ProGuitarShop

World’s Hippest Offset Guitars

July 18, 2013

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!!!! 

Comments

  1. Brigham Alcorn says:

    Man! How can you cover Offsets and not talk about Mosrite Ventures, or the many Airlines inspired by them!?!

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 4:45 am
  2. Brigham Alcorn says:

    By Airline, I meant Eastwood…

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 4:46 am
  3. Laurent says:

    What about Firebird guitars?

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 4:47 am
  4. Steve says:

    I was only 16 in ‘91 so wasn’t really in a position to get a Charvel Surfcaster.  How happy I was when the Skatecaster was released!  I own an awesome thru-black SK-1.  Offset guitars rock and do stand out from strats and LPs (though both are great too, and I love playing mine when I want a symmetircal waist!!!!!!!!!)

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 4:52 am
  5. Spiro Giro says:

    Has to be the Gibson Firebird in Red!

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:01 am
  6. Andrea says:

    Offset guitars anytime!
    The Gibson non reverse Firebird should have been in that group picture

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:09 am
  7. vsushkov says:

    Fender Jag Stang in red is very hot.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:10 am
  8. Philip Henzig says:

    DIPINTO GALIXIE 4 The king od offsets! Good enough for Los Straitjackets!

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:11 am
  9. Ben says:

    No mention of Reverend?  Also take a look at B-Way Guitars.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:12 am
  10. Doug says:

    No mention of the Fender Jazz Bass?  Intro’d 2 years after the Jazzmaster and before the Jaguar…  bassists got “in on this” early on.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:13 am
  11. Jeremy D. Acton says:

    I really like these offset-type guitars after discovering Sonic Youth, and I enjoyed this article.  I suggest the author do a follow up like ” More great offset guitars” based on the list created in the comments by the readers. 

    (I only have a Cort G210 Strat-type but would really like a Jaguar too)

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:24 am
  12. Ben says:

    I’d throw in the Godin Dorchester - something innovative, weird and tone-o-matical:
    http://www.richmondguitarscanada.com/dorchesterbigsby.html

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:26 am
  13. Stefaun says:

      I started playing guitar in 1965.  The guitars then available to us high school age guys were inexpensive Harmony, and the just starting up Japanese instruments. They were not really very good looking back, but we liked them.
      We learned songs, such as The Ventures, that had current hit songs, they were instrumentals. The guitars that they used were Mosrites!!! By the end of 1966, beginning of 67’, I finally had enough money to buy one. Back then, $400 was a great deal of money for a guitar!!! I bought it because that guitar’s shape just spoke to my heart like no other guitar.. My next choice would have been a Fender Jaguar, which also cost $4oo at the time, also. American guitars were in another realm to us in affordability. That sunburst Mosrite still is hanging in my music room!!!!!!!!!!  Even though it is not an instrument that is for everyone, for me , every instrument that I ever look at , or will ever buy will be evaluated by being compared to that Mosrite. I have a Fender Dual Showman with Reverb and Vibrato, with Jbl 15”, which then was THE AMPLFIER to have, for Surf songs, The Ventures, and Dwain Eddy songs. I will always have that guitar, it still talks to me when I look at it, and when I play it.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:30 am
  14. Eric says:

    I always thought Jazzmaster’s were the coolest! especially after seeing Luther Perkins playing one. I still miss you Luther

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:32 am
  15. adam says:

    Have a few and they are my favorite guitars to play. The Jazzmaster Tremolo kicks ass. They are quirky and have some gotcha’s I replace the stock bridges with Mastery bridges. Seymour duncan , Novak etal make great pickups. Plenty of string behind the bridge so heavier sets of stings work well with them without sacrificing playability and you cna strum behind the bridge for some really cool wacky tones.  My favorite Jazzmaster Player is Nels Cline from Wilco and the Nels Cline Singers

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/23312164/jazzmaster.stylized.body.jpg

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:35 am
  16. Elliot says:

    Never thought of my old Harmony Bobkat as being an “offset,” but it has followed me around for years because it does not sound like any of my other guitars

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:37 am
  17. Barney says:

    Can’t believe you left out Reverend, they have killer shapes and rock hard.  Plus you’re one of the few dealers.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:41 am
  18. LeKool says:

    It’s a tough choice between the Fender Jag and the Jazz Master, but first comes the Jag, then the others.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:45 am
  19. Mojave Johnson says:

    WTF?!!!!  How could you not talk about the Gibson guitars that ORIGINATED the offset waist designs - the Explorer and the Firebird??!!!!!!

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:46 am
  20. Phil Ogison says:

    Naughty naughty! Wot, no Firebird (reverse or non reverse) hint of Fender bias here is there?

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:46 am
  21. Grif Torres says:

    I’ve got a Fender Electric XII, and a Jaguar. They have the same body shape, exactly. Offset Fenders are my favorite!

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:56 am
  22. Ken says:

    Does anybody make one of these set up like a Strat, with three coils and a Strat type trem? I’ve always liked the look of them better than a Strat or a Tele. I’ve seen Offset guitars with Tele pickups but not with Strat pickups.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:04 am
  23. Art Rice says:

    Laurent, I was thinking Gibson Firebird as well, but looking at them, the waist is not offset.  It just gives the illusion of being offset because the opposing bouts are elongated.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:19 am
  24. Stas says:

    soviet guitar “Ural”-USSR offset guitar.Awesome guitar-at the top model have 8!!!! pickups

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:23 am
  25. Stas says:

    https://www.google.com.ua/search?q=Ural+guitar&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=fJjtUce3KqG04ATXxoCgAQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1517&bih=673#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=bGJyVFrhJNRhAM:;1QSpcfPyrq0gKM;http://www.cheesyguitars.com/ural_V8/ural_v8_body.jpg;http://www.cheesyguitars.com/ural_V8.html;480;360

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:24 am
  26. Caleb Sanderson says:

    Mosrite!!! and my newest favorite, the Giffin Valiant

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:29 am
  27. PRJ says:

    This might be nitpicking, but the shapes of the bodies of Explorers, Firebirds and Mosrites are not technically offset (although they are asymmetrical). If we observe the waistlines of Fender Jaguars, Jazzmasters and Mustangs, it is obvious, they are seriously tilted. On the other hand, the the waistline of Gibson Firebird (in both reverse and non reverse models) is almost perfectly horizontal. Same is true with Explorers and Mosrites.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:29 am
  28. Jim says:

    Saul Koll’s Glide series of guitars are all slightly offset, but the general body shape makes them look more offset than they are.  I have several from the days when Saul built each guitar in his shop.  (Premier Builders Guild - “PBG” now builds the Glide Series Koll Guitars.)  It is always nice to find a great craftman that will build your dream guitar, and knows enough to guide you away from dreams that can turn out to be nightmares. ;-)

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:37 am
  29. Mattie B says:

    You can’t do an article about offset guitars and not even mention Reverend.  The original USA line of Reverend breathed new life into the offset shape in the late 90’s when no one was really talking about them anymore. Their USA line is gone, but the legacy offset shape remains in many models like the Jetstream, Six Gun and Kingbolt. Those of us in the KNOW, know that offset guitars offer the most ergonomically comfortable balance of playing factors, such as easy access to the upper frets and the naturally slight diagonal lie against the player which tilts the neck up into the perfect playing position.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:39 am
  30. Alan says:

    I don’t own any offset guitars, but I’ve always wanted a Jazz-Master. I think the design is very cool. Now, though, if I were to buy an offset guitar, I would probably prefer a Reverend over a Fender or esp. a Gibson.
    I bought 2 Fender guitars in 2011, a MIM Tele, and a US made Strat Deluxe, and they are both high-quality guitars, with nice bridge saddles—although on the MIM Tele I had to add two top screws, as they were no screws to hold-down the front of the bridge plate!
    Yesterday I went to a guitar store to check-out the Chris Shiflett Tele Deluxe for $699. I was thinking about trading in my MIM Tele because it’s made of Northern Ash, which gives a great, biting tone, but is a little on the heavy side (about 8.5lbs). I had liked the catalogue description of the Chris Shiflett Tele because it had a 12” neck radius & two newly-designed humbuckers, with a lighter Tele body that has a belly-cut.
    Boy, was I surprised when I checked-it out in person. It had these super-thin saddles—I mean, they looked like something that belonged on a Walmart guitar!!! I mentioned this to the salesman and he said, “It’s Fender, what do you expect?” That is sad.
    I’ve also noticed the same decline in quality on Gibson guitars, especially w/ their more affordable models. Are Fender & Gibson still making great profit? IDK, haven’t researched it yet, but I suspect “yes.” Another thing Fender is doing that I hate—and it’s doing this with all its “Pawn-Shop” models, is coating the back of the neck with that thick, sticky, heavy gloss finish—almost worst than Gibson when it comes to the back of the neck and their love of painting them. The Shiflett guitar also had this thick gloss finish on the back of the neck. By contrast, my MIM Tele & Strat Deluxe both have the nice, thin satin finishes that allow the hand to glide smoothly along the neck. IMO, all necks should have a satin-type finish on the back of the neck.

    I don’t know what the cause is, why the quality between 2011 Fenders & todays are so different, but I will certainly be very careful of buying any guitar these days without first really inspecting it. Reverend may well take much of Fender & Gibson’s business if they continue to build innovative guitars w/high quality & w/out charging another $500 to $1000 for that Fender or Gibson logo. They just need more advertisement & distribution. Of course, those things may ruin what I like about them.
    I also don’t like the bridges on the Jazz-Masters/Jaguars, etc. regardless of age, but if I did settle for one, it would have to be a locking model. I’ve never used “tremolo” bars (which should be called vibrato bars) & I found w/ my Strat that even putting all 5 springs in & tightening them down wouldn’t stop it from going out of tune when it sat overnight. So I finally just blocked it and now it stays in tune perfectly. If they had a non-tremolo version, I would’ve just bought that.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:46 am
  31. Lonny Jarrett says:

    The best new (60s) offset guitar on the planet is the Diemel Firestar.

    http://www.deimelguitarworks.de/

    Breathless every time I hold it.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 7:25 am
  32. Dr. Roy G. Bernius says:

    Legendary Recording and Performing Artist, Dr. Roy Bernius here! I’m a life long Fender Strat Fan. I’ve been playing my 60th Anniversary Edition Custom Shop Super Deluxe Fat Strat ever since I had it made to my specifications.

    My globally revered, multi award-winning One Man Band: “Dr. Roy’z Magical Musical Time Machine!”  does Star-Studded Concert and Music Fest Tours both here and abroad, and when I am home I perform at more local Concerts, Festivals, Clubs and Events, and my trusty Fat Strat is with me everywhere I go!

    I’m in my 57th year of Entertaining, and I see no limit to where me and my guitar will be going from here!

     

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 8:05 am
  33. Dr. Roy G. Bernius says:

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-Royz-Magical-Musical-Time-Machine/115820151797094

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 8:08 am
  34. Ken says:

    Even though it isn’t offset I like Hagstrom’s F series. I own a swede and love the thin neck. It works well with my Barny Rubble fingers.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 8:48 am
  35. Dennis Harris says:

    Would the DeArmond Jet-Stars (from the late ‘90s) be considered off-set instruments? If so, they would be great candidates. I have a guitar and bass from that line. They are modeled after the old Guild Thunderbirds from the early ‘60s, by the way.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 9:17 am
  36. KJ says:

    I play Fender Jazz Basses. I don’t understand why you WOULDN’T play an offset.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 10:31 am
  37. jaycar says:

    didn’t bother reading all of them comments (too many for my sore eyes and I’d rather pick my tele up again) so maybe one of them already said “what about explorers? doesn’t that count as offset as well?”. If I could afford it, I’d have a jaguar as well. And YES I love anything that is assymetrical.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 10:33 am
  38. Francis Maria says:

    Er the Jazzmaster and the Explorer came out in the same year and the Jazzy had prototypes before that.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 11:01 am
  39. Rory A. says:

    Love me some Jazzmaster. I’m a 90s kid. Sonic Youth fanboy here.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm
  40. Charles Catlow says:

    You forgot to mention the Fender Jazz Bass, introduced in 1960!

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm
  41. Francis Maria says:

    They DID mention the Jazz Bass right below the Starcaster.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm
  42. Charles Catlow says:

    You are right, Francis. I meant “to show” ;-)

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm
  43. Parouty benoit says:

    Where is the superb Danelectro 3021 or U1 and U2 !!! Nathan Daniels was a genious for offset
    guitars ,show him a little respect buddies !!!!
    Anyway i love jaguar and jazzmaster too !!!!!

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:46 pm
  44. SJK says:

    Almost all I build are offsets!  I am a taller guy and LPs look like a uke when I play them.  With all the modern bridges on the market there is no excuse to not use an offset.  The Mastery, TOM or roller-TOM add body resonance for a less “surfy” sound, or go with a Mustang bridge (some are now adjustable for non-vintage radii fretboards) or go straight vintage and dunk it in wax or loc-tite after you are done setting it up so it doesn’t rattle.

    I had never noticed this in 30 years of playing them, but Strats actually are slightly offset.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:52 pm
  45. kelvin burn says:

    pre-pointy shaped Ibanez deserve a mention.  my main guitar for std tuning is a 1980 Blazer.  An ash bodied, maple necked tone monster

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm
  46. James Gray Brooks says:

    I’ve always liked the Fender Jazzmaster and I played a Jaguar a former neighbor once owned.  I’d own both or either in a minute.  The rest, I’d leave.

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm
  47. The Dirt Kahuna says:

    In my band, The Dirt Surfers, I play a Fender HH Classic Players Jaguar and my bass player plays a Fender Jaguar bass. As a surf band, this is a cool look for us. My Jaguar is very easy to play and extremely comfortable, whether sitting at home practicing or standing during live gigs. The dual humbuckers give me some “meat” when I want to crank out some heavy riffs, while the whammy is subtle enough for delicate minor chord shimmys. I really don’t use all of the switches on the guitar, and I’d like to own one of the Fender Pawn Shop Jagurillo’s at some point. Long live the offset guitar!!!!

    posted on July 23, 2013 at 11:08 pm
  48. Vincent Le Pes says:

    They aren’t all that well known, but Languedoc guitars have my favorite offset shape: http://www.strangedesign.org/rigs/

    posted on July 24, 2013 at 1:57 am
  49. Jim Moulton says:

    That sexy little Mustang on the far left was first real guitar,150 bucks with those great Fender cases and I got a vibro champ with it. Played it for about 8 years, Then I traded it for a 12 string.

    posted on July 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm
  50. Deg says:

    I dont see Eko guitars, however they producing very nice offst guitars like 700, Kadett, or Camaro :).

    posted on July 24, 2013 at 5:54 pm
  51. Jim H says:

    Yamaha SGV-300 and SC-300T…somewhere between an upside-down Rickenbacker and a melted Stratocaster!

    posted on July 25, 2013 at 1:34 am
  52. m says:

    No mention of the Ibanez Talman?  Great guitars… Especially the Japanese-made ones.

    Oh, and @Parouty benoit: the Danelectro guitars you mentioned are not offset guitars. :)

    posted on July 26, 2013 at 6:02 am
  53. stevieod says:

    It is obvious that there is a definite Fender bias going here, but it’s all good.  There has to be a few hundred off-set guitars made over the years, Japanese, European and American.  All have their champions and all have their detractors. 

    One man’s floor is another man’s ceiling.

    posted on July 26, 2013 at 6:51 am
  54. dan says:

    Fender Jagstang is one of the most underrated guitars. It is also one of its most versatile.  The much maligned bridge humbucker?  Play with the height and level a bit.  It’s not a very high output ‘bucker, which probably is what people are expecting, but in tandem with the neck position single coil, you can get some great soul and country sounds, as well as great slabs of blastoid and histrionic Strat.  Just set the amp to stun and fiddle with the Jagstang’s T and V knobs and work the out- of phase switch selections.

    posted on July 26, 2013 at 7:36 am
  55. Julian says:

    Yes the Jag-Stangs are awesome. Look great at least. Ive heard they are pretty uncomfortable and really don’t sound great, have NO tuning stability, and so on. The worst from a jaguar mixed with the mustang.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want one! But Kurt designed it to be weird, and kind of unconventional, similar to what people thought about the Jaguar at the time.

    Now of course, the grunge scene has changed everything, and we all love Jags, Mustangs, and so on. I think the Fender Mustang is more underrated than the Jag-Stang, being that the Mustang is like a strat, but looks super cool, and is used by FAR less people. Its ALMOST like a much less popular version of the infamous and ever continuing SG vs LP fight.

    posted on August 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm
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    posted on September 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm
  57. Brent M says:

    Fender just announced the Starcaster off-set semi-hollow. The Coronado was also released to rapturous applause as well.

    posted on September 4, 2013 at 7:27 am
  58. Tom Sifton says:

    My 3 tone Squire Jaguar is one of my favorites alongside my Squire Strat

    posted on September 4, 2013 at 8:47 am
  59. Dean says:

    Yeah, I dig my Fender guitars….. but the Firebird is still the sh*t!

    posted on September 4, 2013 at 10:35 am
  60. Antwang says:

    mmmm…What about G&L’s? I’ve got an SC2 wich is the cousin of the Fender Mustang…IT’S A ROCKETSHIP.

    posted on September 4, 2013 at 8:16 pm
  61. nigelthebald says:

    ESP Ltd PC-2V (yeah - snappy name!).  Brown sunburst, flame maple top, semi-hollow, Bigsby, twin Seymour Duncan humbuckers. I love it. Cool as f**k!

    posted on September 6, 2013 at 6:28 am

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