NAMM 2022: In what might be the biggest shock of this year’s NAMM, Ernie Ball Music Man has announced the Kaizen – an all-new electric guitar designed in collaboration with Animals As Leaders virtuoso Tosin Abasi.
No stranger to innovative guitar designs himself – having launched his own brand, Abasi Concepts – Abasi was brought on board to help design a seven-string guitar that could cater to the modern-minded player.
With a decidedly Abasi-esque aesthetic, the radical double-cut boasts a wealth of forward-thinking appointments and is appropriately named after the Japanese word for “continuous change or improvement over time”.
It’s a sentiment that was at the heart of the guitar’s design, with the Kaizen aiming to meet Abasi’s own desire for “pushing the instrument further”. It's important to note this isn't an Abasi signature, but is instead a new Music Man model in its own right.
At its foundation, the Kaizen is composed of an alder body, roasted maple neck and ebony fretboard, and features a multi-scale design that measures from 24.75” at the high E to 25.5” at the low E. As such, it promises to provide robust string tension for thick, full rhythm tones and a traditional feel for lead playing.
When placed under the microscope, the Kaizen’s more exotic appointments can be found. The body – much like Abasi’s Larada design – has been purposefully contoured in an effort to provide “extreme comfort” and a well-balanced playing platform with “unrestricted fret access”.
Elsewhere, the neck has been created with an Infinity Radius – a strategically positioned conical radius, which is said to increase overall playing comfort while ensuring enhanced visibility of the fretboard.
It also comes loaded with a custom Heat Treated humbucker in the bridge position and a slanted neck mini-humbucker, both of which have been specially designed for the Kaizen. The HT pickups are a new-for-2022, patent-pending innovation for Ernie Ball, and promise to provide extra output, excellent touch sensitivity and a more powerful bass response.
Tying it all together is a modern Music Man tremolo system – an uncommon appointment for multi-scale guitars, which comes fitted with spring dampeners in an effort to alleviate unwanted overtones – and Steinberger Gearless locking tuners
Of the surprise model, Abasi commented, “I chose to collaborate with Music Man because I’ve been a fan of their guitars and artists for a while.
“I see myself as a designer and love the act of creating new guitars,” he continued. “A parallel project looked like a fun and unique opportunity to do something new. I think the result is truly a blend of our ideas.”
Abasi added: “Part of the reason we did this is encapsulated in the name, 'Kaizen'. I think a lot of the time, people look at the guitar as fixed. That is totally fine, but I am inspired by pushing the instrument further, and I think this was an opportunity to do that.”
Speaking to Guitar World about the new model, Abasi reflected that he was like a “kid in a candy store” during the design process, and that although the Kaizen isn’t a signature guitar, “it’s got my DNA in it”.
The Kaizen is being introduced initially as a seven-string model, and will be available in five different finishes. A six-string version of the high-end axe will arrive some time next year.
For more information, head over to Ernie Ball Music Man (opens in new tab).
And be sure to head to our dedicated NAMM 2022 hub for the latest news, rumors and predictions from this year's show.