The Warren Ellis Series: A Growing Family of Innovation
By Lincoln Smith
The Warren Ellis Series of instruments grew out of a single model – a Signature Tenor designed for (and bearing the name of) musician, composer, and four-string aficionado, Warren Ellis. That model’s practicality of design led to a full platform of unique instruments, some of which have never before seen the light of day.
Let’s walk through the history of the Warren Ellis line of products, starting at the very beginning: the man himself, Warren Ellis.
WARREN ELLIS - A SHORT HISTORY
Hailing from Ballarat, Australia, Warren Ellis is perhaps best known as a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and the band’s side project, Grinderman. Ellis is a classically studied violinist and flutist, and first put his talent to work composing music for theater groups in Melbourne. He formed the band The Dirty Three in Australia in 1992 before quickly being asked to collaborate with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 1993, joining the bad as a full member in 1994.
Photo: Warren Ellis with the Warren Ellis Signature Tenor
While in the Bad Seeds, Ellis began experimenting with 4-string electric mandolins (which shared a tuning with his primary instrument of the time, the violin). After finding difficulty sourcing 4-string mandolins, Ellis contacted Eastwood owner Mike Robinson. After some discussion, the pair decided to co-design a signature tenor guitar which would retain the same string-to-string increments and chord voicing, while offering more in the way of chromatic range.
WARREN ELLIS SIGNATURE TENOR
Between Ellis and Robinson, everything from the neck shape, to pickup design, to body design, to fretboard width, was cooperatively sussed out, resulting in the perfect utilitarian tenor guitar that Ellis could put to work effectively and comfortably. The Warren Ellis Signature Tenor was released in late 2010.
Photo:Warren Ellis Signature Tenor
Photo: Warren Ellis with Mike Robinson
The general shape of the Warren Ellis line is a tribute to a time-tested and classic short scale model from Fender. The body is made of solid alder, and houses a bolt-on solid maple neck, but that’s where the similarities start and end.
The tenor’s scale length sits at a standard 23” with a (wider than most) 1 5/16” nut width, making for a comfortable playing experience with plenty of room for bending notes.
Video: Warren Ellis Signature Tenor Demo by RJ Ronquillo
The model’s single-coil blade pickup is now a cult classic - perfect for high output clean tones, gritty higher gain settings, and layered pedal effects; and the fully adjustable t-style bridge makes adjustment and setup a breeze.
As Ellis describes it, it really is the perfect middle ground for cellists, mandolinists, and guitarists to feel right at home exploring a new slate of sound options.
WARREN ELLIS TENOR VARIANTS
The simple utilitarian frame of the Warren Ellis body soon proved a perfect platform for modification. Very quickly, it became clear that the Eastwood / Warren Ellis collaboration had just begun, and new variants began to take shape.
Photo: Warren Ellis Tenor 2P
A two pickup version arrived shortly after in the form of the Warren Ellis Signature Tenor 2P. This model makes use of a mini humbucker in the bridge position for incredible tonal flexibility and exploration.
More recently in 2021, Eastwood has released the Warren Ellis Duo Special: a version sporting the Warren Ellis Blade pickup in both the neck and bridge positions.
STANDARD INSTRUMENTS IN THE WARREN ELLIS LINE
Through the years of collaboration with Ellis, the Warren Ellis line of instruments has expanded not only to tenors, but to other instrument types as well.
Early in the product line’s history, Eastwood introduced the Warren Ellis Bass Guitar. This is a standard-tuned 4-string bass with a short 30.5” scale sharing the popular body, control layout, and pickup that made the Warren Ellis Tenor so popular.
For players more familiar and comfortable with a 6-string layout, Eastwood was quick to provide a standard 6-string version known simply as the Warren Ellis 6. This model retained the original’s short 23” scale.
Video: Warren Ellis 6 demo by RJ Ronquillo
In 2021, a second 6-string model was added to the Warren Ellis lineup in the form of the Warren Ellis CDR: a “Coodercaster”-inspired, full 25.5” scale guitar featuring a gold foil pickup in the neck position and the new Valco String-Thru pickup in the bridge position.
WARREN ELLIS INSTRUMENTS OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Now that we’ve covered the tenor, bass, and 6-string examples, both old and new, we get to look into the examples of how far the Warren Ellis framework has been pushed to massive success.
After the first Warren Ellis tenor was released, Eastwood circled back around to Ellis’s initial request: a four-stringed electric mandolin. This idea became a reality in the form of the Warren Ellis Mandostang: a 15” scale instrument perfectly familiar to violinists and mandolinists wanting to bridge a gap between their instruments and the electric guitar.
Video: Warren Ellis Mandostang demo by RJ Ronquillo
The Warren Ellis Mandocello expounds upon the idea of bridging gaps between electric and traditional instrument types. This 25” scale instrument shares aspects of the Warren Ellis Tenor, the mandolin, and the cello. The strings are paired into 4 sets of two, tuned like a cello, but providing the natural chorus effect of a traditional mandolin.
Video: Blue Oyster Cult's Albert Bouchard shows off the WE Mandocello
The Warren Ellis Tenor Baritone 2P takes the sonic scale even deeper, with four strings tuned to a low CGDA. A longer 26” scale accommodates the lower tuning.
Both the Mandocello and Tenor Baritone 2P share the pickup layout of the WE Tenor 2P, with a mini humbucker in the bridge position and the Warren Ellis Blade in the neck position.
Video: Ellen of Fanny's House of Music in Nashville takes the WE Tenor Baritone 2P for a spin
Perhaps the biggest oddball in the bunch is the rare Warren Ellis 5. Throughout its existence, it has only been produced in small quantities.
In effect, the Warren Ellis 5 is the Tenor Baritone 2P with an added high-E string, resulting in a CGDAE tuning. The lowest string is an octave below middle C, and the highest string matches that of a standard guitar’s high E, making this the most dynamic instrument in terms of note separation in the Eastwood lineup.
Photo: The Warren Ellis 5
Now, in 2022, we're celebrating 10 years of collaborating with Warren on the Eastwood Warren Ellis series of instruments!
We took the first model that started our collaboration back in 2012, the Warren Ellis Signature Tenor (which Warren swears by and has never left his side since day one) as inspiration, and the latest collaboration is the Warren Ellis Ten Tenor.
The Ten Tenor is sleek, stripped back, and minimalistic:
a single Warren Ellis Blade pickup (retuned exclusively on this model), an on/off switch, and a speed kill-switch added for staccato effects. That’s it!
Video: Warren Ellis Ten Tenor demo by Harsh Tones
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