Monday, December 03, 2007

Guitars for Geeks

Go to any rock concert and you'll find the guitar geeks standing in front of where the guitar player of their favorite band will be standing.

It's important that you get there early and stake a claim as close to the guitarist's position as possible, yet outside the mosh pit.

Moshers don't care about the concert, they just want to show off their bruises later to their friends.

The bassist ususally has bass geeks camping out where he will be playing.

For example, for a King's X concert, you'd want to stand in front of the the right side of the stage (from the perspective of facing the stage) to be able to watch Ty Tabor play during the concert. If you're a bass player, you'd want to stand on the left to watch Dug, King's X's bassist/singer perform.

If you're just there to listen, then any good spot will do, but as a sucky guitar player, I like to watch guitarist's hands during a concert.

By far my favorite guitar tones come from a combination of a Gibson Les Paul guitar playing through a Marshall Amplifier. Pure magic.

If you watch what happens during a concert, you'll see that guitar and bass players ususally use any time that the singer talks to the audience to retune their instruments. Especially during a rock concert, they tend to play harder and thus knock the strings out of tune over the course of a few songs.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, upsets fellow band members like somone's instrument being out of tune, so they take advantage of down time when the singer is yakking at the audience to retune.

Guitarists also many times play certain songs in what are known as alternate tunings. Standard guitar tuning, from big E to little E is E-A-D-G-B-E.

But if you want to have a deeper, darker sound from your guitar, you might tune as C-G-C-F-A-D, like Brad Noah, my favorite guitarist from the band Disciple.

If you see a guitarist take his guitar off and someone hand him a different one to play during a concert, that typically means that the upcoming song is one he will play in an alternate tuning. (unless he broke a string)

Anyhoo, Gibson USA has recently announced that this week, on December 7, they will release for sale a guitar that tunes itself, called the Robot Guitar.

Now this isn't a totally new concept, there have been various after-market modifications that one could pay to have installed into their guitar at a huge price in years past, but none that came standard on a production model guitar.

The machine heads, or tuners, at the head of the guitar have little servo motors in them. At the bridge end of the guitar are sensors for each of the six strings.

You tell the guitar that you want to retune and then strum the strings and a microprocessor decides which strings to retune using the servo motors in the machine heads.

The guitar has several popular alternate tunings programmed into it already, and has the capability for the user to custom program in tunings.

So a band memeber playing the Robot Guitar, still a Les Paul despite the new and smart hardware, can save time in a concert and just let the guitar tune itself instead of worrying about taking as much time as would normally take.

The guitar also intonates itself, if you know what that is. Intonation is setting up the adjustable parameters of the guitar strings such that the guitar plays in tune at every point up and down the guitar's neck. The Robot Guitar does this for you too.

Pretty neat in my book.

My Les Paul doesn't have this feature, it was made in the mid 1990s, so I'll just have to keep using my ear or electronic tuner to get back in tune after rocking out.

I've been reading about this Les Paul Robot Guitar as it's debut approaches and thought I would share my excitement.

Some day this technology will trickle down to cheaper guitars. I hope so anyway.

The first ones they are selling with the automatic tuning and intonation list price at $2499, which should translate into a street price of about $1700. A little too steep for me right now.

Here's the link again to Gibson's web site regarding this nifty guitar: Gibson Les Paul Robot Guitar.


Sindi1968 said...

I read this online and thought of you. I said this would be a good thing for you to write about, but you beat me to it.

Hammer said...

I still tune mine by ear and sometimes use one of those bridge clamp things.

I saw an elctro auto tuner that actually twisted tuning pegs for you. Way too expensive for the amount I play.

photowannabe said...

Very interesting. I'm not a guitar player but I find the robot tuner fascinating. I wonder of our worship leader Lincoln Brewster (he used to be lead with Journey) would use something like that.

Norma said...

Thank you for trying to explain this to the guitar player's Mom. But I still don't get it.

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