By Charles Grove
WINCHESTER – The next big thing in guitars could be being made in Adams County as we speak.
The Hammer Jammer, a device which attaches to any acoustic or electric six-string guitar, is being made at MACA Plastics in Winchester and initial sales are solid. A bass and 12-string model are still in development.
The device allows the musician to tap the device which strikes the strings, giving musicians a different sound than strumming and more abilities to create.
“This is a piano and guitar hybrid that combines the hammering strike of a keyboard and the strings of a guitar,” Ken McCaw, creator of the Hammer Jammer said.
McCaw, a former piano major at Ohio State said his device gives players more creativity on how to play the guitar since now you can play notes truly simultaneously.
“You can play two, three, four, five or all six notes simultaneously,” McCaw said. “This allows you to hit all the strings at the same time rather than strumming the strings where there’s a small difference between strumming the first string and the last string.”
McCaw said some guitar players have used things like drumsticks to strike on the strings, but this is the first product specifically designed to play the guitar in this way.
While the idea has been in McCaw’s head for decades, the idea first really came to life when he posted a video showcasing his invention to Youtube in January of 2014. The video went viral gaining 200,000 views rapidly and before he knew it the couple thousand he had lying around were sold.
Andrew Culbertson, vice president of Operations at MACA Plastics, said his company and McCaw crossed paths through a connection at Ohio University.
“We were creating medical devices for the bio-tech center at Ohio University in Athens. Ken (McCaw) got referred to us through them.”
Initial sales are strong and if they continue Culberston hopes to get some machines dedicated to creating the Hammer Jammer.
“The first 500 we made shipped in the last six weeks,” Culberston said. “Right now we’re trying to gear up for Christmas. We have a window where we could move 30,000-50,000 units. There’s really good potential for this product. We’re talking in the millions.”
MACA Plastics has already shipped the Hammer Jammer to over 60 countries and just recently sold to a large distributor in Germany.
“We’re sending a shipment to Germany in a week or two where the largest musical distributor in Europe is located,” Culbertson said. “They’re getting 200 Hammer Jammers just as a test order.”
Culbertson said the way this changes the sound of the guitar, this device could be “game-changing” for the music industry.
“The sound changes so much with this there’s real potential that this could be game-changing,” Culbertson said. “It makes almost a new instrument between a piano and a guitar.”
Culbertson and McCaw hope the simplicity of creating a device that can just be struck rather than strummed will help tap into the markets of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to play a guitar, such as those with handicaps.
“The other side is people with arthritis or disabled injuries, this makes it easier to tap the hammers rather than to hold a pick and strum,” Culbertson said.
The device is so simple that Culbertson said he couldn’t believe nobody had put it on the market before.
“It is a no brainer,” Culbertson said. “Why didn’t someone come up with this before? To me that’s the genius of it. Nobody’s done it.”
Along with the simplicity, Culbertson likes the product for the fact that the musician still has to rely on his or her own talent, without the help of electronic aids.
“We’re not taking electronics to enhance the player’s artistic ability,” Culbertson said. “The player is still playing the instrument and it’s still based on their skill level.”
McCaw believes the “surface is just being scratched with this product” and hopes the Hammer Jammer really takes off with the next generation of musicians.
“There’s the next 14-year-old Eric Clapton nobody knows yet playing in his basement,” McCaw said. “We want him to showcase this product and have it take off and we’ll ride that wave.”