The world this week lost one of its great musical innovators, Bo Diddley. DIY instrument builders and anyone who enjoys abusing their guitar (or, perhaps, any instrument), you owe a great deal to "the originator." In the service of his unique and powerful expressive imagination, Bo Diddly hacked and attacked guitars, producing for the first time many of the effects we take for granted as part of the guitar language.
And, of course, there was also his signature, rectangular "Twang Machine" guitar, which is just plain brilliant.
I believe the instinct to experiment with sound is the same, whether it’s with acoustic instruments, electronic instruments, DIY creations, or software. So it’s comforting to know that people continue to look for sometimes-bizarre ways of pushing the envelope of what guitars can do. Here’s a sampling.
Virtual Guitar Sounds
One of the wonderful things about software is that it can be used to create combinations that are impossible or difficult in the real world. I talk a little bit this week on our Kore/Komplete minisite about how I like to add simulated Guitar Rig effects to synth sounds, then continue to modify them in the digital space:
Sound Design for Imaginary Instruments: Kore, Guitar Rig [kore.createdigitalmusic.com]
As it happens, none other than Keyboard Magazine just did a feature on the relevance of guitar effects to keyboardists and synthesists. Craig Anderton has some terrific tips, plus a spot-on survey of the relative strengths of available packages for different applications. There are some great bargains in there if you’re looking for cheap sets of multi-effects for computer use. You can read the whole article online, free:
Guitar Amp Simulators In Keyboard? [Keyboard Magazine]
Guitar as 8-Bit Instrument
Philadelphia-based artist Animal Style (Joey Mariano) has developed a unique way of making his guitar into an 8-bit, Nintendo-style instrument. Using a custom foot controller and 8-bit fuzz pedal, he feeds his guitar into 8-bit land and triggers pre-programmed chiptune loops programmed in homebrew Game Boy music system Nanoloop, running on a Game Boy Color. That means unlike many Game Boy artists, you’ll never see Joey hunched over the buttons of his game machine; everything is at his feet.
Meta-Harp Guitar + Computer A/V
Derek Bell (known on YouTube for his Ableton Live driver’s license controller and other projects) has been hard at work building the ultimate meta-guitar. Here, his MIDI harp guitar is controlling:
Different patches tuning using touch sensors
Ableton Live’s Sampler as sound source, with Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 3 for effects
Quartz Composer for visuals, as sequenced in Ableton Live
This is an early demo — he’s now combining this with additional projects for a massive meta-guitar. We should see the results at the music evening we’re hosting at the HOPE hacker conference.
For more on the Guitar Rig 3 hacks, here he is working his way through Guitar Rig presets using onboard MIDI controls on a hacked electric:
Custom Guitar Controls Guitar Rig Directly [kore.createdigitalmusic.com]
I think there’s no better way to honor the history of guitar innovation and the memory of the greats than to keep on plugging on whatever it is you’re doing.
Bonus video: going the opposite direction, here’s a sample from last month’s Maker Faire of the Guitar Zeros, who have added Max/MSP software hacks to turn the faux guitar Guitar Hero controller back into a synth. Does that make this a keytar? A tartar? Hmmm…