Design Innovation – The Guitar

Design Innovation - The GuitarI attended a guitar masterclass with Christophe Godin recently and was struck by the quality of the Vigier Guitars he used in the masterclass.  Since I spend a lot of my time consulting with companies looking to innovate and the world of guitars is confounded by ‘dominant designs’ from the usual suspects, I decided to interview Christophe to find out what is unique and different about Vigier Guitars.  Let’s see some of Christophe’s work before we begin:

Given that the guitar has not managed to ‘escape’ from dominant designs popularised by Fender et al, what innovations have Vigier been able to bring, both in form and function?

In terms of playability, Vigier guitars are lighter due to the fact that there is no truss rod but 10% of graphite in the neck to keep it away from twisting. It’s a HUGE improvement because you never struggle to keep it in the right position. Even after hours of playing it standing, you feel no pain or stress holding it.

The tremolo system is also very innovative as it is attached via needle bearings. Which means no friction and a very smooth action.  I would add the shape of Vigier necks is, to me, close to perfection. The shape, the dimensions and the perfect factory settings make it easy to play as you’d have in hand for centuries even at first touch.

What do these features mean to you as a practising musician?

When I started playing Vigier guitars, the fact I was not struggling with the instrument helped me develop my playing a lot. Plus, all my Vigier are VERY versatile and allow me to play stuff, which would sometimes require playing three different guitars in one song. I can skip from a style to the other effortlessly…

What do you look for in a great guitar?

Versatility, ease of use, big sounds with a light body. Actually, the main thing is to play without any concern in the back of your mind !!! That’s the case when I play one of my Supras…

Editor’s note:  This is a great point, great design should be invisible to the user, so they can get on and use it.

According to George Bush, there is no French word for entrepreneur!  Consequentially, France would not be at the top of my list of guitar manufacturers in the world.  Can you tell me something of the history of Vigier and how they have innovated from a fairly stagnant marketplace for guitars?

Ha, ha.  I’d say Patrice Vigier had a very clear vision about what he wanted to achieve from the very first day he started to build up his very first guitar. The search of perfection has always been his gasoline, and he has always been very interested in innovation. When he started to incorporate carbon into his guitars (way before most of the manufacturers who do it now), everyone was calling him crazy because guitars manufacturers are all pretty conservative : Patrice is NOT and he kept on sticking up to his idea. The result just proved him right ….

Design Innovation - The GuitarThere do seem to be quite a groundswell of people choosing Vigier guitars.  I know Dave Sturt who plays for Steve Hillage, Bill Nelson and Scott McGill who I interviewed recently.  Who else is playing Vigier instruments?

Ooooh the list goes on forever. Actually, Ron Thal (Guns and Roses), Shawn Lane, Roger Glover, Geezer Butler, etc…

How can we get hold of your music?

www.christophegodin.com is probably the best place to start.

For a masterclass in design innovation in business, featuring guitars through the ages, get in touch via The Academy of Rock website.  We are happy to bring a few guitar gods along.

image credits: christophegodin.com

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Peter Cook is Rock’n'Roll Innovation Editor at Innovation Excellence.  He leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock, and provides Keynote speaking, Organisation Development and Business Coaching. www.humdyn.co.uk and www.academy-of-rock.co.uk.  You can follow him on twitter @Academyofrock

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One Response to Design Innovation – The Guitar

  1. michele says:

    Hi !

    my name is Michele Benincaso, class ’76 , I’m an italian luthier and I live in Stockholm since 2007.

    My interest in instrument making started more than 20 years ago, when I was 16 years old and after I listened Jaco Pastorius I pulled off the frets from my bass.
    After I was studying jazz and classical music on bass and double bass and I decided to move to Cremona, the city of Stradivari where the violin was born .
    There I studied at the international school of violin making Antonio Stradivari, and I worked on violins for couple of years before moving back to my first love: the guitar.

    But that wasn’t enough and I started searching something in the past for looking in to the future, and here you can see my last instruments:

    http://www.benincaso.com/index.php/trikanta.html

    The wood I used for the Trikanta is the same that Stradivari used for his violins (Italian Spruce, Bosnian Maple and on top of it I used 8000 years old oak found in a river in Bosnia), melted with electro-acoustic system, midi system and fernandes sustainer.
    The tools , hand curving, varnish process come from the traditional violin making school.

    If in somehow you think that what I do would be interesting to write an article about the Trikanta please let me know.

    Kind Regards from Stockholm

    Michele — http://www.benincaso.com

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