Some celebrities aren't just pretty faces. A few of them are also touched with that Yankee prowess for tinkering and invention. In this weekly series, we introduce you to the Patents of the Rich and Famous. And maybe you learn a little bit about how patent literature works along the way.
Inventor: Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen
Known for: As his name suggests, he was the Dutch lead guitarist of the late-'70s heavy metal rock group, Van Halen. During the days of disco and punk, Van Halen presented a more cacophonous genre, with their upbeat tunes. Offering his two-handed fret-board-tapping technique, Eddie helped give the group a unique sound.
Van Halen has enjoyed success since it's debut album release in 1978. They've sold more than 75 million albums worldwide; have had the most number one hits on The Billboard Mainstream Rock charts; and they've even been covered on Glee.
Given that Van Halen made his mark with his guitar stylings, it should come as no surprise that he invented a guitar-playing aid.
Invented Apparatus: "Stringed instrument with adjustable string tension control"
It's like BlueTooth for guitars: hands-free, stylish, and useful.
It's a support system for a guitar -- or any stringed instrument -- so that he or she playing it can approach the instrument from a different angle.
The present invention relates in general to a stabilizing support for a music instrument of the type having a body and fretted neck, e.g., guitars, banjos, mandolins, and the like, and more particularly, to a musical instrument mounted device which positions the instrument in a substantially perpendicular orientation to a musician's body to provide total freedom for the musician's hands to play the instrument in a completely new way
But how exactly does one employ this support system while playing a sold-out show to thousands of heavy metal fans? Rotate the guitar, and gravity helps lock-in the board:
When it is desired to activate the supporting device, the musician merely picks up the guitar and rotates the body into a substantially horizontal position. During rotation of the guitar, gravity causes the attachment to rotate about rod 132. When the attachment has achieved a substantially perpendicular orientation to the rear surface of the guitar, the projection of the slide block will now be arranged in registration with the opening of the mounted block. Once in registration, the spring will cause the attachment to be laterally moved along the rod until the projection of the slide block is fully engaged within the opening of the mounting block as is shown.
Rationale Behind Invention: A guitarist who has such access to his guitar can "create new techniques and sounds previously unknown to any player." Meaning, just like that Eddie Van Halen drawing at right, the guitarist can become much more rock-n-roll.
Off-Label Uses: As the patent literature explains, Van Halen's invention allows musicians to explore new techniques because it "leaves both hands of the player free to explore the strings which overlie the guitar body and fretted neck."
While Van Halen intended for the invention to be used with string instruments, there are plenty of daily activities done while standing that could be improved with the addition of this support system. A lunch tray support, perhaps? Ironing board?
Future Directions: Es Eddie ages, I bet he'd appreciate some cushioning. Affix a comfort gel pad -- that'll do the trick.
Peruse more celebrity inventions.