Outside-The-Box Instruments - Art that Sings

Announcement    Welcome to Outside-The-Box Instruments!
Grab a cup of coffee and browse... I'm sure you'll find a gem to beautify your home and inspire musical dreams.


Last updated on Jan 29, 2020

Welcome to Outside-The-Box Instruments!
Grab a cup of coffee and browse... I'm sure you'll find a gem to beautify your home and inspire musical dreams.



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Average item review
5 out of 5 stars
  • dreambuoy on Jul 9, 2022

    5 out of 5 stars

    This is a very unique piece and is extremely well crafted. The instructions were simple to follow and assembly was a breeze. The unit came packaged extremely well and the wrist was extremely responsive. This one will be talked about by visitors without question. Thank you Jonathan for a functionally exceptional piece of art ( Note: This stand supports headless/offset guitars as well i.e Strandberg, Billy Bo etc!)

About OTBIstudio

Sales 1
On Etsy since 2020

Hello! Thanks for stopping by.

I have played stringed instruments for over fifty years, starting with violin and passing through the uke to finally settle on the guitar. I never seriously considered how these instruments come to be until I happened across the work of luthier Bill Neely from Damascus, Virginia. Bill created simple, functional, and beautiful folk instruments from local woods while using modern techniques. These instruments expanded my perspective and inspired me to start building.

After first making traditional guitars, I felt a desire to return to Bill's values of simplicity, functionality, and beauty. I began to combine aspects of visual art into my guitar making, and the result is Outside-The-Box Instruments.

It is my aim to create visually interesting and musically inspiring instruments. These guitars are designed to be used by everyone. Most are fretted similar to the Appalachian dulcimer, making them easy to play for the beginner, while also offering a creative alternative to the experienced musician. Hanging on the wall or placed in a stand, these instruments make an attractive visual statement and enhance any room.

Outside-The-Box Instruments are designed to inspire the eye, ear, and hands, and are made using sustainable, responsible materials. They are visually compelling, lightweight, comfortable to play, and are great for making music. OTBI creations are equally adept at pumping up the look of every room. Every instrument is hand-painted, signed, and one-of-a-kind.

The guitars are fretted to a "diatonic" tuning, the same system used in the Appalachian dulcimer. This means there are no wrong notes… the guitar sounds only the notes of one scale. You can play a melody on the top string while strumming the other two as drones, or play chords with all three strings. This makes it easy for beginners or those who feel that "they can't play an instrument."

Experienced musicians enjoy these instruments as well, as they offer new creative alternatives and ways of making new sounds.

Each guitar begins as a simple box. After shaping, sanding, and a coat of primer, the box is enhanced with acrylic paints using a variety of techniques and tools, combining intentional design with elements of chaos. Once cured, the box receives several coats of finish and a final coat of UV protectant.

The neck blank is glued up, hand-carved, and shaped. The fingerboard is ripped, slotted, and attached to the neck. After more shaping, the assembled neck is protected with clear finish.

The neck and body are joined with bolts, hardware is attached, and the instrument is strung. The guitar finally has a chance to sing.

Please grab a cup of coffee and browse through my shop. I'm sure you'll find an Outside-The-Box instrument to beautify your home and inspire your musical dreams.

If you have questions, please feel free to message me here on Etsy or through my website!

Shop members

  • Jonathan Reynolds

    Owner, Maker

    My workshop is located in a small East Tennessee city situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, an area rich in traditions of music and craftsmanship.

Shop policies

Last updated on Jan 29, 2020


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More information

Last updated on May 18, 2022

Frequently asked questions

What is "Diatonic fretting"?

Unlike normal, plain guitars, the fingerboards on OTBI instruments don't have frets in every "half step" position. Instead, frets are placed so the guitar only plays the seven pitches found in a single key. Note: OTBI guitars include an additional fret to play the "flatted 7th," needed in many modern songs. This means OTBI guitars play 8 of the 12 notes in an octave.

For example, an OTBI guitar tuned to the key of "D" plays the notes D, E, F♯, G, A, B, C, and C♯.

So: no wrong notes!

What strings are used?

OTBI guitars come with three strings: D - .022 (wound), A - .014 (plain), D - 010 (plain). Similar steel strings for guitar can be found at any musical instrument store or online.

What is "ergonomically balanced"? Are these guitars heavy?

OTBI guitars are designed to be especially easy and comfortable to play. The instruments are balanced across their length to hang comfortably with a guitar strap or sit well on your lap.

The guitars are surprisingly light, weighing less than 2 pounds.

Can I plug my OTBI guitar into an amplifier?

Some OTBI guitars include an internal piezo pickup and can be amplified in this manner. If so, that feature will be noted in the guitar's description.

How do I display my OTBI guitar?

Displayers are offered in this Etsy shop specially designed for OTBI guitars. Check the listings under "Displayers".

The "OTBI Magnetic Display Mount" and "OTBI Hanging Display Mount" are used to display your instrument on a wall, while the "OTBI Guitar Floor or Table Display Stand" holds the instrument on a table or on the floor.

All hardware and instructions are included.

Can I use dulcimer tab for my OTBI guitar?

Yes! Tablature (tab) for the dulcimer is readily available online. Simply search for tab appropriate to your OTBI guitar's tuning. For example, for a "D-A-D" guitar, search for "dulcimer tab DAD".

Note: Appalachian dulcimers are traditionally played while they rest on a table or on the player's lap. In this mode, the "melody" (highest) string is the one closest to the player.

In contrast, OTBI guitars are played held against the body, where the "melody" (highest) string is the one closest to the floor.

Just keep this in mind when reading dulcimer tab, and you're good!

Why are some of the sound holes not in the center of the body?

This is mainly for aesthetic reasons, to preserve the integrity of the painting. However, some also feel the increased size of the continuous vibrating top produces greater volume.

What is an "acoustic side port"?

An acoustic side port is an additional, smaller (5/8") sound hole located on the side of the instrument that faces the player. Usually found only on high-end guitars, the port provides direct sound feedback to the player. Many in lutherie believe that it also improves the sound of the instrument.