The modified guitar in drummer Jano Rix’s hands, at right, is the shuitar, an old 6-string reframed as a percussion instrument that can yield a solid note or two, but sounds more like a mini drum kit. Photo by Debi Del Grande

Meet the Shuitar

When the Wood Brothers play live, their drummer, Jano Rix, will come out front and play an instrument that looks like a guitar. But it’s not. It’s a shuitar—a guitar-based percussion instrument.

 

“The shuitar is an invention of Matt Glassmeyer, a friend of ours in Nashville,” Chris Wood says. “But it co-evolved somewhat with Jano, our drummer. He helped develop it. It’s basically a crappy acoustic guitar—crappy ones sound better for the percussion side of things—and it is converted in a way that the strings are loosened and gathered together. When you hit those, the closest thing you can compare that to is a hi-hat sound. You hit the side to get a sort of snare sound. You hit the bridge to get more of a bass drum sound. There are other little bells and whistles attached to add other sonics, too. It’s a percussion instrument, but it’s a very Americana-sounding instrument. Unlike a djembe, or a shekere, or something that’s borrowed from another culture, the shuitar is meant to sound like a type of drum kit. It’s meant to sound American in that way.”

The shuitar’s function is percussive, despite its appearance and harmonic potential. “Jano can fret a string, bend it, and pluck it like you would a guitar string,” Wood adds. “But it’s loosened to the point that it becomes low and floppy, and it’s mainly used as a metallic percussion sound. But he can, although it’s more for a sonic effect, add a note to the harmony of the song.”