Today In Life Choices That Are Either Questionable or Awesome or Both

A six-necked guitar called "The Beast"
John Scalzi

See that fucking ridiculous guitar above? The one with six necks? Yeah, I just bought that shit.

(My Fictional Interlocutor crashes in from the underbrush)

You did what now?

I bought it! I read in Guitar World that it was up for auction and I put in a bid and I won.

Were you deeply stoned at the time?

You know I don’t do that stuff.

I don’t know, maybe you started.


Ambien, then.

I swear I was not in a pharmaceutically altered state of mind when I bid on it.

Then… why?

One, because it’s ridiculous.

Well, yes.

Which is awesome. Two, I have plans to build out a music room in the basement — it’s already where the majority of my musical instruments are — and I thought this would make a very fine centerpiece for it.

So you didn’t buy it to play it.

Oh, no, I’m definitely gonna play it.

It seems ergonomically dubious at best.

Well, yes. When I say I’m going to play it, I don’t mean it’s going to be my everyday guitar. It is meant mostly to be art. Even the guy who built it says it’s a “conversation piece.” But it’s a playable guitar — all the pickups and electric bits work — so I’m going to keep it tuned (or at least, tunable) and ready to be fiddled with whenever I or someone else has a mind to.

I’m not 100% believing it’s playable.

Here’s a video of someone playing it:

That’s probably CGI.

Stop that.

Also, you don’t play that well.

True enough! But I guess I could practice.

How much did this folly cost you?

Actually less than I expected. When I bid on it, I put in the upper amount I was willing to pay, and I assumed the price would be run up — actually, if I’m being honest, I thought someone would outbid me. But no one did, so I didn’t reach my max bid. However it’s in the UK and will need to be crated and shipped here to Ohio, so what I didn’t pay for the guitar itself, I’ll probably pay in having it brought over.

Tell me you didn’t spring this on Krissy.

I did not. Krissy and I always inform each other of when we wish to make a substantial expenditure, even (especially) if it is, in fact, entirely ridiculous. Also, of course, if Krissy was all, “please don’t,” then I wouldn’t have. But this was within our budget at the moment, and Krissy gets the whole “I’m buying art for a room” thing I’m doing. As distinctive original art goes, this was a reasonable expense. As a guitar, it was slightly pricey but not ill-advisedly so. As both? A bargain! Also I had a hard-out price I wouldn’t have gone above. This is awesome but it’s also silly, and there’s a limit on how much I’m willing to spend on silly.

So when do we get to see you with this thing?

I don’t know! I’m talking to a shipping company today and we’ll figure out how long it will take to get here. I’m not exactly expecting an overnight delivery. I expect it will be several weeks. Please be patient.

Will you post a video of you playing it?

Oh, probably.

Plan to buy any more musical instruments any time soon?

Oh, probably not.



— JS

81 Comments on “Today In Life Choices That Are Either Questionable or Awesome or Both”

  1. Next thing you know, you’ll be fronting Cheap Trick.

    Or getting tossed out of the concert for trying, anyway.

  2. Purchases such as this are an excellent reason to have a Indulgences Budget. Save up for something big, use it on a thousand little things, whatever makes one happy.

  3. I seriously – DESPERATELY – needed a good belly-laugh today, so I stopped by Scalzi’s blog.

    And lo! He delivered!

    Thanks for the day-brightener, sir, it really helps.

    Also, start working on your curls and squats now, so you can lift that ridiculous thing when it shows up. I’ll bet Krissy could coach you.

  4. “ergonomically dubious” puts it… very nicely. But yes, I’d have expected that chunk of wood and hardware to be much more expensive. Congratulations on your very special shipping project :)

  5. You didn’t answer the REAL question- why doesn’t the bass neck have five strings? If you’re gonna play metal, you need that DEEP sound.

  6. Way to go! Nice piece of outlandish gear. You can hang it from the ceiling so you can reach any of the necks. And, should you tire of it, you can always find a buyer while having fun in the meantime.

    Unfortunately, playable vintage instruments have been bid up by collectors to be out of reach of club musicians and others who can actually use them, but such is the market economy.

    I wish I’d kept my stuff from the 60’s – Rickenbacker 12, Fender Jazzmaster, Fender Princeton, Gibson Melody Maker, Silvertone, etc. Never did teenage me think they’d someday be worth more than I paid.

  7. To quote my grandmother:
    “That damn boy has more money than sense.”
    Well, anyway, enjoy it. [Walks away, shaking head.]

  8. Is this Bill Bailey’s 6 neck guitar? He’s hilarious, and musical, and I love his “pope’s doorbell” skit. Which features no guitars.

  9. Maybe, just maybe, if you’re planning to experiment with non-standard tunings and want to switch between them rapidly. (Troll tuning for neck number 5, of course.)

  10. Can/Will you bring it on the boat to cause an interaction between it and Boggia?

  11. Ray Cornwall:

    Look more closely: there is a five-string bass in there.


    I believe it is.

    Ben Longman:

    I don’t know if I’m bringing it to the boat yet. There will be logistics to work out.

  12. Seems like something you would find in a Barsoomian bar band.

    Do you plan on tuning them differently?

    Do you know any left-handed guitarists to duet with?

  13. Thanks for the video. I couldn’t figure out how one would pick it up, let along play it. Are all the strings active all the time, or is there some kind of selector switch?

    Have fun.

  14. Your FI seems to miss the point that “Liar” is pretty much your current job description.

    Cool guitar, but 4 necks seems the maximum playable without extensive (probably painful) contortions or making it ambidextrous.

  15. I showed this to Martha, and said if I try to buy something like this she can hit me. She surprised me and said it makes sense if it’s supposed to be a unique showpiece for your music room. So now I”m trying to figure out how much camera equipment and telescopes I can get away with now.

  16. Share it with Walk off the Earth. Then they can each have a neck of their own.

  17. How log until we get an original piece composed, performed, filmed, edited, and posted to YouTube?

  18. How’s your soldering skills? I foresee a fun little project swapping out a few of those humbuckers for P90s and single coil pickups. Add a looper, and you’re well on your way to Iron Maiden land.

  19. John… Dude…

    You did good.

    The Highest and Best purpose for that object is “fun.”

    And you will allow it to fulfill that destiny, for many, many beings.

    Thank you for sharing Chapter One of The Ridiculously Fun Guitar with us.

  20. I suspect that the price you paid didn’t even cover the cost of materials. What a monster. The shipping costs will be pretty high for that thing, special crate and all that.

    Show us what you can do, when you get it. Again, have fun.

  21. VERY COOL!!!!!!

    Awesome, certainly. Questionable? Only if buying it caused you to miss covering needed expenses. Otherwise, do what brings you joy when you can.

  22. David Hajicek, I mentioned Walk off the Earth’s cover of “Somebody . . . ” to my daughter when showing her this one. :D

  23. You can certainly buy just a single (new, not vintage) guitar for more than you spent on what is essentially six instruments. I’d say that’s a bargain!

  24. It’s the Scalzi “burrito” of the guitar world. So it has definitely found its spiritual home!

    Congratulations? It’s certainly a conversation piece.

  25. It’s a little sad that of the four guitar necks (as opposed to the two bass) they are all LP-style with no Strat-options. Although I suspect, looking at the controls, that simplifies the wiring significantly. Are they all hardtail?

  26. This makes me ache for the (actually playable) Vulcan harp I resisted the impulse to buy years and years (decades?) ago…. (The design wasn’t quite right.)

  27. @Dan Any piano tuners live nearby?

    I imagine the tunability (tuneability? The other looks like one is contemplating options involving fish) is significantly mitigated by each set of strings being on its own bridge-and-neck assembly.

  28. At some point this thing should be played by ‘the multi-tentacled squid-like beings of Delta Scorpio Six’ in a really cheesy story that reads like a send-up of Larry Niven. Hmm, maybe I should write it.

  29. It’s utterly ridiculous, I want it! I don’t care that I don’t play, this is awesome!

  30. Let’s see, there’s a 12-string guitar, a six-string guitar, 5-string bass, 4-string bass, 7-string guitar. Cool. Cool, cool, cool. And–wait!–there’s a second six-string guitar?!?! Now that’s just excessive.

  31. And they say that cocaine is god’s way of telling you you have too much money!

  32. All I want to know is when your Fictional Interlocutor is getting their own Twitter account.

  33. Mark E, the second 6 string is for alternate tunings like an open chord or double drop-D.

  34. Someone needs to make you a hydra-plectrum, six picks on a stick that lets you play all six once. Or at least strum the other five in sync with the one you’re actively playing.

  35. I do believe you’ve just thrown down a challenge to a few of my guitar-playing friends!

  36. @Jon H

    Sadly, the Hydra-plectrum wouldn’t work unless you also had a hydra fret-presser too :/

  37. David Hajicek

    Mark E, the second 6 string is for alternate tunings like an open chord or double drop-D.

    Oh, right, for playing slide and such. Not excessive then–carry on.

  38. Having read one of the articles about that…thing…I guess the designer saw Rick Nielsen’s 5-neck guitar and thought “why not more?”. It’s kind of interesting that the “convenient playability” limit does appear to be five necks. My guess is that back in the ’80s Nielsen went to Hamer and set out to design a guitar with the most necks that he could actually play at least a few songs on in concert without getting a hernia and five was that limit.

    Anyway, it’s awesome that you have it. Don’t hurt yourself trying to play it.

  39. To quote Ian Malcolm:

    Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

  40. Don’t work out too much. If you get too muscular, your arm won’t fit between the necks.

  41. If you ever decide to pull a Pete Townsend on that one, make sure the lens cap is off.

  42. That’s probably CGI.

    Naw, just a lot of Amazing!



    The last time I saw anything similar, it was William Conrad picking up a tripod-mounted water-cooled machinegun and holding it while firing on at an escaping airplane on CANNON.

  43. Congratulations–I don’t think even Spinal Tap could have pulled this one off.

    At least you can cover most of the bass parts in “Big Bottom” withe the double-necker bass.

  44. For some reason, what ran through my head was “Your arms too short to box with God.” No idea why.

  45. Nice, I love it! One qq though – do you intend to play all necks from the same side? Or play some lefty and some righty? From the video it looks a little janky with the reach through (but phenomenal to get some random Iron Maiden).

  46. All right, if people are curious, playing Cheap Trick live, Rick Nielsen used to play live with several guitars around his neck at the same time for songs where he needed different guitar sounds. He then approached Hamer guitars for a custom model, but it escalated quickly because Rick has a profound sense of the absurd. He doesn’t actually play beyond the first two necks, usually. Here’s a nice video featuring both Rick and his guitar tech

  47. I totally stand corrected. Here’s an awesome live Cheap Trick with Rick playing on four necks:

  48. And I’ll just note that Cheap Trick’s bass player, Tom Petersson, worked with Hamer to develop the 12-string bass, the first triple course bass instrument. More recently played by Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam and Allen Woody, among others.

  49. ROFL.
    The picture (of our esteemed host) fits perfectly.

    First thing that came to my mind was Tenacious D, Master Exploder – in the video there’s a scene where (a suddenly mutated) Kage plays a guitar with three pairs of arms. He needed them, since the guitar had three necks and he played them all at the same time.

    The second thing that came to my mind is far less ridiculous – Why not buy a chapman stick instead? Also weird, but more functional. Not as outrageous by far, of course.
    (For some reason I have a soft spot for chapman sticks. I like the idea of them.)

    Any plans of growing additional arms, John?

  50. Huh. I guess with the internet you can get replacement strings for all those different combinations–my preference for silk and steel for my 12 string has even raised some retail eyebrows. Enjoy!

  51. I think this is a brilliant purchase and am somewhat envious. In some ways the guitar reminds me of Junior Brown’s guitar-steel in that both probably need a stand of some kind to be able to play them.

    Have you told your family that when it comes time to restring the guitar you’ll be unavailable for the better part of a weekend while you’re doing it?

  52. So, the real question is: are you going to rename it or does it get to keep it’s current name of “The Beast”?

    And in a side question, if it gets to keep is name, any plans to take it down to Kings Island and get a picture of The Beast (guitar) in front of The Beast (the rollercoaster)? That would, IMO, be a classic picture.

  53. Looks awesome! If you are truly fitting out your music room then I think you should expand your single neck collection….

  54. Sweet Jesus, I don’t believe my eyes. Rick Nielsen, eat your heart out.

    I found this on the auction site. I wouldn’t call it a bargain but it was cheaper than I would have expected.

    You could probably turn a profit by sawing the pieces apart and selling them separately. You’d need to do some rewiring and add controls and a jack, which makes no sense, but there’s nothing about this that makes sense.

    The upper 6-string has tremolo (actually vibrato), i.e. whammy bar, so the two 6-strings are different.

    I don’t know why they didn’t do a mandolin instead of the second 6-string. Or a 12-string bass for the second bass.

    We await the video of you playing it.

  55. Okay, so I’m NOT the first person to suggest bringing it to Boat next year, but let me point out that when it arrives in Ohio it will be encased a Sturdy Shipping Container which you can easily re-address to Fort Lauderdale. There’s half your shipping logistics solved. And think of the possibilities: competitions for who can play it best (or most interestingly)! competitions for who can actually hold it! the ultimate Jim Boggia Tuning Challenge!

  56. Thanks for posting this. I didn’t know I needed to know this existed until I knew. And now I know.

    It’s ridiculously awesome. I hope it turns out to be playable for you cause it looks like it would be a blast to play.

    I mean, 4 & 5 string basses, a 12, an 8 and two 6s, all in one cherry body. Whoever designed and constructed this thing is a freaking legend, afaic.

  57. One of the times I saw Yes on tour in the mid-70s Chris Squire played a triple-necked, 12-string bass on a couple of songs. It probably helped that he was about 6′ 5″.

  58. So many questions, but I’ll confine myself to a few.

    Are all the pickups humbuckers, as the sound of that video suggests? Wouldn’t it have made sense for at least one of the six-strings to feature single-coil pickups instead?

    Or do those volume and tone pots have a pull-out coil-splitting (or tapping) feature that provides ersatz single-coil sound?

    Speaking of which, so many necks and different string configurations, and yet only three evident pots and two switches. How is that supposed to work? How many different necks does each pickup switch simultaneously control?

    And why do the leftmost six-string neck and the single seven-string neck feature Floyd Rose-style locking nuts, but the rightmost six-string doesn’t? I mean, there are better systems for ensuring tuning stability, but this seems weirdly indecisive.

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