(June 10, 2022)
After more than 2 years since the last NAMM Show, music enthusiasts from all over the world finally reconvened at the Anaheim Convention Center in California— and wow, what a show it was!
With so many cool instruments and familiar faces, it’s hard to know which direction to look in. Everywhere you look there’s a beautiful guitar, bass, or an impressive amp. As anyone who’s ever been to one of these shows knows, this place is the ultimate guitar-lover’s dream. The show features every type of guitar and bass you can think of— headless and non-headless, 6, 7, 8, 9-string, even up to 16-string (you read that right!), guitars and basses made for tapping, etc.
What I was there for, not surprisingly, was first and foremost to see all the headless guitars and basses— and the selection did not disappoint! I should mention that there were some brands that did not make it out this year (hopefully we’ll see them next year!).
The first booth of the day was easily one of the largest, with their vast number of guitars on display belonging to their many talented signature artists— I’m talking about none other than Ibanez.
It’s been a little less than a year since they debuted their first modern headless lineup, the Q Series, and showed the guitar world that they’re serious about making headless guitars. Their release was not entirely unexpected given the fact that they already had headless basses (the EHB Series) on the market. Nevertheless, their announcement was no less exciting, and now, for the first time, we got to see them all in one place!
I must confess that out of the three, the Q52 on the top in “Laser Blue Matte” is my favorite. My only wish is to see a version with a rosewood fretboard one day. Overall, they feel well-balanced, lighter than your typical non-headless guitar as expected, yet, they still have a nice full body. To me, and I know this is subjective, they feel like they have just the right amount of weight you would expect holding an Ibanez, and nothing more, nothing less.
To learn more about the Q Series, head over to: ibanez.com
Ichika Nito’s signature model ICHI10 is deservedly on its own proper display. Nito was notably chosen as Ibanez’s first Japanese signature artist. After having a listen one can, without a doubt, understand why.
Next, we see Ibanez’s EHB Series bass lineup, consisting of their multiscale, short scale, and 4, 5, and 6-string models. The EHB1006MS and EHB1265MS are two new additions to their headless bass lineup. Very cool-looking poplar burl top on the EHB1006MS and a nice clean look of the walnut top on the EHB1265MS.
If you want to see the 5-string, short scale EHB1005SMS in action (as well as the QX54QM guitar), I highly suggest you watch this video of Manuel Gardner Fernandes and David John Levy. Awesome technical playing on two great instruments.
To learn more about the EHB Series, head over to: ibanez.com
The next booth is Aristides, coming all the way from the Netherlands. As the story of Aristides goes, development began back in 1995 to build a material with “perfect acoustic properties.” The result that they came up with they named “Arium”— which you can read more about here. When I first saw them I was quickly drawn to them almost purely based on their design, so to learn that they are made out of a material specially designed for sustain and resonance made me even more intrigued.
They have an Instagram page that they constantly update showing off some spectacular finishes. They also have some that come in a cool, “raw” finish, as seen on all 4 models above. I highly recommend you check them out if you haven’t already!
To learn more, head over to: aristidesinstruments.com
If you’re looking for a 16-string guitar, 12-string bass or anything in between, FM Guitars will likely have something for you. Based in Los Angeles, CA, FM Guitars builds headless guitars and basses specifically designed for tapping and fingerstyle playing. And they look to be quite popular too! Seemingly each time I walked past their booth, a crowd had gathered in front of them until I finally was able to get close enough to get a good look myself. They make 12, 14, 16-string guitars, and 8, 10, 12-string basses. Check out their Instagram page here.
To learn more, head over to: fmguitars.com
The next booth I came across, OzGuitarWorks, grabbed my attention for their guitars’ minimalistic design. After holding the Tau-6 and getting a close look it was apparent that it is a very well-made compact headless guitar. It felt very light thanks to its minimalistic body as well as its aluminum and carbon fiber components. The neck was nice and comfortable. Best of all, it’s customizable and you can choose from 4 scale-lengths, down from a Les Paul and all the way up to a baritone. In their own words, the Tau is a “minimalistic studio grade headless guitar, with a mission.”
To learn more, head over to: ozguitarworks.com
Golden Ratio Guitars
Next up was Golden Ratio Guitars. And wow, if there ever was a time where a picture doesn’t do something justice, this is it. Getting up close and holding the Phoenix, you immediately feel that you’re holding something truly special. From the beautiful body, to the golden hardware (Sophia 2:92 Pro multiscale tremolo), up to the beautifully designed fretboard depicting a phoenix rising, this is a truly spectacular instrument to say the least! Check out their Instagram page for more pictures.
To learn more, head over to: goldenratioguitars.com
In the boutique end of the show floor we have MarconiLAB, coming all the way from Italy. Their instruments feature a unique body, some with striking finishes, some with unique pickguards, and others with only their beautiful natural wood. I have to say that I love the finish on the bass on the top left. It had a very deep, rich appearance, and appeared almost candy-like under the lights on the stand as I walked around it. Check out their Instagram page here.
To learn more, head over to: egoguitar.com
Next from the boutique floor is Sankey Guitars from Canada. The Water Tiger and Mariposa are both unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. The Mariposa (“butterfly” in Spanish) was given that name due to the butterfly dovetails on the right side holding together the crack of a salvaged piece of redwood (how cool is that?!). The guitar that I was really drawn to, however, is the Andromeda in the middle. It’s not everyday that you get to see a headless archtop and this one is just beautiful, to say the least. Whoever bought it and took it home is one lucky guitarist, that’s for sure! Check out Sankey Guitars on Instagram here.
To learn more, head over to: sankeyguitars.com
Last, but certainly not least, is Matsuda Guitars. And yet again, wow. Here is another great example of what makes the boutique floor so special. This level of craftsmanship is astounding and a true example showcasing the boundless possibilities of guitar-design. To me, the curves around it makes it look like it’s smoothly flowing— it gives it a very interesting, yet organic look. I can only imagine the music that this guitar would inspire.
My pictures do not do it justice in terms of showing off all the sides and intricate details, so I highly recommend you check out the pictures showcasing it here on their website (Note that the guitar appears to be slightly different from the one shown here since it has a different fretboard, pickup, etc., however, the overall design appears to be the same). Check out Matsuda Guitars’ Instagram page for more spectacular designs!
To learn more, head over to: matsudaguitars.com
Unfortunately, I missed Donner’s booth which recently unveiled their new headless guitar, the Hush-I, designed for travel. Guitar World did a great job of going over it at Donner’s booth. Check it out here: YouTube.com/guitarworld
As if the day hadn’t been eventful enough, I ended up running into the pioneer of one of the most innovative and recognizable headless guitar designs in the world— Ola Strandberg!
And soon thereafter, the one and only, Rick Beato! I’ve been watching his videos on YouTube for years, so surreal doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was truly a day I’ll never forget.
Already looking forward to what next year’s NAMM has in store!
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