December 3, 2007 4:16 PM PST

Opening act for Gibson's self-tuning guitar

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November 27, 2007
SAN RAFAEL, Calif.--There's no denying it. The Robot Guitar from Gibson, which went on sale Monday morning, is pretty cool.

To tune the instrument, the player pulls out one of the knobs on the body of the guitar and strums the strings. The tuner pegs begin to twist left and right on their own, and in about 15 seconds the guitar has been tuned to a different key--or even a customized combination of notes that emulates the preferred tunings of, say, Albert Collins or Jimi Hendrix. The pegs make a low mechanical whirring noise.

The guitar part is a standard Gibson Les Paul and there is no degradation in sound, according to guitarist and actor Martin Luther McCoy, who played a few songs on it during a release event at Bananas at Large, a music store here. (McCoy also played JoJo in the recent film Across the Universe.)

Gibson Robot Guitar

McCoy, who doesn't own one of the robotic guitars but said he's intrigued, said the benefit of such an instrument for a professional musician is time. To switch keys quickly now, you have to swap guitars. Robotic tuning allows you to retune relatively quickly and accurately on one guitar.

But how does it work? After a guitarist selects a key, a computer embedded in the back of the guitar sends commands to the tailpiece and the bridge--the two pieces of steel toward the base of a guitar which, respectively, hold the strings in place and elevate them so they can be played. A guitarist then strums. The tailpiece and bridge monitor the vibrations and tension on the strings and send the information to a processor embedded in the peghead in neck of the guitar.

The neck CPU then turns the motorized tuning pegs accordingly. When the desired tension and vibration are achieved, it's tuned.

The strings, thus, serve as part of the network. If you want to disable robotic tuning, you can. Tronical, a German company, developed the robot and works with Gibson to install it in the company's guitars.

The architecture means that robot tuning can be added to a guitar fairly easily, said Glenn Franzen, a product specialist with Gibson. The robot is accurate to within 2 cents, a measure of pitch. There are 1,200 cents in an octave.

Another company, called TransPerformance, sells a competing robot-tuning system that the company installs itself into a Les Paul, or a Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster guitar.

Gibson's Robot Guitar will retail for around $2,300, Franzen said (the actual list price is a bit higher). An equivalent Les Paul without the robot would go for around $1,400.

Gibson will release 4,000 of the guitars worldwide, and to celebrate, it held events in New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Paris, and other cities.

See more CNET content tagged:
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26 comments

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Thanks for the helpful info!
Hey, 'well-informed'--

Thanks for helping to keep us all in the 'know'!

Happy Holiday's!
Posted by nbgilles (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks for the helpful info!
Hey, 'well-informed'--

Thanks for helping to keep us all in the 'know'!

Happy Holiday's!
Posted by nbgilles (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where tech and guitars meet
Who's planning on getting one of those? On one hand, I don't like the idea of too much technology on a guitar - what was good for Hendrix and Plant, should be good for all of us. On the other hand - this self tuning will be so comfortable when playing a show. There's actually a poll about these new robot guitars, where they ask if you're going to buy it:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pollsb.com/polls/poll/4282/new-gibson-robot-guitar-tunes-itself" target="_newWindow">http://www.pollsb.com/polls/poll/4282/new-gibson-robot-guitar-tunes-itself</a>
Posted by jellydonot (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't know about Plant...
But I seem to recall a story that said Jimmy Page uses one of these systems when performing. At the price, it's a lot cheaper than a full-time guitar tech.
Posted by Pete Bardo (687 comments )
Link Flag
Where tech and guitars meet
Who's planning on getting one of those? On one hand, I don't like the idea of too much technology on a guitar - what was good for Hendrix and Plant, should be good for all of us. On the other hand - this self tuning will be so comfortable when playing a show. There's actually a poll about these new robot guitars, where they ask if you're going to buy it:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pollsb.com/polls/poll/4282/new-gibson-robot-guitar-tunes-itself" target="_newWindow">http://www.pollsb.com/polls/poll/4282/new-gibson-robot-guitar-tunes-itself</a>
Posted by jellydonot (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't know about Plant...
But I seem to recall a story that said Jimmy Page uses one of these systems when performing. At the price, it's a lot cheaper than a full-time guitar tech.
Posted by Pete Bardo (687 comments )
Link Flag
How is this better
than a simple capo??
Posted by suyts (824 comments )
Reply Link Flag
how it's better
A capo transposes the guitar, it doesn't change the tuning. A guitar is tuned E-A-D-G-B-E. Some guitarists prefer using alternate tuning (look up "drop D tuning" sometime). This guitar does that automatically. Trying to have the "robot guitar" take the place of a capo and tune the guitar up 3 or more steps would probably break the strings and definitely throw the action (distance between the string and the guitar neck) way off. This isn't a capo replacement.
Posted by jefferyschmidt (3 comments )
Link Flag
Better than a capo?
From the description, I'd bet it won't even work with a capo!
Posted by Pete Bardo (687 comments )
Link Flag
What do you mean "How is this Better?"
Hmmm.. maybe because you can tune to open tunings, or DADGAD, drop tunings etc. very quickly?

In fact, the last thing this would do would be to replace a Capo, you wouldnt be able to tune up more than a semitone without overstressing strings and guitar.
Posted by danbrown99 (4 comments )
Link Flag
How is this better
than a simple capo??
Posted by suyts (824 comments )
Reply Link Flag
how it's better
A capo transposes the guitar, it doesn't change the tuning. A guitar is tuned E-A-D-G-B-E. Some guitarists prefer using alternate tuning (look up "drop D tuning" sometime). This guitar does that automatically. Trying to have the "robot guitar" take the place of a capo and tune the guitar up 3 or more steps would probably break the strings and definitely throw the action (distance between the string and the guitar neck) way off. This isn't a capo replacement.
Posted by jefferyschmidt (3 comments )
Link Flag
Better than a capo?
From the description, I'd bet it won't even work with a capo!
Posted by Pete Bardo (687 comments )
Link Flag
What do you mean "How is this Better?"
Hmmm.. maybe because you can tune to open tunings, or DADGAD, drop tunings etc. very quickly?

In fact, the last thing this would do would be to replace a Capo, you wouldnt be able to tune up more than a semitone without overstressing strings and guitar.
Posted by danbrown99 (4 comments )
Link Flag
sounds like a waste of money to me
Any guitar player worth anything only cares about how well their guitar plays and sounds....having the ability to tune your guitar relying on your ears will go a long way in improving your ability to hear what is going on with your playing and your music....All would be better served to take the extra money for this guitar and spend it on the next step up in the quality (playability and sound)of the guitar you buy.
Posted by jharrisofkansas-22057998994279 (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
sounds like a waste of money to me
Any guitar player worth anything only cares about how well their guitar plays and sounds....having the ability to tune your guitar relying on your ears will go a long way in improving your ability to hear what is going on with your playing and your music....All would be better served to take the extra money for this guitar and spend it on the next step up in the quality (playability and sound)of the guitar you buy.
Posted by jharrisofkansas-22057998994279 (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New Strings?
I'm curious as to what the robot does when encountering new string stretch in the middle of a song? Everyone who plays a guitar knows how new strings stretch like crazy. So, if a player breaks one in the middle of a set, what happens after it's replaced? Does this robot keep tuning or what?

For the money, it ought to play all the damn songs, no human input necessary or desired...LOL

M.L. Bushman
www.jigsawpress.com
Posted by novelator (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New Strings?
I'm curious as to what the robot does when encountering new string stretch in the middle of a song? Everyone who plays a guitar knows how new strings stretch like crazy. So, if a player breaks one in the middle of a set, what happens after it's replaced? Does this robot keep tuning or what?

For the money, it ought to play all the damn songs, no human input necessary or desired...LOL

M.L. Bushman
www.jigsawpress.com
Posted by novelator (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Boy did they miss-market!
They are completely missing the ideal market and price point. They should be selling this on every beginner guitar, and at a price point of about 50 bucks. Beginners would greatly benefit from having a well tuned guitar to learn the relationship of sound and feel. There are lots more beginners out there.
Posted by cyberbian (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Miss Market? I don't think so
This technology is currently too expensive to incorporate in a 'budget' guitar. The price would dwarf the price of the guitar. An inexpensive ($20) clip on tuner could be bought for the beginner.

The flip side of the argument is, an experienced player/professional, who would pay the premium would benefit from being able to change tunings quickly. A beginner wouldn't.
Posted by danbrown99 (4 comments )
Link Flag
Boy did they miss-market!
They are completely missing the ideal market and price point. They should be selling this on every beginner guitar, and at a price point of about 50 bucks. Beginners would greatly benefit from having a well tuned guitar to learn the relationship of sound and feel. There are lots more beginners out there.
Posted by cyberbian (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Miss Market? I don't think so
This technology is currently too expensive to incorporate in a 'budget' guitar. The price would dwarf the price of the guitar. An inexpensive ($20) clip on tuner could be bought for the beginner.

The flip side of the argument is, an experienced player/professional, who would pay the premium would benefit from being able to change tunings quickly. A beginner wouldn't.
Posted by danbrown99 (4 comments )
Link Flag
Awesome
This is the coolest thing ever. Not as cool as having 5 guitars on stage.... but still way cool for use in the studio. I just wish I could afford one.
Posted by ss_Whiplash (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Awesome
This is the coolest thing ever. Not as cool as having 5 guitars on stage.... but still way cool for use in the studio. I just wish I could afford one.
Posted by ss_Whiplash (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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