Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gibson’s New Robot Guitar


Recently I’ve posted about guitars with (possibly) too many knobs and telescopes with (possibly) too many circuit boards. Now one company has sort of summed up my unease about the modern world in a single product:

The new Gibson robot guitar.

[coughs] Great. A guitar that tunes itself.

Musicians who play with Neil Young will probably buy the guy the prototype.

Is there really a point to a mechanical system for tuning a guitar? With guitar synths you can just assign a tuning to the strings and you’re in business. And, anyway, even with an analog guitar is staying in tune really that hard? I have a tin ear and I don’t have too much trouble staying reasonably close to in tune. You learn, over time, to hear octaves and fifths and harmonics and moving around the fretboard to find the different octaves and fifths and harmonics not only gets your machine in tune, but it helps you become familiar with the fretboard, it helps you warm up your fingers.


This is a strange invention.

Even if I had a ton of disposable income I would not be tempted even to try out this guitar in a store, let alone buy one to try out at home. I would be tempted to get a guitar with a lot of knobs—I would kind of enjoy a built-in preamp and a graphic equalizer. Or simply a full-featured guitar synthesizer. I’d even be tempted to buy one of those telescopes where everything is computer controlled and motor driven.

But I don’t see any need at all for a guitar that keeps track of the string tuning for me.

(In fact, the Gibson robot guitar has reminded me that I’ve also posted this: “How To Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion”)


Update: The newest generation is the Gibson Dusk Tiger

More Update: The NEW newest generation is the Gibson Firebird X


All that having been said, the guitar’s inventor says Steve Vai likes the guitar. Steve Vai is a pretty darn good guitarist and a pretty sharp guy. (I wouldn’t buy the robot guitar just because Steve Vai likes it, but his endorsement makes me wonder if I’m missing something in my thinking . . .)

Here’s an interview with the inventor from the Gibson robot guitar website:

Meet the Inventor of the Robot Guitar's Self-Tuning System

It took Chris Adams 10 years to perfect the lightweight and foolproof auto-tuning system on the revolutionary Gibson Robot Guitar. Aggravated by the never-ending tuning process, he devised a system that would automatically tune a guitar in no time flat. While he was at it, Adams developed the robotic technology that allows the Robot Guitar to switch effortlessly between multiple tunings, keep a guitar perfectly intonated, and even change strings.

What were your feelings about partnering with Gibson?

It's a dream come true. I'm proud of it because Gibson is the Mercedes of guitars. It's not just any brand; it's the most high-profile guitar manufacturer in the world, so it says something about the tuning system. It's a high-quality innovative product. That's why it fits so well with Gibson because Gibson's always cutting edge and a leader in technology.

What kind of guitarist do you think the Robot Guitar will appeal to?

It appeals to every type of guitar player. The total beginner can use it. It's so much more fun to have a guitar that is in tune from the start. The pro players are also very intrigued about the system because they can do so many things that they couldn't do before. A guitar tech can tune their guitar at the side of the stage, but the show happens on stage and a good guitar is very sensitive to changing conditions, concerning the climate and temperature. So no matter how good it was in tune on the side of the stage, it's not going to be in perfect tune on stage. This system gives the control back to pro guitar players. You have to think about so many things already when you're a guitar player that being in tune is one less huge hassle to think about.

Which famous musicians are already using your system?

Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins, he loves it. Matt Bellamy from Muse put it in his guitars. Uli Jon Roth, former guitar player of the Scorpions, says he actually can't live without it anymore. Steve Vai couldn't believe it unless he saw it, and once he saw it it was still very hard for him to believe. He's telling everybody about how great it is. Steve Lukather really loves it. I showed it to Pete Townshend, and he wants to get to know more about it. That's just the start of it.

How long does it take the average guitarist to feel comfortable with the Robot Guitar?

It takes less than two minutes to understand how to be in tune. Start with the basic stuff first. The only thing you have to do to start is pull the knob, strum the strings, and when everything on the display is blue, you are done. We checked the guitar out with some nine-year-old kids, and they picked it up immediately. It doesn't come easier than this—pull the knob, strum, push in, done.

How often do you have to turn the system on when you're playing?

Once you get this system, your tolerance for a guitar that's out of tune is lower. You get used to it very fast. After two weeks you hear so much more because you always have a guitar that is in tune. So you tend to turn the system on much more often because you have become much more aware of when you're out of tune. Who wants to be out of tune? Nobody. Now that it's no work, you tend to use this much more often. Once you get used to the system, it becomes second nature.

No comments: