarged this sketch and used it to make the cutout in the back of the ergonomic guitar  body. For the top and bottom "horns" at the front of the body I literally swapped the top and the bottom shapes of the standard T-style. 

The pick guard is a standard T-style with the horn cut off.

Original sketch of the ergonomic electric guitar body

Two color burst Squire guitar body with a cutout taken from the back and an arm carve

I bought a $179 Squier Bullet, modified it and played it a bunch during my ergonomic guitar journey. After some setup and fret dressing it played fine, but after about 9 months the fake skunk stripe started pushing into the back of the neck and I didn't think it was worth it (or even possible) to fix the back of the neck. The bridge, rear pickup, neck plate and ferrules from the Squier Bullet went into the ergonomic electric guitar.

I'd be happy to supply more detail if you want to build something similar to this guitar. Email me at rich.hooper@gmail.com for more information. You can also let me know if f you know of  an example ergonomic electric guitar you would like me to highlight below.

Other Ergonomic Guitars

The ergonomics of guitars is really a discussion of degree and differences. By this I mean, "In how many ways is this "ergonomic" guitar  different than a "non-ergonomic" guitar?."

Stratocaster Ergonomic Electric Guitar

Honey burst stratocaster electric guitar

In 1954 Fender introduced the Stratocaster electric guitar. It was the next iteration of the Esquire/Broadcaster/Nocaster/Telecaster electric guitar Fender designed and released in 1950. The Stratocaster has a number of changes that improve its ergonomics and a number of feature that may or may not improve its sonic performance. I'll discuss the ergonomic changes here.

1. Arm carve
2. Top horn
3. Breast carve

Ovation Breadwinner Ergonomic Guitar

Ovation Breadwinner ergonomic electric guitar in matte black

Standard Breadwinner on the top. Breadwinner limited on the bottom.

The Ovation breadwinner ergonomic guitar was produced from 1972 to 1979. The first version ('72-'75) used 2 toroidal single-pole pickups, then subsequent models were fitted with mini-humbucker pickups. They all had 1 volume and 1 tone control, and a three-way pickup selector and a mid-range cut switch - these were one of the first (if not THE first) guitars to come equipped with an active FET preamp on board. .

1. Extended leg rest
2. Right leg cutout
3. Lowered top horn
4. Breast carve
5. Arm carve

Klein Ergonomic Guitar

Klein ergonomic electric guitar

This particular example of a Klein ergonomic electric guitar was manufactured by the Steinberger Sound Corporation in the 1990s.The model above is a  "GK -4 T" that matched the ergonomic bodies by Klein with Steinberger hardware and electronics.

1. Extended leg rest
2. Headless
3. Right leg cutout
4. Lowered top horn
5. Very light weight
6. Breast carve

Strandberg Ergonomic Electric Guitar

Strandberg electric guitar in blue maple

The Strandberg guitar seems to be a commercially viable example of an ergonomic electric guitar, which is nice. The outline of the body is a lot like the outline of my ergonomic electric guitar body. It has a leg cutout in back, double horn in front and a generous arm carve. The main difference in the body reflects the headless design of the neck of the Strandberg ergonomic guitar.

1. Neck shape
2. Headless
3. Extended leg rest
4. Right leg cutout
5. Breast carve
6. Arm carve
7. Very light weight
8. Contoured heel

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