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NAMM 2022: Tosin Abasi discusses the genesis of his radical Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen model, and why guitarists might be surprised by its capabilities

NAMM 2022: Tosin Abasi already has his own guitar company, and it's flourishing. In fact, the company just released its first ergonomic double-cut model, the Emi. So why would he team up with Ernie Ball Music Man to release a new design called the Kaizen?

"I was really inspired by [Ernie Ball Music Man's] craftsmanship and innovation," Abasi tells GW when we sit down with him at the NAMM show. 

After striking up a correspondence with Brian Ball a couple of years ago, and falling "in love" with the company's creations, Abasi felt like creating something with the company was a natural next step.

The phenomenal end result, Abasi tells us, boasts DNA from the entirety of the company's lineup of signature guitars. The Kaizen's slanted neck mini-humbucker, for instance? The inspiration for that came from the St. Vincent signature Goldie model.

The pickups – and the body – also took cues from EBMM's Albert Lee models. With that wide net of inspiration in mind, Abasi says that people will be "surprised at some of the tones you can get out of" the Kaizen, even though it's aimed generally at "modern" guitarists.

Ernie Ball Music Man and Tosin Abasi's Kaizen

(Image credit: Michael Astley-Brown/Future)

The Kaizen was released solely as a seven-string guitar, but Ernie Ball says that a six-string version should follow in March 2023. 

Of course, though – given other recent additions to the Ernie Ball Music Man signature lineup – we had to ask about an eight-string Kaizen. 

"For now, we're focused on the six- and seven-[string versions]," Brian Ball says. However, Ball added, "we designed this guitar to be capable of evolving into an eight, so I think the best answer is 'we'll see'." 

We'll live in hope, then... 

Be sure to follow along with our NAMM 2022 news hub and live blog, too, for all of the hot new releases, rumors, and show floor reports you need from the world’s biggest guitar gear expo.

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.