I’m with the Band – Part 2

Guitars

Probably just about every puppet team has had their puppets play guitar at some point or another.  There are certain things we need to keep in mind when our puppet characters attempt to become “guitar heroes.”

One Way Street has a variety of different guitars available that work well for puppets.  The “Silver Rock Guitar” is a plastic toy guitar that has a silver metallic look that can really pick up and reflect your stage lighting in a visual striking way.  This type of toy guitar has actual strings, so you’ll want to take those off.  Sorry to ruin the fantasy for you, but the puppets won’t be doing any actual guitar playing.  The strings will just get in the way, so get rid of them.  One Way Street has also started carrying several foam guitars that come in a variety of different styles.  These are great because they are much lighter than a plastic guitar would be.  Strength is the name of the game in puppetry, so the less weight the better.

First you’ll need to figure out how your puppets will hold their guitars.  Have you ever noticed that most puppets play the guitar left-handed?  Just like Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney.  The reason that happens is very simple…there’s a right-handed puppeteer underneath.  For a right-handed puppeteer, it is easiest to have the puppet’s left hand strum the guitar and attach the right hand to the neck of the guitar.  The opposite is true for a lefty.  You will want to attach a strap of some sort to the guitar.  Fix one end to the neck of the guitar and the other to the bottom of the guitar.  You will want to make the strap so that it can fit tightly around the back of the puppet.  A loose-fitting strap will cause the guitar to hang too low on the puppet.  You will probably want to use some T-pins to hold the strap in place on the puppet’s back.

The best way to attach the puppet’s hand to the neck of the guitar is to sew the puppet’s hand in place.  However, rubber bands can do a great job as well.  Wrapping a rubber band around the neck of the guitar and putting the puppet’s hand through the rubber band at both ends makes a strong attachment.  However, one problem I always had was that the puppet would have a “flat hand” on the guitar.  It didn’t look like he was actually holding the instrument.  One of our puppeteers at One Way Street discovered a way of fixing this several years ago.  Take a large safety-pin and insert it across all four fingers of the puppet on the inside of the hand.  Then, take a smaller safety-pin, grab the first safety-pin with it, insert it into the palm of the puppet and then close the pin.

Essentially, you are making a “T” shape with the two safety pins.  This should curve those four fingers down a bit.  Now, when you attach the hand to the neck of the guitar, it will look more like the puppet is actually grasping the instrument.

For the strumming hand of the puppet, we’re going to attach an arm-rod a little bit differently than we normally would.  Usually, we attach the rod so that the rubber band goes around the outside of the puppet’s wrist and the rod is on the inside of the puppet’s wrist.  But for strumming and instrument, we’re going to do the opposite.  This is that the rod does not scrape against our instrument prop and possibly damage it.

Your puppet is now ready to rock!  But make sure your puppeteers spend some time learning how a guitar player moves.  They don’t just stand there and strum!  They move around the stage.  They lean back during the big solo.  They look down at their fingerings.  Adding these little touches will make the puppet’s performance more realistic.

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