How one Swiss company is revolutionising the guitar
Electric guitars have been made in the same basic way for decades. European CEO spoke to Pirmin Giger and Silvan Küng about how they’re changing the game.
Of a 100,000-strong sample of Swiss start-ups, one of the most successful, and one that might surprise a few people, is Relish Guitars, a relatively young guitar label with a vision of reinvigorating the electric guitar market. Headed up by Pirmin Giger and Silvan Küng, the Lucerne-based Relish Guitars has injected some creativity into an industry sorely in need of innovation. Going back to the technology’s beginnings, the first electric guitar, then dubbed ‘the Frying Pan’, was created in 1931 by the Swiss pioneer Adolph Rickenbacker. Now, over 80 years later, the electric guitar is going back to its roots.
“We are living our dream – we make a living with what we do best: build outstanding guitars which inspire great musicians from all over the world”, said Küng, speaking about the company’s most impressive creation to date. By adopting a new approach, it has been said – with good reason – that Giger and Küng are writing an exciting new chapter in the country’s design history by employing an approach unlike any other.
“The product features a slightly different composition from that of traditional electric guitars, in that the body is made up of three distinct layers.”
Playing a solo
“We have set ourselves ambitious goals“, claimed Giger of their business style. Beginning in 2010, Giger and Küng have been working on an electric guitar of their own making, called Jane, inspired in great part by a distinct lack of innovation in the market. Rebellious, exclusive and innovative are perhaps the words that describe their approach best.
Closely in keeping with the Swiss watchmaking tradition, the work put into Jane can be seen, felt and heard, and Swiss guitarists, designers and business partners have done much to ensure the finished product is as close to perfection as possible. Wired said of the results: “If Apple made a guitar, it would look like this.”
The resulting product features a slightly different (patented) composition from that of traditional electric guitars, in that the body is made up of three distinct layers. The middle, and perhaps the most distinctive layer, is made of a milled aluminium frame, which allows for the guitar strings to swing for longer and in a more intense fashion than would otherwise be possible. The top and bottom layers, meanwhile, are made of a pressed wood veneer, which, according to Giger and Küng, creates a warm sound.
Beautiful on the inside
More innovative than Relish Guitars’ approach to construction are the components. The pickups, for example, can be turned on and off simply by touching a capacitive sensor as opposed to a three-way selector switch. This key component means that, for guitarists, gone are the days of fiddling with volume settings, and the user need only touch the sensor to make their adjustments.
Another feature of note is that the guitar can be opened with the use of only a plectrum. This process requires no unscrewing, and this easy and fast access means that users can change their pickups without soldering, using high frequency connectors instead.
Jane has been recognised by international artists and the guitar community at large. For one, the model can be found in the world-famous Capitol Studios LA, and is currently touring the world with the Playing for Change Foundation, which enjoys support from the likes of Keith Richards and U2. Thomas Nordegg, one of the most famous guitar techs in the world, who works for world-renowned artists such as Steve Vai, said of Jane: “That guitar plays so nicely and effortlessly, plus it’s so in tune and intonated! This is the Rolex of the guitar arena.” There could be no finer or more apt praise.