Ministar Guitar 2011 Article
Bob Wiley’s Ministar Guitar History - Article by Paul Ridden 2011
Ministar travel guitars - it's all in the neck
Guitarists who travel a lot and want to take an instrument along for the ride - but don't want to risk damaging that prized vintage Strat - might find themselves turning in the direction of a scaled down stand-in. Such solutions come in many different shapes and sizes - from full size instruments with parts that collapse (like Daniel Mapp's Jetson travel guitar concept) to models with a shortened neck and small bodies (such as Martin's Backpacker) to strange-looking beasts with tuners positioned in a hollowed out section of the body (like the Traveler's Speedster). Bob Wiley's Ministar guitars, though, are essentially a bunch of necks with pickups. While there is a model with a shortened 19-inch scale neck, most of the odd-looking electric, acoustic and bass guitars sport full length necks and, says Wiley, play and sound just like the big brand models, but at a fraction of the price - and a fraction of the size.
In order to string pick on the road, players can expect to have to make quite a few sacrifices if opting for a travel guitar. That might be a shortening of the scale, a compromise in comfort or a weakening of the sound. Wiley has put his significant creative pedigree behind a series of minimalist guitars that are said to be easy to play, oddly comfortable and where tone is king. Before taking a closer look at what the Ministar guitars have to offer, let's take a quick diversion into Wiley's past innovations.
Wiley's interest in all things used to create modern music started at an early age, he accompanied his father to his very first NAMM in 1948. He dipped his toes in design and development while working on the Guitorgan guitar synth in 1967.
"It used frets cut into segments, with a wire running from each segment to organ electronics that we eventually located inside the body of the instrument," Wiley told us. "Contact between the string and the fret turned on an organ note. You had to learn to play all over again to get the best results. Needless to say, bending strings was not possible, and contributed a large part to its limited success."
Design of the first Auto Orchestra followed in 1973, which put a host of rhythm accompaniment at the guitarist's disposal - not unlike the drum, bass, fills, intros and endings available to keyboard players. Wiley has designed numerous products for guitar and keyboard players in the years since, including the Orchestrator, some One Man Band products (like the OMB2 and the AO 16R), the Programmer 24, and the Instant Harmony.
Bringing things right up to date
For his latest creations, Wiley has left the old argument about which guitar shape is the best well and truly behind. He says that Les Paul's led the way and proved that an amplified guitar didn't need a full body to produce great tone. The design of the Ministar range takes this a step further with guitars that look like they've just lost an epic battle and been chopped to pieces - with only the neck and pickups remaining.
After exhaustive spectrum analysis and blind model comparison testing, Wiley found that body shape is of little consequence to the most important element of any guitar - its tone. Consequently, much of what we've come to think of as a guitar body has been deliberately left out.
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