The star is an avant-garde body shape of solid body electric guitar, particularly favoured for heavy metal music. It blends some features of the Flying V and Gibson Explorer, both of them much older designs.
More recently, Jackson have produced the Jackson Kelly Star KSXT/KS-2 with a similar body shape to the Star, combining the "front" half of a Jackson Kelly with the asymmetric pointed 'V' ends of the Jackson Randy Rhoads. This body shape was only in production for a short time in the early 2000s, with its market niche now being served by the Jackson Warrior, which is less distinctly "star" shaped at first glance but has a similar general structure.
Other major makers
The Dean ML is a similar design to the star, but differs in having symmetrical tail horns (or wings as they are known in Flying V and similar designs). The Washburn Guitars Dime (or Dimebag, after Dimebag Darrell who popularised the Dean design) uses the Dean ML profile.
ESP guitars have the RS series guitar, similar to the star but with a different headstock. It is made by their Edwards guitars subdivision and is only sold in Japan. ESP also produces Gus G and Roope Latvala signature models which have a star shape.
Ibanez built star shaped models in the mid-1980s in its DT and DG series. As with most other "star" guitars, the body was a variant of the "Explorer" shape (called "Destroyer" by Ibanez) that had a roughly triangular section of its rear end cut out. Since 2008 there's also the Ibanez Xiphos, a new x-shape looking like the Jackson Warrior with reversed cut edges. The first prototype was built for the Necrophagist guitarist as a signature model.
B.C. Rich have a star shaped model called Ironbird, as well as the more slender Stealth (there's also a 2008 'Stealth' from Schecter, but that's a V shape).
The original Jackson star shape remains popular with home constructors and commercial custom-builders. Reasons for this popularity include:
- A recognisable and distinctive shape.
- Not currently available from larger manufacturers.
- Historic, having been owned and played by some notable guitarists and appeared in publicity shots.
- Suitable for both standing and seated playing positions, unlike most radical shapes.
The main disadvantage of the shape is the difficulty in obtaining a suitable guitar case, owing to the large upper tail horn. Also some patterns of tremolo arm, for example the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece, the Mustang trem and the long pattern Gibson Vibrola, cannot be accommodated owing to the nearness of the bridge to the edge of the body.
The guitar at left in the image at right is a Rosa Hurricane of star design, date and country of manufacture unknown. The electrics are simple and classic: Two high-output humbuckers, conventional three-position pickup change switch, single passive volume and tone controls. This is because the guitar was built to be played loud to extremely loud and dirty, with most of the tone shaping being done by guitar effects or the guitar amplifier itself.
Scale length is just over 25½" (the longest common scale length for electric guitars) but the body of this example was routed for about 26½", a serious defect which rendered the guitar untunable. Originally equipped with a Stratocaster style tremolo arm, this particular instrument has been converted to hard-tail ("blocked"), which has solved the tuning problem and also improved tuning stability and provided even more sustain.
Other star designs
The name star has been given to several other guitar shapes unrelated to the Jackson star body.
One example was the guitar, or really two guitars, played by Gerry Shephard from 1972 in The Glitter Band, the backing band of Gary Glitter. These had bodies in the shape of a regular five-pointed star, in keeping with the glam rock genre of the band. The first, gold in colour, was made by Chris Eccleshall. It was destroyed in a baggage handling accident; the second, silver in colour, was built by John Birch to replace the first.
Steve Carr built a star guitar for Paul Stanley of Kiss around 1980, basically looking like the Glitter Band's body turned 180 degrees, featuring a sparkly body. It can be seen in the German "Talk To Me/She's So European" TV-performance.
BC Rich also have their own 'Star' shapes. The BC Rich Ironbird is a much more pointy version of the Star; it holds similar features to a Dean Razorback. Although the BC Rich Ironbird is not available in a lot of colours or designs, it is still a Star and it keeps its usual form of simplicity in its electronics and features. The BC Rich Stealth is another.
ESP Guitars also have several Star guitars to offer,:the Roope Latvala and Gus G signature models in North America, and the Akira Takasaki Random Star, Syu Crying Star, Anchang signature, and George Lynch Kamikaze Star in Japan.
Other radical guitar profiles
- Gibson Explorer.
- Gibson Flying V.
- Dean ML.
- Jackson Randy Rhoads.
- Jackson Kelly.
- Jackson King V.
- Burns Flyte.
- BC Rich Ironbird.
- ESP Gus G Signature Guitar.
- ESP Roope Latvala Signature Guitar.
- Kramer Voyager.
- Charvel Star.