The smallest guitars in the world!

I traveled a lot when I was a designer instructor presenting software courses. And I mean a lot. I visited about 40 cities in 33 countries around the world.
Most of those courses lasted for 2-3 weeks and happened 10-12 times a year. That’s way too much without guitar, although I’m not a pro player.

To design and build the perfect travel guitar became my primary goal when I started to learn guitar building. (Shame on me that I haven’t finished it yet… but I’ve got almost there!).
When I did my research around the topic I found a couple of interesting tiny guitars.

Shrinking guitars has more benefits “than are dreamt of in your philosophy”  (and of course a couple of disadvantages as well).

  • It keeps the instrument lightweight to don’t put high load on the shoulder.
  • It would allow minors to start learning how to play on the instrument more easily.
  • Obviously, the smaller is the guitar the easier is to travel with it.

Of course, we should keep a reasonable limit to find the balance between comfort and utility. Attempts beyond that limit are just “art for art’s sake”.
And the cons: more faded tone, sometimes awkward playing, limitation in features.

When I started to search for the smallest functional guitars first I found one in the catalog of  Hammacher Schlemmer (a high profile store selling many almost useless but at least fancy and expensive luxury toys for those whose fantasy is limited enough to find better way to spend their money – check the “Hot Tube Boat” or  the “Elliptical Machine Office Desk” and plenty of similar überdesigned snobby waste…).

This 26 1/2″ (67 cm) long electric is about 2/3 of the  usual guitar size and it’s significantly narrower.

It called "the smallest precision electric guitar"

It called “the smallest precision electric guitar”

Considering that it isn’t headless (that would be the logical choice for a travel guitar) it’s a pretty good compression ratio. To keep the proportion the scale length is also reduced to 20 1/4” (51.43 cm), with 20 frets and 12″ radius. According to the marketing:

Its injection-molded high-impact polymer composite body is filled with billions of tiny air bubbles that reproduce the cellular structure of wood, giving the guitar the same resonant properties of hardwoods used in standard-sized guitars without the expansion and contraction associated with wood.

Well, I’m not sure how could be the billion bubbles equivalent with the cellular structure of the wood, at least they have a talented copywriter. 🙂

Anyway, the minimalist look has more features than expected: the single humbucker can be split, the single control pot is actually a coaxial twin pot for volume and tone. Coil split switch is located on the bottom.

I decided to learn more about how makes these guitars, so I did my homework and found Palmguitar.
Their description is pretty convincing, it seems the small axe is not a budget-level product.
In contrary, the Palmguitar V1.0 has a carbon composite body made by Moses Graphite – they are top players in the league of composite guitar builders.

Palmguitar-V1.0

Palmguitar V1.0

The tuners are locking Sperzels, the bridge is ABM (high end guitar hardware maker in Germany) and the recommended pickup is Seymour Duncan. Well, that’s a decent team, huh?

Palmguitar V1.0 - the split-switch is at the bottom

Palmguitar V1.0 – the split-switch is at the bottom

This model is discontinued – made only by custom order. Don’t worry, they have some more unique species, like this tiny bass below!

Palmbass

Palmbass

The Chameleon model is indeed attractive with the dynamic color-shifting pigmented finish.

Chameleon color-shifting finish

Chameleon color-shifting finish

And they created the smallest 12-string electric guitar in the world!

The smallest 12-string guitar

The smallest 12-string guitar

It’s not only a technological triumph – look at that delicate inlays!

I would not try to tune it! :)

I would not try to tune it! :)

And that’s not all, folks! The really smallest fully functional (well, at least with a grain of salt) guitar is the Tomahawk. It was born by an unfortunate accident: once a Palmguitar dropped and the head has broken into pieces.

It was a good time to take up a challenge to build a guitar that fit into a Zero Halliburton aluminum attaché case. The broken part has cut to clear and the body has got a headless bridge. It had to be a though job because originally that space is reserved for the control/electronics cavity. They used the KISS principle: the cavity has been filled in and the guitar completed with no controls at all!
The rather unusual Seymour Duncan P-90 Stack pickup  is wired directly to the output. Since the pickup IS actually deeper than the body the guys at the Palmguitar developed a neatly radical solution: they integrated the pickup into the body structurally with chemical bond.

Thomahawk - the really smallest working electric guitar on the world!

Thomahawk – the really smallest working electric guitar on the world!

The Thomahawk in its briefcase

The Thomahawk in its briefcase

You should pay several thousand bucks for such tiny creatures. It’s certainly not cheap, however, considering the quality material and parts with the extreme portability it seems reasonable.

To attract the buyers with rather limited budget Palmguitar released the v2.0. The carbon fiber body has been replaced by a polymer/urethan composite (whatever it means) and the already mentioned “billions of tiny bubbles” construction.

Palmguitar v2.0 and its bag

Palmguitar v2.0 and its bag

The v2.1 went one step forward: they improved the style and ergonomy with detachable upper body-horn and arched support on the bottom that makes a good balance when playing seated.

Palmguitar v2.1 with the detachable upper horn

Palmguitar v2.1 with the detachable upper horn

The fully equipped Palmguitar v2.1

The fully equipped Palmguitar v2.1

You can buy the v2.0 for $800, while the v2.1 costs 950.

Talking about acoustics, I’ve found Yamaha’s “guitarlele” (ukulele sized 6-nylon string acoustic) called GL-1.

 

Yamaha GL-1 guitarlele

Yamaha GL-1 guitarlele


I
t’s a standard “A” tuned insturment made with spruce top, meranti back and sides, nato neck and rosewood fingerboard/bridge. The body depth is  13/16″ (70-70 mm) and you can get the GL-1 in natural, red, sunburst and black colors.

With 17″ (433 mm) scale length it could be a little tricky to play. Due to the small scale length it have to be tuned up to “A” instead of the standard open “E” tuning. )Oh, by the way, the Tomahawk I mentioned recently needs the same tuning because of the same reason.)
The Yamaha is on the budget end of the price scale.

I’ve found a video on Youtube about an another “unknown” made petite  (yes, it’s yet smaller) acoustic:

 

But the absolute winner of mini – or we should rather say nano – guitars is the following one, although it’s not a real instrument, but somehow we can call it  guitar:

10 micron size nano-guitar

10 micron size nano-guitar

This one is made on Cornell University in 1997 carved from crystalline silicon as a technological demonstration of microelectromechanical devices, or MEMS. Its strings are 50 nanometer size (guys, that means 100 atom width!) and can be “plucked” but of course the resonance results inaudible signal for human ears. Not even for any sound recording device!
To make it sound the researchers used laser beam in 2003 and recorded the resonance applying mirrors and  captured the light interference with opto-electronical devices to turn it into a listenable signal by computer. The laser even able to “strum” chords!

And they also made a Nano-Flying-V!

Nano-Flying-V

Nano-Flying-V

If  you don’t appreciate the Small, you don’t deserve the Big! 🙂

 

 

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