Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Gittler Guitar

Perhaps one of the most unique guitars ever manufactured was The Gittler Guitar.

Allan Gittler was more of a modern artist/designer than what one would think of as a luthier. He was born in 1928 and lived in New York City.

His biggest claim to fame was the minimalist guitar that he designed using only stainless steel bars. This guitar is sometimes known as The Fishbone. Gittler handmade 60 of these experimental guitars in New York in the mid 1970s to early 1980s.

One was sold to Police guitarist Andy Summers and featured in The Police’s Synchronicity II video.

In the late 1980’s Gittler moved to Israel to get in touch with his roots and his Jewish faith and to make Aliyah. At this time he changed his name to Avraham Bar Rashi.

He licensed the design of his guitar to an Israeli company in Kiryat Bialik known as Astron Engineer Enterprises LTD. The company computer-machined around 300 of these guitars and put them up for sale. Bar Rashi was unhappy with their finished product and commented that bits of plywood were used in the process, which went against the minimalist design that he had conceived.

What Astron had in fact done was add a plastic box to house the electronic components for simplified handling. Although it did compromise the minimalism found in the original instruments, it had no effect on the sound or style and indeed was more practical and perhaps more economical.

While in New York, Gittler also designed at least 3 bass guitars in this same style. The Gittler design has a U.S. patent that was granted in 1978.

The guitar has 31 stainless steel tubular frets that run down six tubes that form the base of the guitar. At the distal end is the tuning mechanism, which is a knurled knob somewhat like what is found on a Steinberg guitar. The pickups are found within the same six tubes. The neck is 2 inches wide, which is larger than one would find on most electric instruments, but not dissimilar than the neck spacing of most classic/flamenco guitars.

One oddity of the Gittler is each of the pickups has a separate line out, which you can see from the individual cords at the guitars bottom. However there is only one volume control.

The guitar has no other controls. Tone must be adjusted within the amplifier.

I’ve never played a Gittler guitar. I would imagine the action to be similar to that of a scalloped neck guitar. So when playing it, one would have to have a very light touch on the strings. The individual strings can be routed to different sources via a mixer or be mixed to a single a single amplifier/source.

The Israeli made guitars contained a built-in preamp. The New York version did not have a pre-amp section.

After moving to Israeli and being disenchanted with the Astron produced models, Bar Rashi was commissioned to build a left handed concept for a friend. This guitar was nothing in appearance to The Fishbone. The guitar had a wooden body and only 12 parts. The frets were made of one long running thread of nylon. Gittler played this guitar for the rest of his life until his death in 2003.


Alan Richards said...

Yeah, that's me playing up there... but that does not even begin to show the coolness of this guitar.
For more Gittler stuff check out my website at
There is plenty of free music there featuring all Gittler stuff.
Thanks for featuring my video!
Alan Richards

Marc said...

I've been updating the blog. I'm adding more information and updating pictures. But I'm leaving this one alone.

After writing this tribute, I received a personal e-mail from Bar Rashi's widow, that was very heartwarming. To this day, this is one of my favorite article that I have written.