World’s Hippest Offset Guitars
If you’ve never heard the term “offset guitar,” don’t worry—it just means you’re probably not a card-carrying member of a very dedicated group of musicians who swear by these often-aerodynamic, attention-getting designs (though the attention isn’t always favorable!). This week in the corner, we’re highlighting some of our favorite offset guitar designs from over the last 50+ years, from designs that are both famous and forgotten.
Exactly what is an offset guitar? There’s no exact definition, re: angles and geometry, etc, but it’s generally accepted that ‘offset’ refers to a guitar whose ‘waist’ is asymmetrical—that is to say that the curves of the ‘waist’ of the guitar are not parallel when the instrument is standing straight up—hence a curvy, tilted sort of shape.
You can’t go near this subject without a massive nod to Fender, arguably the all-time champion of offset guitars. Fender introduced the Jazzmaster in 1958 and the Jaguar in 1962—ever since, these two legendary designs have been immensely popular with a wide variety of players from surf to punk to indie rock. In the hands of Elvis Costello, Johnny Marr, and Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo-- these guitars have become legends in their own right.
Fender added to their stable of offsets with the Jazz Bass, Marauder, Mustang, Starcaster, and Bass VI, among others—all of which have amassed their own status as legendary instruments.
Not content with being the major maker of offsets, Fender’s sister brand, Squier, got in on the action in the 90s, producing several instruments under the Squier Vista line that have been adored and held in high regard, notably the Jagmaster and the Super Sonic—the latter of which was recently put back into production under Fender’s Pawn Shop series.
In the offset world, there’s room for everyone, though—Fender doesn’t own the rights to all the cool offsets and lots of offset fans have under-the-radar favorite guitars… here are a few of the weirder, cooler ones:
Harmony Bobkat: a vintage instrument from the 60s that is now experiencing a slight resurgence thanks it being one of Annie Clark's (St Vincent) go-to guitars
Hofner Galaxie: a classic instrument from the 60s that is available again from Hofner! Each pickup has it's own on/off switch for maximum configurability. Get your offset ON!
Teisco Spectrum 5: so named for the 5 switches that produced “color” tones—a spectrum, if you will! Note the cool fretboard inlays.
One of my favorite modern offset guitars is the Charvel Surfcaster, produced predominantly in the 90s in both 6- and 12- string versions AND a 4 string bass configuration, cause why can't bassists get in on this, too?!!!
Sometimes it's just really nice to grab a guitar that looks RADICALLY different from the strats and LPs that we're all used to playing. The offset-guitar fandom world has inspired a host of custom creations, as players seek to design and build their ideal offset guitar. Any offset fans in the house?! Let’s hear about what you’re playing, what you’re looking for, and why you love offsets!!!!