Robot guitar

Don’t get too excited. Gibson Guitar is not, in fact, introducing a fully robotic guitar. Or a creepy robot doll that plays a guitar. Nor are they shipping you a handsome (male/female/your choice) robot assistant who will follow you around and tune your guitar for you. Too bad. But they are launching a robotic, self-tuning guitar on December 7. And most importantly, it comes in a limited-edition frost blue paint retro-robotic job, which even as a non-guitarist, I have to admit is super hot. So, what’s robotic about it? Its tuning system:

Gibson Robot Guitar knob

In addition to its automated tuning and alternate/open tuning functions, the Gibson Robot Guitar offers a unique Intonation function, which guides even the most tweak-phobic player through the simple steps of achieving perfect intonation on this revolutionary instrument. No tools or external tuners or other gadgets are needed other than a small screwdriver and the Robot Guitar’s own Master Control Knob (MCK). The guitar itself “talks you through” the entire process, resulting in a correctly intonated guitar in a fraction of the time it takes even a professional guitar tech to do the same job.

My favorite line was this, from the press release:

“Since the dawn of the instrument, musicians have come to accept the guitar’s imperfections and lack of tonal precision as necessary evils. Onstage and off, guitarists have fought to stay in tune. Every music lover and performer has had to suffer through the show—halting, mood-killing atonal droning of a loudly amped guitar being brought into tune.”

Or, erm, not brought into tune, as the case may be. (Jump!)

I read that initially as “every music lover … had to suffer through the show,” and the whole passage makes it sound like pretty much everybody just has to suffer guitars. Boy, am I ever a Keyboard player.

In all seriousness, the good news here is that this instrument really opens up the possibilities of open and alternative tunings, which make a terrific difference in sound even untrained ears may be aware of. And that’s not an “experimental” thing; it’s part of the history of the music. Gibson does a nice job of summarizing that on their page, and has an interview with the inventor, as well.

The connection to this site, aside from “robot” in the name — tuning is important, and it’s something I’d love to see soft synth makers make more accessible to lay people (hint: make it easier to adjust tuning in the interface, do some more interesting presets, and even think about controllers).

Robot Guitar Product Site with manual, demo videos, and background [Gibson Guitar]

No word yet on whether Van Halen will be endorsing this. Gibson: might want to send them one, just in case. (Hey, I had to get one cheap shot in.)

Robot guitar bridge

  • Y'know, I don't even care about the "robot tuning". I just like the color. If there had been a Les Paul in the "Christmas in Heaven" sequence at the end of Monty Python's Meaning of Life, that's what color it would have been. It's very arctic refrigeratory dentist officey. I could just swish that guitar around in my mouth a few times, and it would whiten my teeth.

    I've ceased to make sense…

  • Couldn't have said it any better myself.

    It's a robot. Because it has a cool robot color. (Seriously. Now I have to work out how to trick out a keyboard in that color. Sigh.)

  • Sweet! Let's all chip in and buy one for Eddie Van Halen!

  • Doh! Note to self: Read the whole article before making the obvious joke…

  • Smithy

    Gibson's marketing department sure went into overdrive to come up with the name "Robot"

  • You know that some DJs consider using a computer to be cheating because it eliminates the 'skill' of beatmatching, so is using this guitar cheating because it tunes itself. Hmmm?

    *runs away*

  • There's never going to be a guitar with perfect intonation unless this guitar is actually changing the tuning while you play up the neck, is there?

  • I know a few guitarists who need this. I'm guessing we all do.

    Which is maybe not so fair when I'm playing a digital synth that never goes out of tune, ever. But seriously, asking someone to stop and tune their instrument after every song gets tedious.

  • Yeah, regardless of the skill level of the guitarist there are advantages here. For the advanced guitarist, it's finally practical to use different tunings when they need to. For the less-advanced guitarist, it looks easier to do basic tuning. And having to tune so often is a total pain, no question.

    If this works as advertised, this to me is real innovation, and likely a lot more useful to real musicians than the much-hyped Digital Guitar.

  • Mibrilane

    Gibson killed both Oberheim and Opcode, and for those sins against humanity it can never be forgiven. May they collectively rot in Hades.

  • Mibrilane

    Whoops, changed tenses in mid-stream there. Both "it" and "they" were meant to refer to Gibson, foul corporate beast, not Oberheim and Opcode.

  • kahnur

    are people really so lazy that they can't tune there own guitars? A guitar as expensive as a gibson les paul should stay in tune out of sheer quality of craftmanship. My highway one Strat stays in tune perfectly.

  • @Mibrilane: isn't the forward progress of synths, soft synths, and DAWs (Cubase, DP, Logic, SONAR, Live, Pro Tools, et al *put together*) enough to move on?

    @kahnur: Many guitarists may have a part of their set they want in a different tuning, for instance. That's currently not practical without bringing multiple instruments and tuning ahead of time, etc. So it's not just staying in tune, it's also being able to adapt tuning.

  • I saw this at NAMM about two years ago. It wasn't picked up by Gibson yet. Really was the most impressive thing I saw.

  • And it's not just about staying in tune, it's about retuning. Imagine being able to go to a new tuning in a few seconds, just by using one of your presets. You won't need multiple guitars all in different tunings at your gig. Just one. You could probably retune during a song if you find the right opportunity. Imagine breaking a string mid-song, and being able to just re-tune in a few seconds and go.

    I think it's pretty great.

  • bliss

    Twiki model BR25C-00001?

  • I think I saw a developing version of this on Gizmodo a month back…so this must be the retail version. From the demo I saw, I'm pretty sure I could tune any of my guitars much faster by ear.

    I'm glad to see it has alternate tuning support. I thought it was going to be limited to standard tuning only. Probably the best application of this would be if a string busted mid-song…especially for those using a floating bridge and string locks.

    Maybe in the near future they will support intentionally micro-tonal tunings for the shoe gazing crowd? 🙂

  • That's correct, this is the official announcement. Ironically, yes, this seems to appeal most to the advanced players. 😉

  • When I saw it at NAMM a while back, it was able to tune completely out of tune strings simultaneously, and the whole thing took about five seconds or so. I definitely can't tune all six strings that quickly. Nor do I know where I put my tuner most of the time. My only reason for not getting it at the time, was that my guitars weren't worth half as much as the system was selling for. It just seemed like kind of a waste on me.

  • Oh, and one of things I found to be really ingenious about it was that it was using the strings to send control voltages to the motors.

  • roflz @ van halen

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  • I wish I knew German. 🙂

  • @flip: Try some of the online translation tools 😉

  • Dewy Dahm

    How about some sound bites!!???

  • fuagofire

    now that realy is cheating, im prepared to accept allot of new fangled tech, but guitars that tune themselves? im gunna have to sit on the morrels of this for a few months

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  • Boris

    I wouldn't to change the strings on that guitar…

  • Boris

    missing word : *like*

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