Double-neck electric guitars are a familiar sight these days, and down the years have been used in anger by a long list of players that includes Jimmy Page (famously, the six- and 12-string Gibson he used live for Stairway To Heaven), Alex Lifeson, Slash and even Elvis Presley. Acoustic double-necks, however, are significantly rarer, due to the huge tension exerted by the guitar strings – up to 160lbs, depending on gauges.
Former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora is noted for having had a hand in the development of an acoustic triple-neck by US manufacturers Ovation that had both six- and 12-string necks plus a mandolin. It looked great, but the strain of the pull of 24 strings on the guitar’s top must have been gargantuan.
Alastair Hay, an Irish luthier who took inspiration from Sambora, has recently taken a new slant on the acoustic double. Hay, who has developed an innovative method of using carbon fibre to produce guitars under his Emerald brand, had already built an instrument for Bon Jovi bassist Hugh MacDonald, and struck up a conversation about double necks with Sambora after a show in 2012.
The result, after a couple of years in development, is the stunning Emerald Chimaera Artisan pictured here, fashioned from carbon fibre and produced using the company’s one-piece moulding technology. “We believe firmly in the structural and tonal benefits of carbon,” Hay explains. “Carbon excels in a high-tension instrument like a double-neck and allows us to do things that just aren’t possible in wood.” It also looks damn cool.
The Emerald Chimaera Artisan weighs just over 2.5kg, which is great news for shoulders everywhere. What’s more, alongside a B-Band under-saddle pickup and Gotoh and Graphtec fixtures, you can go for all manner of custom options too. Fancy a coloured top of maple veneer, a seven-string neck or even a dual fan-fret configuration? No problem, sir. And prices start at just €2,650 (£2,085) for a Chimaera with a basic spec. And, take it from us, with quality like this, that’s something of a bargain, and well worth searching out.
More at emeraldguitars.com
CAN YOU HAVE TOO MANY GUITAR NECKS?
Technically, the number of necks an electric guitar can have is limited only by the imagination of the builder. In 2002 Japanese artist Yoshihiko Satoh produced a selection of 12-neckers as part of a series of pieces collectively named Present Arms. And although they did work, each weighed about the same as Meat Loaf after Sunday lunch at his mum’s.
The Beast, a six-neck electric made by English luthier Gary Hutchins, was about as big as a playable guitar can get. The necks included 12-string, six-string with a locking vibrato, four- and five-string basses, a seven-string and a hard-tail six-string. Comedian Bill Bailey – an excellent musician – used one in his stage show, and truly looked the part
But the most famous multi-necked guitars in rock have to be the five-neck Hamers wielded by Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen: mad as a spoon and utterly brilliant.