The pikasso guitar is a strange, one-of a kind hybrid instrument created by Linda Manzer for the legendary Pat Metheny. Looking like some sort of cross between a luthier's worst nightmare and a Picasso painting (hence the name), it creates a very trance-like sound. Harmonic and tonal possibilities that would normally require several instruments to produce are therefore achievable through one.


Everyone knows that jazz players are crazy. Jazz isn't so much a noun as it is a verb - it's a way of approaching music and a willingness to break barriers and daring to try new things. At the forefront of this style of inventiveness is Pat Metheny. In 1984 he approached luthier Linda Manzer asking her to build a guitar with "as many strings as possible". One thousand hours later, the Pikasso was created.

What's it made from?

The back and sides of the guitar are made from Indian Rosewood whilst the top is made from German spruce. The necks are the old favourite mahogany and the seperate fingerboards are made from ebony. The bridges, and face plates are made from Pau abalone decorative trim Boxwood.

Okay, so what's so special about this guitar?

By now you can probably realise that this isn't your standard guitar. For starters, most ordinary guitars have six strings. This has fourty-two. Most guitars have a single neck. This has four. Soundholes? This has two of 'em. Although it's difficult to tell what the actual tunings of each part of the guitar are, it seems that the lowest neck is that of a standard six-string acoustic guitar. Above this is a twelve-string neck, though the strings appear to be seperate rather than octaves of each other as traditional twelve-strings have. Above this is another twelve-string neck which angles away from the guitar body and the strings themselves go diagonally over the other two necks. The last neck is at the bottom right of the guitar and appears to be a harp.

How is this thing tuned?

I'll let Pat himself tell you:

Pat Metheny: I have several different tunings that have evolved. I've kind of settled on one that I used for the last few years that's on the live trio record. There's a solo piece "Into the Dream". It's basically a big C minor kind of sound. I'm also using a lot of chromatic tunings. The guitar neck that sits in the middle of it all has a baritone guitar tuning, low C to C with the same relative pitchs as conventional guitar tuning.

In other words - only Pat knows.

Where can I get one?

Are you out of your mind?! Besides, you can't, it's one of a kind (save for the acoustic-only Pikasso II). I suppose if you pretty-please asked Linda Manzer to make you one and offered her a lot of money then you may stand a chance of owning one, but don't hold your breath.

How does it sound?

Beautiful. The thing is enough to put you in a trance. If you want to hear it yourself, Pat plays it on "Into the Dream" and on the albums Quartet, Imaginary Day, Jim Hall & Pat Metheny, Trio->Live, and Metheney Mehldau Quartet (The Sound of Water). You can also find it on the Speaking of Now and Imaginary Day DVDs, which are way worth picking up.

So anyway that's the long and short of it. Go check it out and check out Pat Metheney in general if you want some really good jazz to listen to. Happy listening!


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