Every now and then a Kickstarter project comes along that captures the imagination of the public.
The Loog guitar is one of them. Initially launched on the funding platform in 2011, the three-string, self-assembly guitar with the strange shape and the great sound was a revelation, a unique eye-catcher that made playing an awful lot of fun for kids, beginners and curious guitarists looking for a change.
Conceived by NYU alumnus Rafael Atijas as an inexpensive, easy to play guitar, the project raised clear of $65,000 - a full $50,000 beyond its target.With the success of the original project behind him, Atijas is back with the Electric Loog, a solid body evolution of the original design that is currently looking for funding on Kickstarter [UPDATE: The Electric Loog has now been fully funded, congratulations to Raphael and the team].
A retro-flavoured instrument that brings to mind the distinctive electric guitar designs of the '60s while retaining a modern edge and that distinctive Loog vibe, the Electric Loog is bound to pique the interest of guitarists.
We talked to Atijas about the birth of the Electric Loog, Kickstarter and why three strings can be better than six...
Where did the idea for the Loog come from?
It was a little bit out of pressure. I had to come up with a business idea for my thesis (I was doing my master's at NYU) and i knew it had to be something I really liked, because I was going to spend the next few months completely absorbed by it.
I guess I narrowed it to something that blended music and design (my two passions), and then I simply tried to create something that provided a real benefit for those who use it. I remember I saw my then six year old niece having trouble with one of those typical cheap toy-guitars and thought a kids' guitar should not be just a cheap downsized replica of a regular guitar; it should have features that actually make it easier, faster and more stimulating for them to play music. In the end, those features had to do more with taking away than adding upon.
What's your personal history with the guitar?
I'm a guitar player, had a band, released a couple albums in Uruguay (my home-country), but first and foremost I'm a guitar aficionado. I would spend hours at 48th street in NYC just drooling over the beautiful vintage guitars exhibited there.
I also have a personal history with the whole less-strings-is-better idea. I remember when I was 12 and I decided I wanted to be in a band, but i had no idea how to play guitar and i thought: "I'm too old, it will take me forever to learn how to play guitar. I'd better pick up the bass, since it has less strings and should be easier/faster to learn." I guess that was really the beginning of Loog Guitars.
Where does the name Loog come from?
It's my subtle but very meaningful homage to Andrew Loog Oldham, the first manager and producer of The Rolling Stones. Back when I had my band I had a chance to meet him and he was super kind to us, so when I had to come up with a name for the guitars I chose Loog, asked him for permission and was thrilled that he said yes.
What made you want to build a three-string guitar?
I love 6-string guitars, but they can be overwhelming for kids and beginners, especially if they want to try to make music right away, before taking any lessons. With 3 strings it's simply easier to tune, play and listen to the notes they are playing.
I think it offers a more stimulating experience that allows children and beginners to enjoy the instrument right from the start. Apart from that, there's the fact that a basic chord has actually just 3 notes and even when you are playing, say, a C Major or A minor or any basic chord on a regular 6-string guitar, you are actually playing just 3 notes and repeating them.
So it's not only that it's easier to play with 3 strings, but it's also possible to play any song. In fact, blues players have been playing 3-string guitars since the 19th century (the lovely cigar-box guitars) and even Keith Richards took away a string of his guitars and plays with just 5 strings most of the time.
Why did you decide to make the Loog a self-build kit?
I want people to feel stimulated to play. When you build your own guitar you develop a connection with it that's more profound than what you get by just grabbing something from a shelf in a store. Think of parents putting it together with their kids: it's a really nice bonding moment.
Also, assembling your guitar helps you understand the instrument and the purpose of its parts, and since we wanted to design an instrument for children and beginners, I think that's a cool side benefit to have.
Who else worked with you on the development of the instrument?
For both the acoustic Loog and the electric Loog I worked with teams based in Uruguay. The acoustic Loog was the first one, and for that I worked with a small industrial design shop called Colectivo Disán (run by Agustín Menini, Carlo Nicola and Lucía Guidali) and also with Ariel Ameijenda, a very talented luthier and builder of high-end artisanal classical guitars.
For the electric Loog I teamed up with Joaquín Uribe, a young guitarist and industrial designer who's been working with us at Loog for the past year or so, and also with a local electric guitar workshop, Cedres & Vargas. They make custom electric guitars and they are also the top repair shop for local pro guitarists in Montevideo. They acted as consultants and also built the prototypes shown in the videos and pictures.
Why Kickstarter? What makes Kickstarter a good platform for independent builders?
Kickstarter is more than a platform; it's really an enabler for independent makers; not only does it allow you to gauge your market and raise funds, but it is also great for visibility. The fact that nowadays you can build physical products, show them and sell them to the world without having to have distribution deals with large stores or a huge marketing budget is simply amazing. I think we are living a new industrial revolution and Kickstarter is probably one of the most important actors in it.
To help fund the Electric Loog, visit its Kickstarter funding page.
For more information, visit the official Loog website.