Andreas Abel is a guitar teacher in Braunschweig. He knows about every problem guitar learners, especially children, can have on the instrument. One complaint which is frequently heard concerns pressure marks on the forearm right where it rests on the edge of the body of the guitar. That applies not only to children or inexperienced guitarists, but every guitar player, irrespective of technique, instrument (steel or nylon strings) or playing style. Even some guitar-makers have realized that in this respect there is a need for improvement, so there are instruments with a bevel, a sloping or curved edge instead of the rough edge exactly where the forearm rests. However, this is normally only available as a customer’s special option or for very expensive guitars and cannot be installed later.

Electric guitar pioneer Leo Fender already met with this problem some decades ago and consequently developed the contour bodies of models like the Stratocaster or Jazz Bass. Guitar-maker Ernie Rissmann presented an armrest made of high-grade wood, which is glued in the appropriate place.

The Abel armrest is neither glued nor attached with suction cups but with a simple screwing mechanism. Abel’s model consists of black plastic (according to the manufacturer  PP reinforced with glass-fibre produced in a complex injection moulding procedure) shaped ergonomically and attached in no time. At the contact points soft plastic pads are fixed so that the instrument is not scratched. All of this is no high-tech but easily handled and functional. Due to the design and the extra pads of different sizes enclosed the adjustment to the curve of the rib is no problem. Abel’s armrest is suitable for guitars with a rib ranging between 8 and 12 centimetres,  solutions for specially thin ribs (like thin line instruments) are also available. During the test there was also no problem of fixing the armrest to various steel-string or nylon-string models and adjusting it in the appropriate position. When the instrument is stored in the case the armrest is removed in no time and can be placed under the head of the guitar.

With many bigger Gigbags it should even be possible to leave the armrest on the guitar for transport. Now to the most important aspect, the function. If you attach the Abel armrest in the right position, i.e. the spot where the forearm rests on the edge of the frame, there is clearly an improvement of the play-feeling. After playing, even in longer sessions, you practically have no pressure marks on the forearm, and while you are playing you feel a secretly growing familiarity with the instrument and a glimmer of ease comes in. Consequence: you are more relaxed while playing. Producer Andreas Abel points out that the guitar also sounds better, as the vibration of the soundboard is no longer restricted by the resting forearm. I cannot confirm this, possibly the differences are simply too subtle for my ears. I would rather have worried that the pressure of the screwing device might give too much tension to the guitar top and soundboard and thus might prevent them from vibrating freely. However, I couldn’t hear any difference in this respect either, which is presumably due to the fact that the pressure is only on a few millimetres and is not situated in the part of the soundboard which actually vibrates. So we may conclude that potentially there may be a change of the sound either positive or negative. From my experience during the test stage I can give a recommendation for this armrest.  It is true that there is no guarantee that it suits your own playing technique and your personal body feeling in relation to the guitar but it should be tried out. It could contribute to a relaxed playing.

Andreas Schulz
source: AKUSTIK GITARRE, Heft 1/13