Steampunk Guitars Harmonize Victorian Science and Modern Music

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy that combines the steam-powered gadgets and inventions of the Victorian era with science fiction concepts such as time travel and space travel.

Above: Modern electric guitars are now undergoing a renaissance in design, incorporating the style of Victorian-era gadgets and gizmos.

History of the Electric Guitar

The electric guitar was first designed and produced in the 1930s by Adolph Rickenbacker. Since then, the stringed instrument has gained popularity for the variety of effects that it can produce. It has become a staple in the music recording industry and has gained popularity as a hobby for music enthusiasts. Electric guitars generally have a solid-bodied design, unlike acoustic and classical guitars which rely on a hollow body to create a resonant sound.

Above: An early electric guitar design, the Slingerland Songster, 1939

Creating Steampunk Guitars

Because the shape of an electric guitar’s body doesn’t affect the sound of the guitar, electric guitar bodies can be built in whatever shape the musician wishes it to be. Additions to the body for decoration also don’t affect the sound of the instrument, as long as this decor doesn’t inhibit the musician’s movements. Steampunk designs use a lot of copper, brass, machine parts, glass tubes, dials and switches. These design elements can be worked into the guitar to create a symbiotic relationship between the modern electric guitar and Victorian inventions. The result is a modern instrument with a classic late 19th century feel to it.

Above: The Villainizer, by Thunder Eagle, used to be a Rhoads Jackson V. This steampunk-styled guitar, complete with plasma balls, looks like it has teleported from an alternate reality. The finishing touches of rust, scratches and welding all create an interesting, realistic artwork. 

Above: Another steampunk guitar, The Nautilus, by guitar transformer Thunder Eagle, converted from a Dean ML. The design was inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Above: Organum Insolitus, built by Mark Dalzel. This steampunk guitar has a television, onboard phaser and amplifier. The wooden pickup is a humbucker covered in mahogany veneer and brass wire.

Above: Norwescan 32 by Molly Friedrich. This bass guitar takes the phrase heavy metal literally, with lots of copper and brass-styled parts. The blue corrosion effect gives the guitar an authentic feel.

Above: Steampunk guitar, by Dennis Jones, created out of an old guitar found in a second hand shop. Jones’ creation includes a fur-lined flux capacitor, dog tags and an antenna. 

Steampunk art is based on a few basic principles, but there is no definitive style. Elements such as clockwork, steam power and magic all find their way into steampunk designs, and now it seems the style has found its way into modern music.

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