There comes a time when all things must grow and transcend their current stage.
At this moment, on this page, a new class of instrument is born.
We would like to introduce the kitar, the instrument built to adapt.
We are called WAB (We Anything Build), and we develop good ideas into intuitive platforms and distribute them openly.
Our aim is to finish developing the swappable neck system and to launch the kitar as an open-source stringed instrument platform for anyone to build.
Whether you are playing a kitar with 5 strings or 10 strings, you can switch out your necks instantly. The kitar is a stringed, plucked, electric instrument that allows the player to switch sounds and experiences on the fly. By interchanging different necks onto different bodies with built-in effects you can create unlimited combinations to suit your individual style and musical situation.
Having swappable necks and bodies means you can trade and share with other players easily, let your instrument mingle and explore the vast possibilities.
Necks from a right-handed body can be swapped easily onto left-handed one.
Funds from Kickstarter will go towards engineering and prototyping the interchangeable neck hardware, which is the current most important aspect of development. This is just the beginning of the kitar, we hope to further advance and add on more fun parts to this evolving instrument.
It is our firm belief that the artifacts and manufacturing of today need to be wholly re-conceived in light of recent developments in technology, neuroscience, and anthropology; simply adapting decades-old ideas relies on maintaining the antiquated industrial-complex and is untenable in the long run.
The kitar is meant to be built by dedicated individuals rather than in factories. The construction plans we are creating describe the building process as both a DIY project and as a collaboration with your local luthier or craftsperson.
All kitars offered as rewards will be built by the two of us in our workshop. We currently operate out of a converted artist-in-residence warehouse set up as a shop, music venue, and home in Santa Monica, California. WAB is currently transitioning to the mountains in Topanga, that's where we will build the kitars.
Noah Watenmaker constructs the necks at WAB, and handles the technical aspects of design. In 2006, Noah drops out of college to learn guitar repair and construction at the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Phoenix, Arizona. Upon graduating, he goes to study experimental instrument design with master luthier Fred Carlson, and guitar engineering with Jim Worland. At last, academia beckons, and Noah returns to Beloit College, where he studies business, physics, psychology, sustainable design, English, philosophy, and entrepreneurship, earning his degree in Economics and Management. He also runs a small guitar repair and construction operation, and teaches music to local kids. As a luthier, he develops a hollow, neck-through-body construction method in an effort to lighten his instruments and increase responsiveness. During the development his designs, Noah becomes obsessed with 3D modeling and user experience, leading to a two year detour studying and working in architecture and interior design to further explore the interactions of people and things. This brings us to April 2011, when Noah takes two part-time jobs, one at a design+build firm in Oakland, and the other at the San Francisco Apple Store, where he meets Thao Pham.
Thao Pham carves and create the look of the instruments; visualizing pragmatic solutions is one of her favorite pastimes. Drawing and crafting leads her towards the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, where she graduates in 2011 with a degree in Fashion Design. At the age of 22, she transitions to City College of San Francisco to study mechanical engineering, and begins her part-time job at the San Francisco Apple Store, where she meets Noah Watenmaker.
It is during a casual conversation typical of an overstaffed store that we realize we share a desire to build things and improve the world. At this point we know there is no choice but to partner up and start a company. So, we quit Apple in August and takeover the workshop at Noah's design+build job. Using this space, we build our first three instruments together, all four-string electric basses. Thao wastes no time becoming an adept woodcarver and body designer, bringing a disciplined and sensual approach to her work. Noah ramps up a project he had been incubating since he started playing guitar back in middle school: an intuitive, adaptable stringed instrument for everyone, and we decide to make this instrument our first ground-up project as a partnership.
the first platform
This instrument needs to be simple and open; simple to play and build, and open to adaptation and evolution.
Using a green, beat-up $100 bass, Noah performs experiments with tuning. In his twelfth year of guitar playing, he has the sudden realization that a more intuitive tuning would make the playing experience easier to learn and internalize; standard guitar tuning requires learning complex chord shapes and scale patterns before one can play any music, a huge barrier to entry that discourages a large portion of aspiring musicians. Open tuning does away with that barrier. Tuning in "octaves and fifths" (GDGDG for example, shown in the video above, which works with standard string sets) simplifies scale and chord patterns and is more conducive to improvisation and jamming -- the fun, creative parts of music making.
Noah then decides to try something he's dreamt of for years, and installs a distortion pedal (a Z-Vex Wooly Mammoth to be precise) in the bass. This is a revelation, and combined with the open tuning, transforms the instrument into a whole new playing experience. Able to effortlessly switch between a huge range of tones covering every popular style of music, and play unimpeded by complex tunings, he has a transcendent music making experience.
Thao's pragmatism kicks in, and she floats the idea of having interchangeable necks so you don't have to buy several instruments, and so you can mix and match necks and bodies, like when creating an outfit. It is obvious that there is huge potential in the idea, and we immediately begin to conceptualize and design a modular neck and body system to open this instrument up further.
At this point we move to our current location in Santa Monica and design and build our first two prototypes. The first build is simply a construction prototype to establish a preliminary neck-body joint. Using this neck connection we build the first working prototype; Thao shapes and carves the body, Noah lays out and carves the neck, and together they tackle the electronics, which they largely outsource to PedalParts.co.uk, a DIY effects pedal kit provider.
It is while shopping for electronic controls that Noah finds the part that adds yet another dimension of expression and creativity, the touch sensitive volume strip. This is simply a membrane potentiometer, typically used in robotics and manufacturing, wired as a volume control.
By the end of 2012 we finish this instrument and start showing it around for criticism and input. We visit several music shops, musicians of varying proficiency, even the Vice President of a major American guitar company, and people love it. We are stunned by the positive feedback, everyone who plays the kitar wants one for themselves. We do find that most people think the first prototype to be a bit heavy, and also ask if we can make the necks easier to switch out.
When designing the second prototype, we realize that the construction method Noah was developing in college works perfectly in this case; being hollow it is both lightweight and can easily hold several effects circuits. We combine it with a connection similar to the hardware used in flat pack furniture. We mock up this construction style and relocate the sound controls, and are currently working out the electrical connections on this instrument. The name kitar comes from the word "kit" and "tar" (which means string). This brings us to today.
We created the kitar to simplify playing, adapting, and building. To finish this creation, we need to finish developing the neck joint so that is is quick, easy, and tool-less. We have a handful of candidate designs that we are exploring and developing digitally during this campaign.
We want to open up this process so we can address the concerns of interested builders and players to ensure a we launch a robust, universally acceptable platform.
We foresee a three-month development period starting with the end of this campaign. First, we will post up to date drafts of our best neck-joint ideas on our site and solicit criticism and collaboration from any interested backers. Over September we will build working prototypes of the candidate designs using our luthiery know-how and perhaps a bit of electrical engineer consulting (interested parties apply by email).
During October, we aim to focus on refining and testing the best one or two neck joint systems using prototype instruments. Our primary goal is to develop versions that are simple to build, and also to draft the necessary construction jigs and templates. The less proprietary hardware and the more straightforward the woodwork, the better the design, in our view. At the end of the month we will make our final decision about which joint to finalize.
November will see us prepare to build the first kitars. This involves building production-quality jigs and templates, and creating the final construction plans and documentation in full detail for public release. These drawings will be used for both the plans and t-shirts we deliver as backer rewards, which we plan to ship in time for the holidays.
In December we will build the first batch of three instruments. This is a two-month process; the first month is woodwork (~80 hrs of labor per instrument), the second month is finish, electronics, and setup (~20 hours of labor per instrument). Production runs can be staggered, we can ramp up a new batch of instruments each month when the previous batch enters the finish booth. With this schedule we should be shipping backer kitars beginning next spring.
Reward Kitar Details
Individual necks can be made for any string count and neck length. The neck modules are self-contained, strung up, and ready to be dropped into a body and played. the $1,200 neck price is for a five-string neck, and breaks down as $240 per string. This means if you want a seven string neck unit, that would cost $1,680 (7*$240), four strings for $960, and so on.
We are currently offering two body styles, Jack & Jill. Custom body styles are available at an extra cost.
Options when installing your own effects and tones include DIY kits, cannibalizing effects pedals, and pre-wired circuit boards. We can recommend particular circuits or you can pick something from the PedalParts.co.uk catalog, though we can't guarantee the expression strip will work with everything. The $2,400 body pricing assumes a single effects circuit installed.
Kitar prototype #1:
- Solid body, walnut
- 24.5" neck length, wenge neck, ebony fingerboard, walnut headstock
- 5 strings
- distortion circuit
- expression strip
- six control knobs
Kitar prototype #2
- Hollow body, mahogany with spruce top
- 34" neck length, wenge neck, bloodwood fingerboard, and maple headstock
- 5 strings
- distortion circuit
- expression strip
- four control knobs & two sliders
Backer Reward Kitars (subject to change)
- Hollow body, mahogany with zebrawood top
- Neck length(s) choosable by backer, wenge neck, fingerboard TBD, zebrawood headstock
- Number of strings choosable by backer (5 strings by default)
- On-board effects choosable by backer (distortion by default)
After two years of partnership, five developmental instruments, and thousands of hours of research and design, we are nearly ready to release our kitar plans, ideas, and construction documents to the public for free.
Join us in the evolution of music creation.
Noah + kitar + 7 Nation Army
Here's a sneaky clip of Noah jamming naturally.
Risks and challenges
We must develop a robust neck-body connection that allows players to swap necks in and out effortlessly and without tools. This stage of development calls for rigorous engineering to complete a universal interchangeable neck system. Situations that can go awry are long delays for electronic parts, building mishaps that requires mending or another go all-together, electronics not connecting properly, and neck joint system not up to our standards.
We have built five instruments together thus far, and any challenges that came along (and there were many, many challenges) were remedied as we spent more time on it. In the two years that we have been building, all challenges were overcome, each with its own learning experience. We expect tricky dilemmas to appear and are more than ready to tackle it head on, we are all about handling problems and finding solutions. Your support will push the kitar forward and fuel a revolution of music creation, thank you so much for contributing to this evolving instrument.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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