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
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
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
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!