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Championed by greasy-ponytailed virtuosos everywhere, the Chapman Stick is the reigning king of pure tastelessness. In 1969, jazz guitarist Emmett Chapman wanted an instrument built entirely around two-hand tapping, and so this 12-string monstrosity was born. Yeah, you could potentially unlock a new universe of sound and play bass, chords, and melody simultaneously, but the Faustian bargain is, you’ll look like a total goober doing it. Notable Stick advocates include: Dream Theatre, Blue Man Group, and progressive metal supergroup Gordian Knot. Truly, a triad of groups that scream sex appeal.
The ying to the Chapman’s greasy yang, the Warr guitar takes the same basic principle ("more strings = better than") and transfers it to an even uglier looking behemoth. The Warr boasts up to 14 strings, and can outfitted with full MIDI capability, for even more extreme uselessness! Championed pretty much exclusively by the likes of metal nerds such as Trey Gunn of King Crimson and these guys, the Warr guitar declares war on good taste and basic human decency. And just like the Chapman Stick, you'd have to be Prince to get laid playing it.
Do yourself a favour, drop everything and click this link immediately. No, it’s not a Tim and Eric sketch, it’s eccentric organ virtuoso Cameron Carpenter! While Carpenter is so unreal it might actually cause you to think you’re suffering from prodromal schizophrenia, the real absurdity is his instrument. The International Touring Organ was custom-built for the elfin weirdo himself by Marshall & Ogletree organ builders. It’s a five-keyboard leviathan containing hundreds of different organ samples for playback, all of them “key to Cameron’s artistic development.” It’s the perfect instrument for your little genius/moron to contentedly bounce his sequined heels away all day on, cementing everyone within earshot’s decision to never explore classical music. It’s a good thing, then, that like the man himself, it’s the only one in existence.
And once again, a jazz guy decides the perfectly serviceable guitar he’s currently playing doesn’t have enough strings, and a nightmare is born! The Pikasso guitar was created for jazzman Pat Metheny by Canadian luthier Linda Manzer in 1984, and has 42 strings across four necks. Not content to rest on her laurels, Manzer then created the Medusa, a 52-string monstrosity, for Danish musician Henrik Andersen. Why Linda, why?! Why must you push the boundaries of good taste so relentlessly? Oh, apparently getting a guitar crafted by Manzer, who has a waitlist of several years, starts at $18,000, so I guess that’s why.
If the Chapman Stick is the king of tastelessness in music, then this dorm room standard is the God Emperor. Did you know, in the Polynesian Hawaiian language, "ukulele" roughly translates to “jumping flea”? Did you know, listening to twee Radiohead ukulele covers from a bargain-bin Amanda Palmer makes me want to “kill myself”? Don’t get me wrong, ukuleles are a great first instrument to learn music on (if you’re under 12 or have a phobia of metal strings) but ironic veneration of this open mic staple has gotta go.
“Hey, let’s like, attach springs to a drum set, so it bounces up and down, making it approximately 800 times as difficult to keep a simple rhythm”! - The Boingy Boingy Country band / man on LSD
Just like oysters or the comedy of Stewart Lee, some musical instruments are an acquired taste. On the other hand, just like croquet or the comedy of Stewart Lee, some instruments are never going to be cool. While 6-string basses and maracas are bad enough, these musical disasters push the boundaries of acceptability so far, they’re off the edge of the map. Beware, there be monsters (of bad taste) here!