Posts Tagged 'Gibson'

RIP Les Paul

Les Paul

A sad day in music today as one of the older trailblazers, Lester “Les Paul” William Polfuss passed away. He was 94. Born only a few short years after the sinking of the Titanic, Paul lived through two World Wars, numerous armed skirmishes, the Depression, three “first” Supreme Court Justices as well as the first African-American president. But in a life that spanned all of those historic events, his contributions to music, the recording industry and the guitar dramatically changed the way it was created, played and recorded on a level unparalleled elsewhere.

Not only was Paul an accomplished musician, but his DIY tendencies and desire to see how things worked lead him to develop technology that shaped the future of the music industry and huge developments within genres. The standard of multitrack recording was pioneered by Paul, and the practices of overdubbing and delays were advanced by him as well. Dissatisfied with the acoustic guitars available, Paul created his own electric guitar. This would go on to be manufactured and sold by Gibson, becoming one of the iconic guitars for rock musicians from multiple generations. Certainly we may not have had the Steve Miller Band were it not for Paul being Miller’s Godfather and giving him his first guitar lesson. I’ve also read that when he broke his arm he asked the doctor to reset it in a permanent guitar playing position. I can neither confirm nor deny that.

When it comes to instrumentation and studio techniques, few people in the recording industry have had as much of an impact as Les Paul. His influence and love for music was so great that he continued playing guitar into the last year of his life, and created continued inspiration for premier guitarists worldwide. In a musical climate where “innovation” comes in the form of auto-tune and artists rarely have more than monetary attachments to the instruments they play, Paul’s truly significant leaps of technology and his subsequent engineering attachment to the instruments he created will remain singular and unique for some time to come.

Self-Tuning Robot Guitar

Tuning your instrument. One of the necessary evils that goes along with being a musician. I remember back in the day, as a young flautist, standing outside Bristol Farms playing for holiday shoppers (ya, that’s how cool I was) and trying in vain to tune and retune our flutes as my fellow performers and I kept going flat due to the cold. Or, in high school orchestra, how a great classical piece could be seriously butchered thanks to a few out of tune oboes or violins. There’s nothing worse than an out of tune violin. I mean, seriously folks. Well, it looks like those days are soon to be over. For guitar players anyway.

According to the Listening Post, Gibson has come out with a self-tuning Robot Guitar (after 10 years of development). No, it doesn’t play itself for you, clean your room, or cook you dinner. But it makes tuning a heck of a lot easier. How does it work? The Powertune system (developed by German company Tronical), “uses a set of piezo-electric pickups to determine the pitch of each string. These are separate from the regular guitar pickups, which rely on the string vibrating in a magnetic field to cause a current.” (Read more here.)

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While the guitar comes pre-calibrated for concert pitch, you can tune one string yourself and the rest of them will adjust accordingly. Powertune can even store custom tunings. You can either get the Robot Guitar itself or if you can’t part from your own favorite guitar, there is a $900 add-on which should do the trick. Pretty damn cool. Watch the instructional video here.

While critics may legitimately argue that real musicians should be able to tune their instrument, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the option out there, especially if you need to change tunings on the fly or want to ensure perfect pitch for a performance. Rock on, Gibson.


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