This morning I'm obliged to the anonymous blogger at 357 Magnum for introducing me to something rich and strange. It's guitarist Steve Vai's newly designed Ibanez "guitar". He calls it The Hydra, borrowing the name from antiquity. The steampunk-themed instrument looks weird, but he makes it sing.
This one-of-a-kind instrument is ambitious even by Steve Vai's standards and five years in the making.
The Hydra is a many faceted creature with two-headstocks, three-necks that host 7 and 12-string guitars; a 4-string ¾ scale length bass; 13 sympathetic harp strings; half-fretless necks; single-coil, humbucking, piezo, MIDI and sustainer pickups; floating and hardtail tremolo bridges and phase splitters.
“I feel this instrument has the potential to be historical," notes Vai. "It’s unique in various ways and its construction is inspired. And there’s a song that was written on it that honours the potential of the instrument."
. . .
Ibanez Artist Relations Manager Mike Orrigo says, " 'The Hydra', as Mr Vai has appropriately dubbed it, started off as a concept that Steve approached Ibanez with several years ago. While it was understood then that the task to turn Steve’s vision into reality would be a tremendous undertaking, we were undeterred by the challenge.
"Fuelled by Steve’s inspiration, our team of designers, engineers, and luthiers worked tirelessly together in order to create a truly one-of-a-kind instrument, remaining as true to the initial vision as possible."
From most guitarists and performers, I'd regard The Hydra as just a gimmick: but when you're at the level of Steve Vai, it's definitely something to be taken seriously. Here's his opening track with the instrument, titled "Teeth of the Hydra", from his latest album "Inviolate".
It's used on other tracks of the album as well. I wonder how long it took him to develop the playing technique needed to take advantage of all those features?