Full disclosure: a headless, fanned fret eight-string couldn’t be further out of this writer’s comfort zone if it was a saxophone.
But sometimes that’s the point; as musicians, if we keep playing the same boxes, with the same sounds, on the same instruments then we’ll never break out of our stylistic cul-de-sacs. And even if we’re more than happy in familiar territory, it’s fun to be a tourist sometimes. Thus, the editor of your beloved magazine, whose favourite guitar and amplifier designs of all time originate from before 1963, finds himself in temporary charge of an electric guitar that’s about as highly evolved and modernistic as it gets.
Based 45 miles north of Stockholm in Uppsala, Sweden, Ola Strandberg has found favour with the progressive metal community, and the Boden 8 combines elements of instruments he created in response to the requirements of such djentlemen as Misha Mansoor, Tosin Abasi and Chris Letchford. It’s a visually striking guitar, but the really clever stuff comes in the shape of the neck.
Strandberg’s patented EndurNeck has a kind of asymmetrical profile made up of three flat surfaces. It’s thinner on the treble side and thicker on the bass side towards the nut, almost parallel behind the seventh fret, getting thinner on the bass side and thicker on the treble side as the neck approaches the body. The result promotes better hand posture when playing and reduces stress on muscles, joints and tendons. It also makes rhythm playing easier towards the nut and lead playing easier at the body end, which is further assisted by a compound fretboard radius that flattens out in the upper reaches.
The almost holistic design approach has the desired effect; what seems initially to be an intimidatingly wide playing surface quickly feels comfortable, and it’s a much more luxurious ride than the extended-range designs we’ve played that utilise a more conventional neck shape. The fanned frets also help keep those big lower strings sufficiently taut and well-intonated and the higher strings easy to bend.
The Seymour Duncan Custom Shop pickups will do the djent thing with authority, of course, but it’s important to emphasise that seven- and eight-string guitars aren’t just for prog metal; check out jazz virtuoso Charlie Hunter as an example of how far they can go in a dramatically different direction. We enjoyed exploiting the Boden 8’s vast bass response and high-end clarity when playing moody arpeggios into reverb and delay – when layering parts using an instrument with this kind of range you can always find the space for melody and lead lines.
Strandberg Boden 8
• Price €4,400
• Description 8-string headless electric with a chambered swamp ash body and flame maple top. Bolt-on EndurNeck profile Caribbean rosewood/carbon fibre/maple laminate neck with a 16-20” compound radius ebony fretboard with Luminlay dot side and fret markers, 24 jumbo fanned frets plus zero fret. Made in the USA
• Hardware Black Strandberg EGS Series 4 fixed bridge and string locks
• Electrics Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Slanted Pegasus & Sentient pickups, three-way toggle pickup selector, master volume, master tone
• Scale Length 711-673mm/28-26.5”
• Neck Width 60mm at nut, 70mm at 12th fret
• Neck Depth 19mm at first fret, 20mm at 12th fret
• String Spacing 52mm at nut, 80mm at bridge
• Weight 2.5kgs/5.5lbs
• Left-Handers Swedish-made Made To Measure instruments only. See website for details
• Finishes Fangorn (green over black) Satin; numerous other options available
• Options Specify body, top, fingerboard material, pickup choice, hardware colour and more when ordering
• Contact Strandberg Guitars