Ovation Breadwinner ergonomic electric guitar produced in the 1970s

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Electric Guitar Ergonomic Analysis

There are dozens of factors that affect the ergonomics of a guitar. The analysis below focuses primarily on the shape, and to some extent the weight and balance, of the ergonomic electric guitar body. This discussion focuses on the ergonomics of electric guitars because there are many less sonic constraints on the electric guitar body relative to an acoustic guitar body. Changes to the shape of an acoustic guitar body will almost always have a dramatic effect on the way the guitar sounds. Changes to the shape of an electric guitar body have a much smaller effect on the tone, though many will say that changes to the weight and density of the guitar body will have a larger sonic effect. Of course the weight of the guitar is an important ergonomic consideration, primarily when playing while standing.

I want to point out that the shape, weight and balance of the guitar neck are equally important to the ergonomics of the electric guitar, and some might say even more important, than those of the guitar body. I discuss the weight and balance of the neck below a bit, but the ergonomics of the shape of the guitar neck are a study unto themselves and I do not discuss them here,

To me, the ergonomics of electric guitars is really a discussion of degree and differences. By this I mean, "how does this "ergonomic" electric guitar  differ from a traditional, "non-ergonomic" guitar?" Conducting  this analysis requires a reference standard and for this I am choosing the venerable Telecaster as the reference electric guitar for ergonomic analysis. I chose the Telecaster as the standard because it was among the very first electric guitars (released to the public in 1951) and it has a basic, "no frills" design that provides a crisp departure point for comparing and contrasting of its ergonomics to other electric guitar designs.

Perhaps the best, reason to choose the Telecaster as a reference for comparision while examining the ergonomics of other guitars is that it was followed three years later with the Stratocaster in 1954 and then four years after that with the Jazzmaster in 1958. Both the Stratocaster and the Jazzmaster had very specific changes meant to improve the ergonomics of the guitar that preceded it. Examining these changes provides a basis for understanding electric guitar ergonomics.

After discussing the Telecaster -> Stratocaster -> Jazzmaster lineage, this page lists and discusses a number of other ergonomic electric guitars. These are presented in generally chronological order. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of ergonomic guitar designs. That would be a very long list! Rather, these electric guitars were chosen because they exhibited specific ergonomic guitar features I wanted to point out and discuss. Generally speaking, I'm not ranking these (or any guitars) in any way. My aim is to point out specific ergonomic features and try to explain the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Finally, you may be wondering why a PhD robotics guy like me is writing about electric guitar ergonomic analysis. First of all, I'm a guitar player and very interested in not getting repetitive stress injuries. Therefore, I have done quite a bit of research on electric guitar ergonomics. Secondly, my doctoral dissertation focused on geometry and kinematics, though in the context of robotics. In the analysis and discussion below, I am simply applying the principles of geometry and kinematics to the ergonomics of electric guitars.

In all the discussion below I try to stick to the facts and let the data speak for themselves. In some places I also provide commentary that reflects my opinions regarding electric guitar ergonomics. Please keep in mind that where there is commentary rather than data, these comments reflect my opinions and not necessarily those of any other person or company.

Telecaster Electric Guitar

Telecaster Electric Guitar Ergonomics while playing seated


T-style guitar showing sitting ergonomic measurements


1950 saw the introduction of the Esquire electric guitar. It went through two name changes until it eventually was called the Telecaster electric guitar in 1951. The Esquire only had the bridge pickup and the Telecaster also has one in the neck, but the number of pickups to me is not an ergonomic consideration for an electric guitar.

To begin with, I'm going to present some objective analysis of the ergonomics of the Telecaster being played in the sitting position with the guitar resting on the leg(s). There are two different sitting positions guitar players primarily use. The first, and by far most common, is the folk (also called  traditional) sitting position with the guitar resting on the right leg (for right-handed players). The other is the classical sitting position with the guitar resting on the left leg (or both legs). Almost all guitars are designed to be played in the folk sitting position. Strictly speaking any guitar could be played in either position, but as a practical matter, any particular guitar is almost always going to be more ergonomic in one position or the other. The reasons for this are discussed more below. Also in the discussion below, I'm sure that I will use the words "left" and "right" to discuss various statistics related to electric guitar ergonomics. Unless stated otherwise, these will always be for playing the guitar right-handed. Just swap "left" with "right" to adapt the discussion to left-handed players.

A number of these statistics are affected by the scale length of the guitar, though the effect is very small. All "adult sized" guitars that I know of have a scale length of 25.5 inches to 24.75 inches . To me, the effects of scale length within this range are negligible relative to the overall magnitude of the measurements I will be making. Generally speaking with regards to ergonomics, the shorter scale length makes the first few frets a bit easier to reach and multi-fret stretches a little easer to make. The downside is that it's a little more crowded between frets if you need to fit more than two fingers between two adjacent frets. For these three reasons, "student" sized guitars typically have a scale length shortened by two inches or so. The scale length also affects the tone of the guitar, but as they say, "that's another story."

Tilt range - 0 to 20 degrees - In the figure above the blue T-style guitar is tilted above vertical by about 20 degrees. 45 degrees is often cited as the "most" ergonomic tilt for a guitar, but this is for a player sitting  in the classical guitar position. For reasons that will be explained in the context of the Jazzmaster ergonomic electric guitar, 45 degrees may be too much if you are playing the guitar on your right leg. Regardless of exactly how much tilt is optimal for an ergonomic electric guitar, I'm sure most, if not all, experts will tell you that the "best" tilt with respect to ergonomics is somewhere between 0 and 45 degrees. Regardless of what is best, we can see the maximum tilt the Telecaster will comfortably support while sitting is about 20 degrees. At this angle the bottom of the lower horn is parallel with the horizontal. If the guitar tilts any more than this, it will tend to slip off the player's leg. For the analysis below, all of the ergonomic statistics were determined with the guitars at the maximum tilt angle unless specifically stated otherwise.

Rest point - 0.9 inches behind 21st fret - The rest point is determined by projecting a line straight up from where the guitar is resting on the leg and then ending the line midway up the fret board (between the 3rd and 4th strings). This is shown by the darker blue line in the figure above and we can see that this line ends about an inch behind the 21st fret. The light blue line shows this measurement. The rest point is very much related to the offset in offset ergonomic electric guitars. Offset is often described as the asymmetry of the  upper half of the guitar body relative to the lower half of the guitar and it usually means the lower half of the guitar body is moved away from the neck. This is discussed further below with regards to the Jazzmaster ergonomic electric guitar. Where the guitar sits on the leg relative to a fixed point on the fretboard (the rest point) is one way to measure the magnitude of the offset of an offset ergonomic electric guitar.

Rest point rise - 5 inches - This is the height of the middle of the fretboard directly above where the guitar is resting. In the figure above it is indicated by the length of the vertical blue line. This line ends between the 3rd and 4th strings and measures 5 inches in length. The rest point rise is effectively an ergonomic measure of how high the player's strumming hand will be above their lap when they are playing.

:Left hand reach - 10.6 inches - The purple line in the figure above indicates this measurement of electric guitar ergonomics. The length of the purple line from above the rest point  to the 7th fret is about 10.6 inches. This gives a measure of the ability of your left hand to reach the top and the bottom of the neck. As with most ergonomic factors, this one too is a tradeoff. A shorter left hand reach may make it easier to reach the first few frets, but it may also make it harder to reach the last few frets because your body will be getting in the way of your left arm. Note that this isn't really an independent ergonomic factor. It can be calculated from the light blue line and the scale length of the guitar. Nevertheless, I broke it out separately to help visualize the measurement.

Leg spread - 12 inches -This is an ergonomic measure of how suitable the guitar is for playing in the classical seated position with the guitar resting on both the left and right legs. This measures how far apart the player will need to spread their legs to allow the guitar to rest on both of them. For right handed players, a greater leg spread means the player will need to angle his right leg farther to the right. Find a picture of anyone playing a standard electric guitar in the classical seated position and it will be obvious what I mean by "angling the right leg to the right." It's not very ergonomic or comfortable, but it's one of the ergonomic tradeoffs if a player wants to play in the classical seated position with a "traditionally" shaped guitar.

I do have one final comment regarding these sitting ergonomic measures. If a player wants to place the guitar so that it is positioned relative to their body when they are sitting the same as it is positioned when they are standing (a worthy goal in my opinion, and for more than only ergonomic reasons) one option is simply to support the guitar with a strap while you are sitting. The downside of this is that now the weight of the guitar will be supported by the musculoskeletal structure of your hips, back, and shoulder, etc. rather than just traveling through your leg bones to the ground. Furthermore, typical guitar straps are terrible ergonomically. I discuss this more below.

Telecaster Electric Guitar Ergonomics while playing standing

Analysis of ergonomics while playing theT-style electric guitar standing

This analysis of the ergonomic aspects of playing the electric guitar while standing focuses on the weight of the guitar and the location of the strap buttons relative to the rest of the guitar. Obviously the distribution of the weight impacts the ergonomics of the guitar, most importantly in terms of balance, but even different guitars of the same type balance differently depending on the woods used in their bodies, the kind of tuners they have, etc. In terms of balance, the main ergonomic challenge with electric guitars  is usually "neck dive." Next dive is the tendency of the guitar to rotate around the player's shoulders such the the headstock of the guitar gets closer to the ground. The shape of the guitar's body is another ergonomic consideration and is briefly discussed in the comparisons between T-style and other guitars.

Determining a "optimal" balance for the electric guitar while it is supported by the strap is a complicated ergonomic exercise. It would be easy to say, "the weight at both strap buttons should be the same," but that's not correct. The end of the strap connected to the front button is pulling almost straight up. The end of the strap connected to the back button is pulling up, but it is also pulling backwards towards the player. If the weight at both strap buttons were the same, then the tension in the strap at the back of the guitar would have to be greater than that at the front because it supporting both the upward and backward loads.

If there was no friction between a player's shoulders and the inside of the guitar strap, then the guitar would rotate to its balanced tilt angle whenever the player's hands were off the guitar. Of course there is always friction between a player's shoulders and the inside of the strap so the guitar can't rotate freely. Furthermore, many players wear wide guitar straps with unfinished leather or other "high-friction" material on the inside of the strap. This mitigates to some extent the ergonomic issues with a guitar that is "neck heavy" because the friction prevents the neck of the guitar from actually diving towards the ground. Because of the effects of friction, smaller imbalances in weight between the front and back strap buttons may be barely perceptible to the player. As the imbalance grows larger, the muscles in the player's neck, back and shoulders need to counteract the friction forces to an increasingly greater detriment to ergonomics. 

Strap button midpoint - bridge pickup - As shown with the green vertical line in the figure above, the midpoint between the two strap buttons is at the bridge pickup with the T-style guitars. With regards to ergonomics, this statistic generally relates to how the guitar strap will hang over the player's body. If the midpoint moves towards the player's right, the headstock will mover farther away to the player's left, though as discussed below, the strap button forward location has more of an effect on this tendency.

Strap button forward location - 19th fret - The right most vertical yellow line in the figure above shows that the strap button forward location on a Telecaster is at the 19th fret when the guitar is tilted at 20 degrees. The Telecaster is known to be a bit neck- heavy, but not to the point of being an issue. Though with all else being equal, the Telecaster would be less neck- heavy, and thus be a more ergonomic electric guitar, if the strap button location could magically be moved toward the headstock an inch or two. 

The issue of neck dive is a perfect example of the perils associated with ergonomic analysis of guitars. Even with its reputation for having unfortunate neck-dive ergonomics, the venerable Gibson SG electric guitar is  one of the most popular guitars there is. It's easy to understand why the SG has poor neck- dive ergonomics. The forward strap button location on the SG  is at the front of the neck plate, (approximately like it is with a T-style guitar at 20 degrees tilt) but the weight of an SG body is much less than the weight of the T-style body. The weight of the body relative to the neck shifts the balance of the SG toward the headstock and makes it neck-heavy.

The strap button forward location also very much affects how far the left hand will need to reach to get to the first few frets. This is because the strap tends to hang straight down from the player's shoulder to the front strap button. Thus, if the forward strap button is moved towards the neck, then the headstock of the guitar will get closer to the player. Conversely, if the forward strap button moves towards the bridge, then the headstock of the guitar will get farther from the player. 

Speaking of guitar straps, the almost universal style of hanging the weight of the guitar over one shoulder is not good ergonomically. It seems to me the weight of the guitar should be carried about equally on both shoulders. There are ergonomic straps available that hang over both shoulders, and another style that hangs around the waist. There's even a strap that hangs over both shoulders and let's you spin the guitar ZZ Top style!

Total weight - 7.5 lbs - Obviously the total weight of the guitar affects the ergonomics when playing the instrument while standing. With all else being equal, a lighter guitar will be easier to support on a strap than a heavier guitar. With regards to total weight, the Gibson SG is a good example of in electric guitar ergonomic analysis. The SG is a very light guitar, which is good ergonomically because it's less total weight for your musculoskeletal structure to support, but the trade-off is a tendency towards neck dive.

By the way, the 7.5 lbs is what my Telecaster weighs. Depending on the type of wood the body is made from, a Telecaster will weigh anywhere from 7 to 8.5 lbs. This leads to another example of a tradeoff in electric guitar ergonomic analysis, but in this case the tradeoff is with the tone of the guitar. Many people think guitars with bodies made of heavier woods sound better than those made with lighter woods. Other players think any difference in sound quality between heavy and lighter woods is either imperceptible or extremely small and they would prefer the lighter guitar because it is easier to support on a strap. As discussed, the tradeoff in ergonomics is that guitars with lighter bodies can easily become imbalanced and heavy towards the neck.

Stratocaster Ergonomic Electric Guitar

Shows ergonomic measurements for a Stratocaster guitar played while sitting or standing


1954 saw the introduction of the Stratocaster electric guitar. It was the next guitar in the Esquire -> Telecaster lineage. To start with, here is the same list of ergonomic statistics for the Stratocaster that was defined above for the Telecaster guitar. 

Seated  tilt range - 0 to  20 degrees
Rest point - 0.9 inches behind 21st fret
Rest point rise - 5 inches
Left hand reach - 10.6 inches
Leg spread - 12 inches
Strap button midpoint - Between the bridge and middle pickups
Strap button forward location - 15th fret
Total weight - 7.5 pounds

Based on these statistics, the ergonomics of both guitars being played in the sitting position are about the same. I've played both guitars in the folk sitting position and they seem about the same ergonomically to me, at least with regards to the position of the guitar on my leg. That being said, the Stratocaster has a number of design changes that most people agree improve its ergonomics. 

1. Arm carve - The Telecaster has almost 90 degree edges all around the front and back of the guitar body. Ergonomics 101 will tell you that sharp edges and corners are not desirable in an ergonomic electric guitar. The Stratocaster rounded all these edges, but added even more carving where the inside of the strumming forearm contacts the guitar body. This is one of the most obvious ergonomic improvements there is to be made over the design of the Telecaster. It's also an easy (though irreversible) ergonomic change to make to a T-style guitar and many players, from the famous to the not so famous simply add an arm carve to a standard Telecaster using a sander. Other than a desire to keep the look of the Telecaster exactly like the original, there really is no tradeoff to this ergonomic change and most electric guitars produced today have an arm carve. The main exception would be the Les Paul style guitars, but these have a rounded top that ergonomically gets most of the way there.
2. Belly carve - This ergonomic feature is on the back of the guitar so you can't see it in the image of the Stratocaster above, but you can see it on the back of the blue "modern" Telecaster and the red Stratocaster below. This feature is almost always called a belly carve, but that's not an accurate name. There is no way to position the guitar while seated or standing  to get your belly near that carve. When standing, the carve makes room for the lower part of the rib cage, which I assume is why the carve is there since the ergonomic aim of the Stratocaster was to be more comfortable to play while standing than its predecessor the Stratocaster. That being said, it also is an ergonomic carve that makes some room for a player's breast when they are leaning forward over the guitar in the traditional seated position. Leaning over a guitar is most certainly not preferable in a guitar ergonomics sense, but a lot of players do it and the carve makes it more comfortable for them. As with the arm carve, most modern guitars have a breast carve.
3. Extended top horn - The extended top horn was added to improve the ergonomic balance of the guitar when the player is in the standing position. As you can see in the image above, at a 20 degree tilt the front strap button extends down to the 17th fret on the Stratocaster versus the 19th fret for the Telecaster. This moves the strap attachment forward about 1 inch, which makes the guitar less neck heavy. As with most things regarding electric guitar ergonomics, there's more to this analysis than simply extending the top horn. This is because the tilt of the guitar is part of the equation.

Ergonomic Considerations Regarding the Front Strap Button Location

Back of T-style guitar showing location of front strap button and belly carve Front strap button attached at the neckplate of Stratocaster style guitar like Mark Knopfler played early in his career Shows a vertical straight line that passes through the front strap button and neck plate when a Stratocaster-type guitar is tilted at 35 degrees

The image on the left shows a back view of a modern Telecaster tilted at 20 degrees. As you can see, the front of the neck plate is actually forward of the front strap button by a bit. This suggests that at tilt angles greater than about 19 degrees a Telecaster will actually balance better ergonimically if the forward strap button is attached at the neck plate. I actually own this blue Telecaster and I've tried locating the front strap button on the neck plate and agreed the guitar felt a little ergonomically balanced this way, but I play at a tilt angle of about 45 degrees. I also preferred the way the front of the strap lay flat against my body rather than twisting away from the front strap button to go over my shoulder the way it does in the standard button location. Finally, it seemed to me that the strap was more reliably held by the button when the strap didn't have to twist 90 degrees to go over my shoulder.

The middle image of the red Stratocaster above shows a replica of the guitar played by a young Mark Knopfler. There are lots of guitars that mount the front strap button in this location. One ergonomic benefit I see of this location is that the balance and position of the guitar will stay pretty constant for tilt angles between 0 and 45 degrees. That's not the case if the strap is mounted to the top horn. With the strap mounted in this location, the body of the guitar will move towards the player's fretting hand and the distribution of weight will move towards the headstock (meaning the guitar will get progressively more neck-heavy) as the tilt angle rotates from 0 to 45 degrees. This happens because the top horn is above the centerline of the fret board, and the more above the fret board it is, the more pronounced the effects. This may not matter to you if you always play with the guitar at the same tilt angle, but if you do change the tilt of the guitar while you are playing (perhaps switching between using a flat pick and playing finger style), it's something you might consider as part of the guitar's ergonomics.

As discussed above, at 20 degree tilt, the Stratocaster top horn moves the front strap attachment point towards the neck of the guitar by about an inch relative to the Telecaster. Simple geometry shows that at 0 degrees tilt the front strap button would be about 2.5 inches towards the neck of the guitar relative to the Telecaster. (1/cos(20) = 2.45). The image above at the right shows a Stratocaster tilted at 35 degrees. As can be seen in this image, the Stratocaster would balance about the same at 35 degrees whether it was attached at the front of the top horn or at the front of the neck plate. Between tilt angles of 35 to 45 degrees, the guitar  should balance better ergonomically if attached at the top plate.

Here's one last observation about affixing the front strap button at the neck plate of the guitar. It makes the top horn of the guitar PRETTY MUCH useless in terms of ergonomics! In fact, removing the top horn makes the ergonomics better in the sense that it gets the top horn out of the way of the player's body and reduces the over all weight of the guitar. As discussed, decreasing the weight of the guitar body does tend to make the guitar more neck-heavy, but because the top horn is right at the strap attachment point, its weight does not have enough leverage to make much ergonomic difference in the balance.

This leads to a general rule about weight and balance. The farther from the center point of the guitar the weight is, the more of an effect it will have on the balance. This means that weight in the headstock will have the most impact on the balance of the guitar relative to weight in any other part of the guitar. As a rule of thumb in electric guitar ergonomic analysis, weight at the center of the headstock will have a little more than twice (2.2 times on a T-style guitar) the effect on balance than weight at the center of the body.

This also leads to another tradeoff in the ergonomic design of the guitar. For better balance, it  would be typically be great to remove weight from the headstock, or remove the head stock entirely. The sonic consideration though is that that mass at the headstock affects the tone of the guitar, and unless something is also done to simultaneously make the neck stiffer, the sonic changes of removing mass at the headstock may not be for the better. In fact, you can buy brass headstock plates that in some cases will noticeably improve the tone of an electric guitar, though these are not as popular as they once were, and ergonomically they come at the expense of making the guitar more neck heavy..

And ergonomics aside, I don't like the idea of the of the guitar hanging from one of the four screws holding the neck to the body. The neck joint is extremely important both mechanically and sonically.  It would be much better if another hole was drilled in the neck plate and a shorter screw was used that went through the button, through the neck plate, and then into the body of the guitar (but not all the way into the neck).

Jazzmaster Ergonomic Electric Guitar

Shows ergonomic measurements for a Jazzmasterr guitar played while sitting or standing


1958 saw the introduction of the Jazzmaster ergonomic electric guitar. It was the next electric guitar released in the Esquire -> Telecaster -> Stratocaster lineage. This guitar was designed to be more ergonomic to play seated than either the Telecaster or the Stratocaster. The statistics below reflect this design goal.

Seated tilt range - 0 to 20 degrees
Rest point - 3.8 inches behind the 21st fret
Rest point rise - 4.7 inches
Left hand reach - 13.4 inches
Leg spread - 9.5  inches
Strap button midpoint - Bridge pickup
Strap button forward location - 17th fret
Total weight - 8.5 pounds

These statistics show several ergonomic changes made to the Jazzmaster relative to the Stratocaster. The most striking is that the rest point has been moved towards the rear of the guitar (away from the headstock) by almost three inches. That's what makes the Jazzmaster an "offset" guitar. The bottom half of the guitar is offset (away) from the headstock relative to the top of the guitar. This in turn shifts the rest of the guitar towards the player's belly button (their centerline)  substantially when it is being played sitting down in the folk style. Centering the guitar better makes it easier to play and makes it sit on the leg in a position that ergonomically more closely resembles how the guitar hangs from the strap. Both of these are good things. It also moves the headstock farther away from the player's centerline  the same amount, which to me feels more comfortable. These are all ergonomic positives. Why not offset the guitar six inches? That would put the guitar about evenly spaced between the player's two legs. That must be better, right?

Once again, there are ergonomic trade offs associated with offsetting the guitar. The biggest one to me is that it makes the guitar more neck heavy when being played sitting down. This is at least one of the reasons why the Jazzmaster is heavier than the Stratocaster. The heavier weight of the body makes the offset guitar balance better on the leg. Also, you can tell by looking that this weight is distributed at the very back (away from the headstock) of the guitar where it will have the most leverage to counteract the weight that was moved forward of the rest point by offsetting the guitar. 

Strap button forward location - The strap button forward location moved away from the headstock two frets, or about an inch, relative to the Stratocaster. With the added weight at the rear of the Jazzmaster, there was no ergonomic need to move the front strap button as far forward to balance the guitar.

Left hand reach - This ergonomic statistic grew because the offset shifted the guitar toward the player's left. To me, it's more comfortable to play with this shift because it moves the higher frets away from my body and the lower frets are still easy to get to..

Rest point rise - This statistic got a little bit (0.3 inches) smaller. The rest point rise decreasing is an ergonomic side effect of offsetting a guitar. The more the guitar is tilted, the more the rest point rise will decrease with offset. Because the guitar is tilted by 20 degrees when these measurements are taken, the rest point rise should have decreased by about 1 inch (2.8*sin(20 degrees) = 0.96)). There is material added to the bottom of the Jazzmaster body of the guitar to bring the rest point back up to about where it is on a Tele or Strat.

Leg spread - The leg spread decreased to 9.5 inches, which potentially would indicate this guitar might be easier to play in the classical sitting position than either a Stratocaster or Telecaster. The challenge is that an offset that will help the ergonomics of guitar being played in the folk position, will likely hurt the ergonomics of a guitar that's being played in the classical position. In other words, with regards to ergonomics, the offset for a guitar resting on the left leg should generally be in the opposite direction of a guitar resting on the right leg.

Ovation Breadwinner Ergonomic Guitar

Shows ergonomic measurements for an Ovation Breadwinner guitar played while standing

Shows ergonomic measurements for an Ovation Breadwinner Limited guitar played while sitting

Ovation Breadwinner guitar owner's manual cover showing cutout in back of guitar


The Ovation Breadwinner ergonomic guitar was produced from 1972 to 1979. The first thing you notice about these guitars is the striking shape of the body. Even though they have nothing to do with ergonomics, these guitars were also among the first (if not the first) guitars to come with active electronics, because there is an  FET preamp on board. As seen above, there are two body shapes for this guitar. The upper image shows a black, standard Breadwinner and the lower image shows a brown Breadwinner limited on the left. Aesthetically, it is easy to notice the Breadwinner Limited has a cutout to the upper surface of the body that is reminiscent of a traditional acoustic guitar shape. Personally, I prefer the looks of the Limited shape. In addition to this aesthetic difference, there are also some differences in ergonomic statistics, primarily with regards to how high the guitars sit on the player's legs. The ergonomic statistics for both guitars are tabulated below.

The body shapes of these guitars are often cited as being more ergonomic than a "traditional" electric guitar shape. I had one of these guitars and the balance felt nice when it was hanging on the strap, though the front strap button got in the way of my thumb when I was trying to access the higher frets. The  issue is that the button is screwed into the front of the neck pocket like many acoustic guitars. This isn't an ergonomic problem on acoustic guitars, but the Breadwinner has 24 frets. If you try to get to the higher ones that dang button gets in the way. Nevertheless, the Breadwinner  was also on the light side, especially for its time, which made it easier to play while standing. Finally, if you look at the owner's manual above, that cutout at the back of the guitar might be helpful to players that try to look cool by holding the guitar very low. I would never hold the guitar that low, so the rear cutout doesn't do anything ergonomically for me while standing. Regardless, to me the Breadwinner is a comfortable guitar to play while standing.

The ergonomic statistics for these guitars are tabulated below. The middle point and middle point rise values were determined at the specific classical tilt angle for each guitar type. For anyone interested, these guitars have a 24.75 inch scale length.

Standard Breadwinner and Deacon

Breadwinner Limited


Tilt range for folk style - 0 to 15 degrees
Rest point - 1,7 inches behind the 21st fret
Rest point rise - 4 inches
Left hand reach folk -  inches
Tilt range for folk style - 0 to 15 degrees
Rest point - 1.7 inches behind the 21st fret
Rest point rise - 5 inches
Left hand reach folk - 11 inches


Tilt for classical style - 29 degrees (fixed)
Middle point - 7 inches behind 21st fret
Middle point rise - .97  inches
Left hand reach classical - 16.2 inches
Leg spread - 12  inches
Tilt for classical style - 33 degrees (fixed)
Middle point - 7 inches behind 21st fret
Middle point rise - 1.5 inches
Left hand reach classical - 16.2 inches
Leg spread - 12  inches


Strap button midpoint - Bridge
Strap button forward location - 18th fret
Total weight - 7.4 pounds
Strap button midpoint - Bridge
Strap button forward location - 18th fret
Total weight - 7.5 pounds

The statistics above indicate  the ergonomics for these guitars while sitting in the folk position are pretty good.  The rest points indicate the guitars have an offset that's a bit better than a Telecaster. The resting height of the Limited is the same as a Telecaster and the resting height of the standard is an inch lower. The biggest ergonomic downside relative to the previous guitars is the maximum tilt. That tiny leg rest on the Breadwinner doesn't allow these guitars to get past 15 degrees  before they start slipping off the leg. That is not a very good electric guitar design with regards to ergonomics. This guitar was clearly designed to be played at lower tilt angles and, at these lower tilt angles, that big wing on the back of the guitar also serves as an arm support by sliding between the player's strumming arm and body.

As an added bonus, the Breadwinner's body shape is conducive to playing the guitar in the classical sitting position. The leg spread is a comfortable 12 inches and that cutout in the back provides a perfect resting the place on the back leg. I prefer a tilt of 45 degrees in the classical position for ergonomic electric guitars, and neither guitars get there (though the Limited gets closer) with both feet flat on the ground.  With these guitars, the only way to vary the tilt in the classical sitting position is with a foot stool or some sort of rest underneath the guitar.

The active electronics in the guitars are definitely a mixed bag, and really have nothing to do with ergonomics. They make the pickups and controls better by increasing the clarity of the signal and decreasing hum, but replacing batteries is a wasteful chore and the electronics are just one more thing to break in the guitar. It's getting harder and harder to find these guitars with electronics that work properly. Competent amp shops can usually get them working again but that costs money and the guitars won't be all-original any more. 

Klein Ergonomic Guitar

a Black Klein guitar showing the ergonomic measurements while standing and playing seated in the folk position   a Black Klein guitar showing the ergonomic measurements while playing seated in the classical positio

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. You can't tell from the images, but this is a headless guitar with a graphite composite neck. Among folks who write about ergonomic design principles for guitars, the "Klein guitar" is considered a high-water mark for ergonomic guitar design. I put "Klein guitar" in quotes because Klein has a number of  design variants. The sTele in particular has some variations in the name of making the guitar more affordable. I think it is instructive to look at the evolution of Klein's designs from the late 1970s when they were beginning until the late 1980s when they really coalesced. You can also find interviews with Steve Klein on youtube. 

According to Steve Klein himself (as relayed on the steinbergerworld website), he "reluctantly began experimenting and between 1976 and 1981 ended up with a series of large, strange and very ugly electric guitars." Further, the well-regarded guitar builder Howard Klepper writes on his klepperguitars website that during the same time period Klein's "Kasha-influenced designs were much like the guitars he builds today." I understand "Kasah-influenced" to mean these guitars had hollow bodies with internal bracing. That would make them very light-weight and resonant.

Fast forward almost a decade and Klein reports that in 1988 he "had a chance to get to know Ned Steinberger better" and that Klein had the realization that "Ned's independent design became the next piece to the Klein design puzzle" and that Steinberger's headless neck design would make Klein's guitars "balance properly." I will also add that Steinberger's carbon fiber composite necks would be very stiff and resonant.

The lesson to be learned here is that the ergonomic design of a guitar is very coupled. That is, changing one factor of the design will almost always affect other aspects of the design. When Klein made his guitar body light and resonant, it didn't work properly with traditional guitar necks. It wasn't until he put the body together with the stiff and lightweight Steinberger headless necks that his design came together. 

Below I'll list the statistics that I measured for the "GK -4 T" and make some comparisons between them and the statistics for the other guitars on this page. I'll refrain from too much commentary beyond that.

Seated tilt range for folk style - 0 to 45 degrees
Rest point - 4.4 inches behind the 21st fret
Rest point rise - 5.9 inches
Left hand reach folk - 14.2 inches
Seated tilt range for classical style - 0 to 45 degrees
Middle point - 5.9 inches behind 21st fret

Middle point rise - 3.9 inches
Left hand reach classical - 15.6 inches
Leg spread - 9.9  inches
Strap button midpoint - Bridge pickup
Strap button forward location - 20th fret
Total weight - ~5 pounds

The first statistic is the seated tilt range. Basically, you can't get any better than this. With all else being equal, I'll always take a guitar with a wider tilt range.

The next statistics come in a group of three: rest point, rest point rise and left hand reach; that in addition to the tilt determine the geometry of the folk seated position. The rest point of the Klein guitar indicates a 0.6 inches more offset than the Jazzmaster, which would seem favorable for playing seated, and the left hand reach is commensurate with the increased offset.

Notably, the rest point rise is 1.1 inches more than the Jazzmaster, which means the guitar will sit higher relative to the player's legs than that guitar. In the world of ergonomic guitar design, 1.2 inches is a lot. It is almost 26% higher than the same measurement for a Jazzmaster, and if you watch youtube videos of people playing Klein guitars, you will see that it sits noticeably higher than your typical electric guitar. This places that distinctive "wing" of the Klein guitar between the player's right arm and body where it acts as a support.

I don't know of a reference electric guitar to use for playing in the classical seated position at a 45 degree tilt, so I don't have anything to compare the Klein design to. I'll just let its statistics for the middle point, middle point rise and left hand reach in this position speak for themselves, That being said, I will note that the seated tilt range is as good as it can get.

Also, take a close look at the guitar at 45 degrees. Notice how it translates to the player's right as it rotates to higher tilt angles. The shape of the curve where the guitar rests on the leg is responsible for that. That shape gives the guitar more offset at lower tilt angles (such as would be typical of folk-style) and less offset at higher tilt angles (such as would be typical of classical-style). This is a clever application of a familiar element in biomechanics. A cat's claw, for example, translates forward as it rotates downward.

In terms of the statistics while playing the guitar standing, they suggest the guitar will hang on the strap towards the player's left relative to most other guitars.

Finally, the total weight of the guitar is very low. This makes it more ergonomic standing, sitting and transporting. In addition to their contribution to its light weight, the carbon fiber composites and "Kasha inspired" body design should make the guitar very resonant. By "very resonant" I mean the Klein guitar body and neck should vibrate at higher frequencies and with less damping relative to similar guitar shapes made of wood. I'm sure there are some sonic side effects related to a "very resonant" design, but that discussion is for another day.

Wave T Ergonomic Guitar

Wave T guitar showing the ergonomic measurements while standing and playing seated in the folk position Wave T guitar showing the ergonomic measurements while playing seated in the classical positio

The Wave T is not commercially available like the other guitars on this page. It's an ergonomic guitar I designed and built to my exact specifications. If you are interested, I'd be happy to email with you about it. - rich.hooper@gmail.com. I put it on this electric guitar ergonomic analysis page as an example.

The "wave" part of the name is because the four corners of the guitar look to me a bit like different shapes of ocean waves  (and I had to name the guitar something). The "T" part of the name stands for Telecaster. Clearly this guitar is built on the T-style platform, but with some ergonomic modifications. There are many reasons to start with the T-style platform if you are designing a new guitar shape, and many guitar builders choose to start with this platform. T-style platform parts are about as easy to deploy as they come, easy to come by, relatively inexpensive, and there is an enormous range of options to choose from. As an added bonus, your odds of ending up with an instrument that has good ergonomics, intonates, frets properly without buzzing, sounds decent, etc; are increased considerably if you stick to the platform. It is pretty easy to mess up the balance by changing the shape of the body, but at least your ergonomic electric guitar foray will still be playable.

I go into a more detail regarding the Wave T on this ergonomic electric guitar project page, but basically I designed the shape of the body to be as ergonomically perfect for me as possible. I play mostly finger-style guitar in the classical seated position. Sometimes I play songs using a flat pick and pretty much never play in the folk position, though I would like to give folk-style more of a chance if only I owned a guitar that had satisfactory (in my opinion) ergonomics in this position. I'll be the first to tell you my fancy Telecaster does not fit that description. A Jazzmaster feels better to me in the folk position, but I want more offset! For my next ergonomic guitar project,  I'm going to build the perfect (to me) guitar to play in the folk position. The ergonomic guitar project page currently has my grand plans for that instrument..

Here were the three main ergonomic criteria for the design of the Wave T.

1. The guitar should be in the same position relative to my body when I was playing standing as when I was playing sitting.
2. I must be able to sit with my back straight and feet flat on the ground
3. I must be able to play with the guitar seated in the classical position with the tilt angle at 45 degrees. It would be good if I could bring that down a bit when I am using a flat pick.

I should also confess that I knew a lot less about electric guitar ergonomics when I designed the Wave T than I do now. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't even know Klein guitars (or Breadwinners, or Steinbergers, or Parkers, or ...) existed. I basically just went Dr. Frankenstein on a Squier Telecaster and started sawing it apart. Then I glued (and screwed) most of it back together in a shape that suited me and the way I play guitar in an ergonomic sense. Here are the statistics for the Wave T.

Seated tilt range for folk style - 0 to 20 degrees
Rest point - 2.4 inches behind the 21st fret
Rest point rise - 6.2 inches
Left hand reach folk - 12.3 inches
Seated tilt range for classical style - 20 to 45 degrees
Middle point - 5.5 inches behind 21st fret

Middle point rise - 2.8 inches
Left hand reach classical - 15 inches
Leg spread - 12.1  inches
Strap button midpoint - Bridge pickup
Strap button forward location - 18th fret
Total weight - 8 pounds

I don't intend to play this guitar in the folk position, and its ergonomics in the folk position were never a part of the design criteria. That being said, I measured the statistics, listed them for for reference, and gave the guitar some test play in the folk position. Ergonomically to me, it felt OK in the folk-style, but way worse than the way it feels in the classical position. The rest point rise felt too high and I would like more offset. 

The middle point and left hand reach in the classical seated position ergonomics of the Wave T are very similar to the Klein guitar, though that guitar sits about one inch higher on the player's legs than the Wave T. I tried putting a bath towel on top of each of my legs to raise the Wave T up an inch to simulate the height of the Klein guitar, but didn't find that as comfortable. This may be because I play at a 45 degree tilt angle so my left hand is already pretty high. It also just might be a preference thing. In terms of tilt angle, the Klein design is much more adjustable, which is indisputably better with regards to ergonomics.

Parker Fly Ergonomic Electric Guitar

Shows ergonomic measurements for a Parker Fly guitar played while sitting or standing

Side view of Parker Fly guitar showing how thin the body is.

The Parker Fly was designed by Ken Parker and Larry Fishman, and produced by Parker Guitars first in 1993 until it was last produced in 2016. Similar to the Klein described above, the Fly uses composite materials for light weight ergonomics and sonic resonance. A 26 year production run isn't bad and the list of performers that have used this guitar is impressive. For those of us who read guitar discussion forums, the Parker Fly comes up as the "most" ergonomic guitar about as often as the Klein guitars do whenever a thread on ergonomics gets going. I tabulate and discuss the ergonomic statistics for this guitar below, but suffice to say that if ergonomics were the leading factor in most players' buying decision, the Fly would still be in production. Based on the ergomic statistics, the Fly is as good or better than a T-style guitar, but still within the realm of a familiar guitar shape and feel.

In addition to having better ergonomic statistics than a T-style guitar, the Fly also has makes a much broader sonic palette available to the player. I'm sure it could quack like a Tele if you want it to, but there's a lot more to the Fly's sonic range than that. Better ergonomics and better sonic palette you say? Then certainly the Fly should be selling like hotcakes and the T-style guitars should be collecting dust in the music stores, right? Nope. 

Seated tilt range - 0 to 31 degrees
Rest point - 0.9 inches behind the 21st fret
Rest point rise - 5.3 inches
Left hand reach - 10.6  inches

Leg spread - 13.9 inches
Strap button midpoint - Bridge pickup
Strap button forward location - 15th fret
Total weight - 4.5 pounds

The Fly's ergonomic statistics while playing in the folk position are almost identical to T-style guitars, so the guitar would feel familiar to most electric guitar players. The Fly has a 50% greater range of tilt angles, and this range is a superset of the range available with a T-style guitar. This means the player could hold it like a Tele, but also use greater tilt angles if desired. The Fly is also has a much thinner body and almost no neck heel relative to a Tele. This would make the Fly feel more "transparent" to the player, which most players would almost certainly prefer.

The Fly's ergonomic guitar design statistics standing are about the same as the Strat-style guitars, with the exception that the total weight of the Fly is three full pounds less. Add the Fly's thin body and sculpted neck heel to the equation and the Fly has what look to be excellent standing ergonomics. No wonder the list of famous performers that have played the Fly on stage is so long.

More electric guitar ergonomic analysis to come...

I'm currently working on statistics and analyses for Steen, Forshage, Claas, Strandberg and Abassi electic guitars; and will add these as I finish them for each guitar.

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