Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Auto Tuning Guitars and Capo Clips

There are a couple of innovations that are unique to the world of guitar. The first is Gibson's Min-eTune, guitar auto tuner.

This technology started back in 2007 when Gibson Guitars introduced their robot models.

These were self tuning guitars with the controls mounted the front of the guitar where we normally find the volume and tone controls. Only one tone control took care of both pickups.

The other tone push-pull potentiometer controlled the tuning. Wires running through the neck are attached to tiny servo-motors housed in the tuners would turn the pegs until each string was in perfect pitch. The signal was sent by piezo pickups house in the tune-o-matic bridge. It was very expensive technology. 

The original Gibson robot Les Paul guitar was available only in blue silver-burst.

Gibson then took this technology, developed by guitar tech Chris Adams and the R and D team of Gibson, to other models. Included were the Robot Les Paul Studio, Robot SG, Robot Flying V, Robot Explorer, and a Robot Les Paul Junior.

In 2012 Gibson came out with an updated miniaturized version of this feature. This time it is in an enclosed unit mounted on the back of the guitar’s headstock and operated by several buttons. It is powered by a small rechargeable lithium battery that lasts for 80 to 100 tunings.

Not only will it tune your guitar to regular tuning, it is capable of different tunings, such as dropped D, G, DADGAD and others. If you have a tuning that you like it is possible to program it into this. Gibson offers this as an upgrade feature to their guitars.

This feature is pricey and will set you back $330 USD as an additional cost above a guitars purchase price. The unit can be purchased alone and with the help of a few tools it is easily installed.

Currently Gibson offers this add-on that will fit 12 of their popular models.

Another company called Tronical Tuners offers a similar device for Fender and other guitars brands. The price is about the same for this gizmo.

This German company actually produces the auto-tune technology used and developed for the original robot guitar system. Because these units actually tune the guitar, they can be added to even acoustic guitars.

The above units actually tune the strings to the desired pitch, however there is another option that is available and that is the Antares Autotune For Guitar.

Antares is a music software/hardware company.  They have made auto tune the crutch that many vocalists have relied upon. The software pulls the signal to the desired pitch. They have now come up with a retrofit unit for electric guitar.

Unlike the previous self tuners that actually turn the string pegs, Antares Autotune For Guitar comes with a computer board and hardware that is retrofitted in your guitar. When activated, the sound of your guitar is in tune, whether the strings are in tune or not.

The Peavey AT-200 guitar comes with the Antares tuning unit already installed. The guitar can be wildly out of tune, but by pressing the tone knob down and turning the volume the guitar adjusts to perfect tuning.

There are options for additional hardware that Antares has made specifically for the Peavey AT-200. These are pedal mounted and attached to the guitar via an 8-pin cable.

We have had this technology for sometime. It has been applied to Roland Guitar Synthesizers and the Roland equipped Stratocaster.

Variax has built it’s business on guitars with built in synth programs to make the guitar sound like other instruments in other tunings.  Though these examples are not the same as the Antares Autotune For Guitar, the technology started with the first guitar synthesizers.

And now for something completely different…..

This is an innovation is called Capo Clips.  These are metal clips that have “rubber fretters” attached to them in the shape of popular chords. By using your own capo to hold down the Fret Clip the player places it on the strategic part of the guitars neck.

These chord shaped metal frames are designed to work on any guitar. The “fretters” can be popped off to change the shape of the chord.  Think of an E major chord and by not depressing the forth string it becomes an E minor chord.

The manufacturer claims “  Capo Clips put the guitar in different keys and changes the way it resonates without having to physically change tunings like you would with an alternate tuning so you can get that rich alternate tuning sound without having to relearn new chords or riffs, just clamp it on and play using what you already know.” 

The manufacturer claims “A big part of capo clips genius is that less is more and by playing simple 2 and 3 note chords it automatically lets the sound of the capo clip bleed through and color your sound. Making something so easy to play sound rich, complex and cinematic.

Changing the relationship between the notes your fretting and the open strings creating kick ass new sounds! Major 7ths, Sharp 4s,close voiced 9ths, repeated notes, Sounds normally reserved for jazz or fingerstyle master players.”

A full set of 4 different shaped Capo Clips is $44.95 USD.


Tac dung cua nam linh chi said...

Great product

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Paul Gagné said...

Hi Marc. Just a slight correction: Tronical is not just "another" company who makes self-tuning guitar systems. Tronical IS the German company that made all the systems used by Gibson since 2007, the Robot guitars, the Firebird X, The MinEtune and G-Force systems, and HP series guitars. In 2006, my friend Rudolf Schenker, founder of Scorpions, showed me an 80's Flying V that he lent to Tronical as a guinea pig for Tronical. A narrow and shallow channel had been routed in the back of the neck to let the wires reach the small motors/tuners at the head. It was filled with epoxy and sanded smooth. It worked flawlessly since the guitar was fitted with a ultra-slippery nut, something Gibson just skipped on their production instruments. Gibson got access to Tronical technology with their connection with Scorpions. Rudolf and Henry are very good friends. Then in Fall of 2007, as Rudolf predicted it, Gibson launched the Robot Guitars. From the moment Gibson got involved with Tronical, we no longer could gain access to the Tronical website: the link to Tronical led directly to Gibson's Robot Guitar page. Then troubles arose: Charging problems, software problems and because of the fake-bone Corian nuts, and rather not-well-profiled nut slots, the strings kept sticking in the slots and put the tuning automating in jeopardy, sometimes burning the motors. As an authorized Gibson repairman, I replaced dozens of these until the company kinda gave up using this technology on a regular basis. These days, people purchase Gibsons with these systems for the other features on the guitars and on the spot request Grovers to be installed to seal the deal. As someone in a serious guitar magazine pointed out, "Good idea, wrong builder."