HACKING FASHION: How to Build a High Heeled Shoe Guitar




Introduction: HACKING FASHION: How to Build a High Heeled Shoe Guitar

About: Co-founder of art band Chicks on Speed and PhD candidate, Creativity and Cognition Studios, Dept. of Engineering and IT, The University of Technology, Sydney. Her current research is in computer enhanced foo...

The worlds first High Heeled Shoe Guitar instrument with 3 strings by Chicks on Speed. I'm co-founding member of the art band Chicks on Speed, we have a song titled "We don't Play Guitars" so it really made sense firstly not to play guitar on stage and secondly, I didn't want to perform with classical musical instruments on stage and so out of necessity this led me to design the High Heeled Shoe Guitar. (Classical musical instruments in this case refers to anything that ranged from a guitar, violin, industry made synthesizer, sampler or sequencer, touch pads with pre-sets or any brass instrument, harp or piano).

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Step 1: Materials You'll Need to Build a High Heeled Shoe Guitar

1 High Heeled Shoe (i bought mine from Zara as i wanted to make a statement against fast fashion and give a women's stiletto a new empowered feminist meaning contra to the notion of the fetishistic High Heeled Shoes they sell too many of and that cripple women's feet after long term wearing).

6 screws, diameter 2.5mm each for guitar strings, you will need to cut groves into the screws using a hack saw

2 extra screws 2mm each

3 electric Guitar Strings (they cannot be bass strings as they don't work) for electric or acoustic guitar, with plain steel ball end, .017" diameter .432mm ( i use these strings: ghsstrings/battlecreek/michigan/usa)

1 Pick up (a pickup is a transducer that captures mechanical vibrations from stringed instruments)

1 Stereo Guitar Lead (as thin as possible, so its not too bulky inside the shoe)

1 Stereo Jack input

1 small piece of wood (1cm x 1cm x 2cm) for reinforcing the left hand big toe of the shoe (as in photo) as there is a lot of tension due to the strings pulling the heel and toe of the shoe, so you'll need some internal support elements.


1 Hot Glue gun with refills

1 soldering iron (to solder the pick up to the stereo out and pick up)


1 hack saw

1 drill

2mm drill bit

1 screw driver


Watch the video by Chicks on Speed (Melissa Logan, Alex Murray-Leslie and Kathi Glas) for a step by step guide on how to make one at home

Step 4: This Is What It Sounds Like As Dry Sounding High Heeled Shoe Guitar Without Any Effects

Step 5: This Is What It Sounds Like When You Put the High Heeled Shoe Guitar Through 3 Different Effects Pedels

The Effects Pedels I use at the moment are pictured above, i string them together with short stereo jacks in a row and sit them on top of the amp, I'm always changing their order, depending on the type of effect i'm after for a specific song or HHSG solo. I also like to use the Metal Zone effect unit by Boss, it's never a bad thing to have a bit of distortion in the mix, especially for the solo at the end of "We Don't Play Guitars" where i do my AMP DIVE (see following image from our recent concert at Volksbuhne Berlin, 31st January, 2016).

Step 6: The First Performance We Did With the High Heeled Shoe Guitar

This was literally the very first performance, experimental and without using any effects. Chicks on Speed performed THE HIGH HEELED SHOE ORCHESTRA for the opening of our exhibition SHOE FUK at Centre for Contemporary Art, Vilnius, Lithuania, 2008.


A very important part of HHSG is its associated playing gestures, which are actually choreographies in themselves. This is a High Heeled Shoe Guitar Rock pose for solos called "AMP DIVE" (note the High Heeled Shoe Guitar is in my right hand and being played by moving it forwards and backwards along the stage, picking up the sounds of the surface timbre of the stage, in a way, like listening via a piezzo pick up microphone with effects on it, it has a fantastic expressiveness when you perform with it like this. The great part about the HHSG is that you always find new functionalities and ways to play and perform with it, which in turn has a nice effect on the dramaturgy of the whole show.

Step 8: PERFORMANCE TIPS - Jamming With Other Musicians

As I mentioned the HHSG can be physically played in several unique ways, see photo 2; the shoe sole is stroking the side of the amp, which creates a nice feedback loop using the ring modulation effect and by changing its input values regularly, this can be done on all sides of the amp, but caution, best to try it out at rehearsals and sound check to make sure it's not feeding back unbearably) as a solo instrument or in conjunction with other musicians in an improvisational setting. The performance is Chicks on Speed (Melissa Logan and Alex Murray-Leslie) performing with composer Ari Benjamin Meyers and drummer Mathias Brendel, Dec 3rd, 2015, Centre Pompidiou as part of Diane Pernet presents ASVOFF8. The way i was using it here was with the 3 effects units i described running via a Fender Amp, (i usually use Marshal stack, as it looks and sounds cooler btw or if i am in Australia, I perform with the COS designed and Gianluca Turini made amp on the next page).


This is the AMP i designed, it was screen printed by Johnny Dog day and Melissa Logan in Berlin, the hard building work was done by Gianluca Turini who made it at his company lab: MAGNITUDE AMPS in Bologna Italy, January, 2015. As it's sometimes tricky to bring loads of guitar pedels, Gianluca and I thought it'd be a good idea to have different effects built into the AMP, so there's 15 different effects possible, which is amazing to perform with live, as it gives you a really instant, flexible and varying dynamic sound at the turning of the dial on the top of the amp. The special secret functionality is a built in theremin, see the white Arial on the top right of the AMP.

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    3 Discussions

    jzuwala motts
    jzuwala motts

    3 years ago

    love the band! very creative re-use of materials

    Alex Murray-Leslie
    Alex Murray-Leslie

    Reply 3 years ago

    thanks ! glad you like our hacking of fashion!