Featured Guitar: The Rickenbacker Model 331 “Light Show” Guitar

Rickenbacker Model 331 Lightshow Guitar

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Rickenbacker Model 331 Lightshow GuitarInstall strings and pickups on a disco dance floor, and you’ve got the Rickenbacker Light Show guitar.
This bit of 1970’s guitar psychedelia was technically named “Model 331”, and it had a clear plastic top with colored lamps inside. Low pitches litthe blue lamps, mid-range lit yellow; high pitches lit red.

As you played, these lights would combine forces to Bedazzle the entire frequency spectrum.

Check out this excerpt from the guitar’s advertisement:

“The three modulation channels are variable with a sensitivity control to make this patented instrument a beautiful performer in the stage situations professionals encounter.”

No matter what you encounter out there in the field, rest assured that you can meet the challenge by dialing in ”just the right amount” of scintillating sparkle! Those Rickenbacker luthiers think of everything.

Roger McGuinn of The Byrds played the Light Show model at concerts andon TV during the 70’s. This guitar model remains hot among collectors; when a still-functional model showed up on Antiques Roadshow the expert valued it at $20,000 insurance.

The light show also has stereo outputs, in case you want to output to one amplifier in your living room and one amplifier next door I guess.

But in case you think musical light shows were some kind of passing craze, you should know that a monk named Louis Bertrand Castel beat Rickenbacker to the punch by about 230 years.

In 1742 he proposed aninstrument that would display colored lights that corresponded to every pitch on the keyboard. He even built a harpsichord with keys that would reveal and hide 60 different panes of colored glass by drawing small curtains.
Nice try, Louis.

But did yours have stereo outputs?! I think not. Goodday, sir!


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Nicholas Tozier

Nicholas Tozier is a book hoarder and songbird from the woods of Maine. In 2012 he made a small cameo in Songwriting Without Boundaries by Berklee professor Pat Pattison, and was named one of CDBaby’s top 10 Songwriting Resources to follow on Twitter.

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