5 Guitar Trends Spotted at NAMM 2016

At NAMM 2016, makers of all things musical instrument presented their wares and had a chance to check out the competition.

Now that it’s over and we've had a chance to reflect on the sights and sounds, here's what we learned from the show:

Big Brands Feel the Heat from Boutique

When touring the Fender and Gibson booths, it was clear that the new features each company was highlighting were aimed at fighting back boutique builders such as Fano and Suhr. Fender and Gibson were both using the terms “high performance,” and demonstrating new features to keep up with the popular fringes.

three flavors of the Fender American Standard Offset Telecaster

Three flavors of the Fender American Standard Offset Telecaster

Fender's new Elite Series added contoured heels, spoke-adjustment truss rods, new pickups and an improved trem system to show they were hearing the demands of players. Fender's “Offset Telecaster” aims to get a piece of the kit and fringe market.

Gibson's High Performance series improvements were again robot tuners, but also added sculpted neck heels on all “HP” models, and improved strap button locations on many models.

The Solid State Rocker is Here

Yamaha introduced the THR100, which is a 100 watt stage version of the popular THR desktop amp. With innovative features and paired with a dual amp/dual speaker design, the amp can function as two completely separate amps in true stereo.

Yamaha THR100H amplifier

Yamaha THR100H amplifier

Boss/Roland threw its hat in the ring as well, with the Waza Craft amp. This also is a multi-channel solid state design with one clean and three high-gain channels, and the Tone Capsule technology. The Capsule voices the amp to the “Brown Sound,” but a new Steve Vai model also is available, as is the earlier Eric Johnson model. This new amp and improvements on the Blues Cube show the new potential in solid state sounds.

Metal and Rock Get More Options

Another trend was hard-rock guitar makers adding more vintage styling and conventional features to their models.

Charvel decided to widen its market appeal by adding a tone knob and more switching options in the new “Pro-Mod” series, giving the classic shredder models more flexibility.

Wylde Audio Odin guitar

Wylde Audio Odin guitar

Music Man added more classic features to the newly relaunched Cutlass and Stingray guitar models, including Music Man’s Silent Circuit technology, for consistent output and zero hum, three ‘60s single-coil staggered pole pickups, plain enamel wiring and Alnico magnets.

ESP expanded the LTD line with very Strat-like models in an effort to grow market share, and Schecter cemented its metal market dominance by teaming up with Zakk Wylde to bring his Gibson-inspired models to the market.

Retro Is Back in Semihollow and Oddball Guitars

Gibson's Memphis factory brought in some interesting new models: the ES-Les Paul Special, with a flat top, and a new ES-275, a single cutaway contemporary jazz box (an L-5 meets a Les Paul). Gibson also added the additional knobs to the ES-Studio models that users demanded, and improved the 335 neck shape for better stability and added titanium saddles.

selection of Gibson guitars

Selection of Epiphone guitars

Ibanez greatly expanded the Talman line, with many options on the Strat/Tele-like model. Also, Ibanez went retro with reissues of its solid body AR series from the 1970s, with many of the “lawsuit era” features and looks players loved. Yamaha surprised many by introducing a new guitar offering, the RevStar series. The line is inspired by Yamaha's motorcycle and guitar lines from 1960s, and has a unique vintage feel.

Improved Vintage-style Effects

A final trend was the improvement of vintage boxes with modern convenience. Boss introduced a Waza Craft all-analog VB-2 Vibrato stompbox, greatly improving the sound and functionality of the effect. Also, Boss brought out the Vocoder, which might be the easiest way to incorporate talk-box and synth sounds into your rig. Ernie Ball introduced two new pedals: the Expression Overdrive and Ambient Delay, which feature an integrated expression pedal to add functionally.

Boss VB-2W Waza Craft Vibrato

Boss VB-2W Waza Craft Vibrato

Last year seemed to bring a new product and improvement paradigm shift; this year seemed to be focused on refining those big movements through incremental change. The rise of solid state was a surprise, but the sounds were great. Also seeing the big makers driven to improvement by newer makers was a refreshing change.

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