There was a time when guitar magazines and websites were all about guitars. But recently things have been changed, I sometimes think I've accidentally opened a computer magazine by mistake as come across ever more pictures of iPhone products for guitar.
It seems you can hardly browse a guitar site or open a guitar magazine without discovering some new electronic wizardry. This all got me wondering where our beloved instrument might be heading. Electronics and tiny computers find their way into more and more of the everyday objects around us and the guitar will surely not escape.
Products such as Gibson's Robot Guitar and Dusk Tiger or the Ibanez Montage have already started to indicate the way. But I think that automatic tuning and equalization settings are only the beginning of the story. Here are a few ideas for other features that might come next...
A Sound Machine
Products such as AmpliTube's iRig show that you can fit quality amp modelling and effects into a box the size of an iPhone.
But why not put the effects and controls into the instrument itself? No more little boxes dangling off wires, you'll simply plug your earphones into the guitar and jam away with a wealth of sound effects and modelling technology.
Your guitar will be capable of delivering electric, acoustic and hybrid sounds, and you'll be able to tweak them all via touch-screen controls like those used in the latest smart phones.
Say Goodbye To Cables
Your guitar's on-board computer will also be fully networked with wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This opens up lots of fun possibilities. You'll be able to exchange sounds, licks and even whole songs with other guitarists as well as upload your latest creations to your Facebook page or create a virtual jam with band members who might be anywhere.
Wireless technology will also allow you to "plug-in" to any nearby amp with no cable too. You could even send your signal to several different amps simultaneously.
Built-in Learning Tools
With the right electronics and software your instrument can become your very own personal teacher and trainer. Here are a few of the learning and practice tools your guitar might offer.
- Play backing tracks, rhythm patterns or chord progressions to practice or jam with (Ovation's (XXX link) mp3 guitar showed us part of this idea in action already). Your guitar’s network connection will let you download just what you need.
- Loop backing tracks and rhythm patterns at different tempos.
- Increase backing tempos progressively to develop your guitar speed. The guitar could even decide itself when to increase or reduce speed according to how well you play a passage.
- Ear training - your guitar could play you notes, chords, melodies for you to repeat. It could even check what you played and show you where you get things right or wrong.
- The guitar could detect wrong notes or poorly placed fingers to show you where you need to improve.
- Record everything you play. Not only will this let you check your results as you learn but it can also let songwriters capture every musical idea they play.
The electric guitar is a product associated with rebellious and revolutionary music, but ironically the sales message is often strongly tied with nostalgia and tradition. How many guitar players do you know who swear by genuine 50s gear and vintage tube amps?
But a younger generation of players weaned on video games, Guitar Hero, and Internet everywhere will wonder how us old guys ever managed to play without features like these.
What About You?
The digital guitar can surely offer us a lot of benefits, and I've only scratched the surface of a few possible features here. So tell me, what do you think? What is the future for "robot" guitars? What wild and crazy features will we see from them tomorrow? Please share your thoughts in the comments...
Photo by davidajnered.