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