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The Self-Tuning Guitar 512

Posted by michael
from the here-comes-the-bride dept.
CowboyRobot writes "With the TransPerformance Performer you push a button to activate a mechanical re-tensioning of the strings to any of a few hundred tunings, 'accurate to within 2 cents over the entire tuning range', in a couple of seconds. They can even refit your existing guitar. There's a long audio interview with Jimmy Page on the site. It's funny to hear him speak."
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The Self-Tuning Guitar

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  • Even more fabulous (Score:5, Informative)

    by jaf (121858) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:28AM (#8325367) Journal
    It's being done with pianos:
    See this New Scientist article [newscientist.com]
    • by MyFourthAccount (719363) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:57AM (#8325574)
      Interesting read. I liked this quote:

      "From a pragmatic point of view I think it's an absolutely appalling idea. It would put me out of a job," says Martin Surrey, who tunes pianos for the English National Opera company.

      No shit, Sherlock.

      Welcome to the world of automation. The other 99.9999% of the population has had their work been influenced by it for a couple of decades now.
    • by micromoog (206608) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @10:03AM (#8325618)
      This isn't just for correcting tuning. The real boon for guitarists is not the ability to correct tuning quickly (that's actually really easy), but to change to alternate tunings quickly. There are many alternate tunings that take advantage of resonance between different open strings for very interesting sounds, but are not suitable for general-purpose use like the "standard" tuning because the intervals are too awkward.

      Alternate tunings are not very widely used today, mainly because it's such a pain in the ass to retune a whole guitar. Some company back in the 80s made a guitar bridge where you could flip switches at the base of each string to change its tuning . . . I think it worked fairly well, but was not widely used. There's also a tuning key that just drops the low E down to D with the flip of a switch . . . that one got used a fair bit.

      • by Golias (176380) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @10:32AM (#8325916)
        Give that man a cigar!

        Alternate tunings is exactly why this is huge for guitarists.

        I would never put a device like this on my piano, because manual tuning only needs to be done twice a year, and any professioinal piano tuner worth his wage is also going to check all the pads and maintain the action of the keys for me.

        But when I play guitar with my garage band, I mostly play in standard tuning, but switch to open-G for a lot of slide-blues songs. Currently, I do this by having two guitars, so an autotuner that can quickly switch like this is easilly worth the price of a second guitar to somebody like me.

        • by essiescreet (553257) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @11:33AM (#8326599)
          Well, cam tuners have been around for banjos for awhile. You set 2 stops, and voila! Listen to some Earl Scruggs (Earl's breakdown, Flint Hill Special, Randy Lynn Rag, and more) and you'll hear them used during a song for the effect.

          This is sort of like the bridge, and they can also allow you to quickly retune from the Open-G to Open-D tuning.

          Bill Keith (http://www.beaconbanjo.com) makes some, and I have a set on my banjo and they're awsome!
        • Alternate Tunings (Score:5, Informative)

          by The Famous Brett Wat (12688) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @12:10PM (#8327182) Homepage Journal
          Pianos can take alternate tunings too, you know, and you sure as heck don't want to be re-tuning a piano manually in mid-performance. Although not all the following are intended for piano-like instruments, the Korg TR-Rack synth module (for which I have the manual at hand) can be configured for the following tunings: Equal Temprament (the standard tuning, where every note differs from the adjacent semitone by a factor of the twelfth root of two), Pure Major, Pure Minor, Arabic, Pythagorean, Werckmeister III, Kirnberger III (mainly for harpsichords), Slendro (Indonesian gamelean scale of five notes), Pelog (Indonesian gamelean scale of seven notes), Stretch, and a couple of user-programmable settings.

          Pragmatically speaking, there are (as far as I'm aware) alternate tunings for pianos, organs, and harpichords which relate to specific musical periods, such as the baroque. Thus, for truly faithful reproduction, you may want to tune to the Werckmeister III scale for performing some baroque pieces. Not to mention the different "pure" tunings for all the major and minor keys.

          • Re:Alternate Tunings (Score:5, Informative)

            by Golias (176380) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @12:35PM (#8327528)
            For almost anything baroque or later, you want to use a tempered scale, so 99.99999% of the pianos out there are tuned to a tempered scale and left there.

            Some modern works might call for alternate tuning, I'll leave it to music critics to argue over whether that's being done as a cheap gimmick or not, but otherwise just about all non-tempered keyboard music comes from an era before pianos. If you are enough of a purist to play a re-tuned piano when playing a pre-Bach work, you are probably enough of a purist to play it on a period instrument.

            Besides, modern listeners have grown acustomed to the tempered scale. Playing in a "pure" tuning will only impress a handful of snobs.

            • Re:Alternate Tunings (Score:5, Informative)

              by selfsimilar (106769) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @01:16PM (#8328068) Homepage

              AHEM. Your "tempered" scale is the "equally tempered" scale and it's actually only recently (in the history of music) come into vogue. There's a great book called "Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization" by Stuart Isacoff. Basically Bach's Well Tempered Klavier is written for "well" tempered pianos, not "equal" (aka modern) temperament. And there are a ton of great keyboard works from that era which call for specific differently tempered tunings.

              That said, you're right, most modern music is written for equal temperament. But if pianos were easier to tune to alternate temperaments I'm sure many composers would take advantage of that. Sure some might use it as a gimmick, but most serious piano composers are above gimmicks. And while I like John Cage and other modern radicals, it's not his kind of music that I think would benefit most from a piano that could quickly switch to alternate tunings, but the less experimental modern composers. Keyboard music didn't end when Mozart died.

              • Re:Alternate Tunings (Score:3, Informative)

                by cybin (141668)
                "History of Western Music" 5th edition by Donald J. Grout page 363:

                "The title J.S. Bach gave to his ... Well-Tempered Clavier suggests that he had equal temperament in mind. On the other hand, it has been pointed out that 'well-tempered' can mean good or nearly equal temperament as well as truly equal temperament."
            • Ummm the blues?

              Blue notes?

              Does nobody play the blues anymore?

              Wow, a whole genre died and nobody told me.
        • Yeah, but it looks like it's only for electrics. Which makes sense, you don't want to be sticking more crap than you have to on an acoustic's soundboard, but it would be nice to have such a thing since it's my acoustic that spends most of its time in alternative tunings. Perhaps down the road they could manage a headstock mounted thing, but it would need to be tiny and light.
    • by Wargames (91725)
      I think for most people having your grand drawing 500-600 Watts 24/7 is going to cost more than the $75 two times a year to keep it professionally tuned. Not to mention the cost of retrofitting this system. (Based on 7 cents / kilo Watt hour a typical rate:) N

      500 watts x 24 hours/day x 30.5 days/month = 366,000 Total Watts
      366,000 Total Watts / 1000 watts = 366 kilowatts
      366 kWh x 7/kWh = $25.62/month; $307/year .
  • by bc90021 (43730) * <<ten.12009cb> <ta> <12009cb>> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:30AM (#8325373) Homepage
    ...for when cars become self-tuning too. ;)
    • Re:I can't wait... (Score:5, Informative)

      by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @10:26AM (#8325828) Homepage Journal
      Uh, cars are self tuning now.

      "Tuning" on a car, as in a "tune up," refers to the adjustment of the fuel and ignition systems to provide maximum efficiency. On mechanical cars, this meant adjusting the carburetor, adjusting the timing, adjusting the ignition points and condensor, etc.

      All of these parts are computer controlled, and have been since fuel injection became popular around, well, some time between 1980 and 1990. It's even more efficient that way. And the computer is auto-adjusting -- it senses microscopic knocks and adjusts the mix on the fly. When a computer part fails, it fails obviously, unlike the gradual loss of power you face with a carburetor. I had my Ignition Control Module go on me two weeks ago and it was OBVIOUS...one cylinder just stopped firing (ouch).

      So yeah, cars are self tuning. In fact, anybody in the past 10 years who's sold you a "tune up" either did nothing at all to your car, or checked a lot of other things that had nothing to do with what we called a "tune up" before the 80s.
  • by bucktug (306690) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:30AM (#8325376)
    Now if only they could get one to automatically play a real F or some of the more complicated SUS7#'s for us...

    I have the fealing that most guitarists use the F just to stop me from trying to learn the song.

    --Turvey
    • F (or all barre chords, for that matter) isn't all that complicated once you got the hang of it.

      Of course, since re-tuning is now possible in very short time, you could just tune all the strings up a half tone when you need an F, fret an E and tune the strings back down when you're done with it. :)
      • Re:Sweetness... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Vagrant (518197)
        I think his complaint is that F is the hardest chord to barre since it is so close to the nut. Depending on the guitar action and your hand strength, it is sometimes impossible to strum a clean crisp F.
        To the original poster ... try a different guitar, you may be pleasantly surprised.
    • Re:Sweetness... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Noah Adler (627206)

      Now if only they could get one to automatically play a real F

      Maybe you should consider PRACTICING a little bit instead of looking to technology to make you a rock star.

      If automation is really the way you want to go, there are even better [fisher-price.com] guitars out there with your name on them. They don't stop at a mere F chord, they'll play the whole damn song for you! Rock star in a box!

      But really, is an F honestly that hard to play? ;-)

    • Re:Sweetness... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Keebler71 (520908) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @11:38AM (#8326675) Journal
      The key to a good bar chord isn't the index finger,.. it is your THUMB! The thumb gives you the leverage you need to bear down with your index finger across all 6 strings equally. Most people press their thumb into the neck of the guitr closer to the side with the big-E string. This results in good contact on the E and A strings, but the higher strings will probably be too loose to get a good tone. Try moving the point where you apply thumb pressure on the back of the neck closer to the higher strings. It may help to 'slightly' rotate your index finger so that you are using a little of the harder 'side' of the finger rather than the meaty palm site of the finger.

  • Roadies (Score:5, Funny)

    by Em Emalb (452530) * <ememalb AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:30AM (#8325377) Homepage Journal
    man, I feel bad for the roadies.

    No more tuning the guitars.

    Sucks to be them.

    Guess its mic checks from here on out. Sorry fellas.
    • Re:Roadies (Score:5, Funny)

      by LittleBigLui (304739) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:53AM (#8325553) Homepage Journal
      Guess its mic checks from here on out. Sorry fellas.


      but mic checks are so much more rewarding:

      (big festival, crowd waiting for next band)

      Roadie: Microphone check ...
      Roadie: ... one, TWO!
      Crowd: ONE, TWO!
      Roadie: CHECK, CHECK, ONE, TWO!
      Crowd: CHECK, CHECK, ONE, TWO!
      (Singer enters the stage, hugs roadie)
      Singer: That nice guy is Jimmy. Everybody say "Fuck you, Jimmy"!
      Crowd: Fuck you, Jimmy!

      ahh, the sweet memories :)

    • Re:Roadies (Score:2, Funny)

      by ciaohound (118419)
      Their jobs are all being outsourced to India anyway.
  • by kinnell (607819)
    Does it run linux? It would be cool to be able to check your email in the middle of a gig by running mutt on the LCD display.
  • vocalists (Score:5, Funny)

    by v_1_r_u_5 (462399) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:31AM (#8325387)
    Now if only we can get these for vocalists...
    • Re:vocalists (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bohnanza (523456) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:45AM (#8325488)
      Believe it or not, Autotune [antarestech.com] already exists! This product is the sole reason people like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake can be called "singers"
      • Re:vocalists (Score:4, Informative)

        by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @11:03AM (#8326328)
        Believe it or not, Autotune already exists! This product is the sole reason people like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake can be called "singers"

        It was also used by Pink in the song "Get the party started". If you listen to the track, the metallicy bit was produced using Autotune.

        (fact courtsey of the Science Museum, London)

  • I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by millahtime (710421) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:31AM (#8325388) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how many guitarists will take to this since to them it is such and art and about what they hear. Can a computer really tune to the level that they can hear it needs to be tuned to for them?
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Informative)

      by mtrupe (156137)
      We've been using chromatic tuners for a long time--- much more accurate than 2 cents. This would have been good during the hair band era, when those guys were using wammy bars like they were going out of style...
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cozziewozzie (344246) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:41AM (#8325457)
      A vast majority of guitar players I've met (and I've met a share as I used to play live) use electric tuners for their guitar. There is nothing more embarrassing than standing on the stage and tuning 'by ear' while the whole audience is listening. From electronic tuners (some of which are digital) to an auto-tuning guitar is a very small step -- the only thing you get to do when using a tuner is tune up or down depending on what it tells you.
      • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by iomud (241310) *
        I'm pretty sure this is why the Boss TU-2 has bypass so you can tune without other people listening even in the middle of a song during a drum solo or breakdown what have you. Visual feedback so you don't even have to be able to hear to tune properly.
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kinnell (607819) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:45AM (#8325487)
      to them it is such and art and about what they hear

      Tuning is a science, not an art. Either the guitar is in tune, or it's not. If it's not, it sounds wrong. An out of tune guitar sounds bad, period. The only issue I can see, is if the tuning mechanism affects the tone, but this is unlikely, if they've designed it properly.

      Can a computer really tune to the level that they can hear it needs to be tuned to for them?

      I'll wager a computer can tune a lot better than most guitarists.

      • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Informative)

        by bluGill (862)

        Before you say tuning is a science you need to learn something about tuning. The correct tuning is NOT based on math, where you have A at 440 double it for the next A, and then divide that interval into 12 and put each note in its place based on the division. Well it is, we call it standard temperment (or even temperment), and it is the most common temperment in use today. However Standard temperment is always wrong. We use it because it sounds okay everywhere and we have trained our ears to accept i

      • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Keebler71 (520908)
        Tuning IS [cord.edu] a science! When I taught physics to prep school students, I would bring in my guitar when we discussed beats and let them hear beats for themselves as I brought two tones closer together and farther apart. Of course, you can not use harmonics to get 'exactly' in tune due to the equal-tempered nature of Western cultures' music scales, but you sure can get close.

        Personally I use a tuner about once every couple years... and usually just prove to myself that I don't need it. If you use the harmin

      • by cagle_.25 (715952) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @12:41PM (#8327608) Journal
        tuning, as it turns out, is inherently flawed. This occurs because of the "Pythagorean comma" [biowaves.com]: essentially, the combination of a perfect fifth + a perfect fourth leads to an imperfect octave. Hence, there are actually multiple different ways to tune instruments, each of which makes sense in its own way. One example is "Well-Tempering" (as in Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier), which places priority on tuning keys near C. Chords like C, G, etc. played on a Well-Tempered scale sound particularly in tune, whereas chords like F# sound less well-tuned.

        The most common scheme today is "Equal Tempering", in which every half-step is a multiple of 2^(1/12) above its neighbor. In this scheme, C# and Db (for example) are considered the same note, whereas in other schemes, they are not. The upside of this is that all keys sound equally "in tune"; the downside is that no key sounds perfectly in tune.

        Historical note: some early Klaviers had seperate keys for sharps and flats, since those notes were not considered to be the same.

        So, the "science" part of tuning is what you see in the autotuner. The "art" part is tuning the instrument to make the music sound like you hear it in your head.

        Bottom line: if a guitarist tunes all of its open strings to a piano, it will not sound "in tune" to the guitarist. Of course, an autotuner can presumably be customized to taste.
  • Jimmy Page (Score:4, Informative)

    by debilo (612116) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:32AM (#8325392)
    For those who don't know, Jimmy Page was the guitarist for Led Zeppelin. While he doesn't have the best technique when it comes to playing the guitar, he really really does have a grasp of melodies. He's a genius, you'd better listen to that guy. :)
  • Worried (Score:5, Funny)

    by physicsboy500 (645835) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:32AM (#8325396)
    now I don't have to be concerned that I'm putting to much tension on my G-string... phew!
  • by Onan The Librarian (126666) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:32AM (#8325398)
    Well, someone was going to say it...
  • Cool, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:32AM (#8325399) Homepage Journal
    This is really cool. However, maybe I'm showing my age here in that I'm not sure I really like the idea. I've been playing for 25 years (since I was 12) and IMHO a huge part of learning to play is developing a good ear and being able to tune your instrument by hand. I never cared for electronic tuners for the same reason.

    That being said, since I *can* tune by ear, I probably wouldn't mind the convenience of being able to 'dial in' whatever tuning I want.

    Let's just make sure that newbs learn things right before you let them have one of these ;-)
    • Re:Cool, but (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cozziewozzie (344246)
      Tuning by ear is great, if you're playing for yourself. If, however, you are playing with others, it takes quite a while to get all of you in tune, and you usually get out of tune by the end of the first song. Especially if you rehearse daily and play live often, it can become a pain.

      I agree that developing a good ear is important, but when you're paying huge $$$ for the rehearsal room, or have 300 people listening to you, you don't want to spend half of your time tuning your guitar. It's something all gui
    • by mtrupe (156137)
      Yeah, just like all the green-ass programming students are still learning assembly before writing crappy programs in VB. Err, wait a minute...
  • Just what we need (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlgoRhythm (701779) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:33AM (#8325402)
    well my first reaction was "Great! More tone deaf 'musicians' who can't even tune thier own guitars ... at least they'll just suck instead of also being out of tune."

    But then I remembered I fellow I used to play with who was enamoured with oddball tunings. I would have loved to get him one of these, because he had to change tunings so often that the audience would get bored in between songs. Wouldn't have been so bad if the guy had had a pesonality to keep them entertained with ... guess that's why I USED to play with him.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:33AM (#8325404)
    Take a look under the testimonials [selftuning.com] section...Used by the band "Paul Allen and the Microsofts"??? I'm not sure if this is a joke or not, but /.'ers believe you me, its an omen. This thing must someone be evil.
  • by The Fun Guy (21791) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:34AM (#8325417) Homepage Journal
    The FAQ says it costs about $4000 to retrofit it onto your guitar. This is not for your average guy who plucks a bit on the weekends.
    • "This is not for your average guy who plucks a bit on the weekends."

      Would a professional want a computer tuning his guitar for him, or would he be so paticular that he would want to do it himself?
      • by ageitgey (216346) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:50AM (#8325524) Homepage
        Most professionals (who make any sort of real income playing) have roadies who tune their guitars for them. That way they can have the roadie tune an extra guitar between songs and they can switch for the next song without delaying the show.

        I think a lot of guitarists think of tuning as an annoyance, much like setting up amps and monitors. That being said, it's still cheaper and more efficient to buy 4 guitars for a thousand dollars each and have them tuned up for different songs than to spend 4000 on retrofitting a one thousand dollar guitar unless you change tunings during the song.

        As anyone who has seen Jimmy Page live in the last 8 years or so can tell you, he uses the auto-tuner to change tunings in the middle of the song and even uses contant tuning changing as an "effect". Some of his effects would be otherwise impossible to create live.
    • This is not for your average guy who plucks a bit on the weekends.

      Bang goes most of the /. crowd.

      I mean, they don't bang...


      Damn.

  • by mtrupe (156137) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:34AM (#8325418) Homepage Journal
    Big deal- I'll tune it myself. Whenever I need to tune its usually because I am less than 2 cents out of tune anyway (unless my guitar has been re-strung or not played in a while).

    Besides, who would want that big nasty thing on a Beautiful Taylor, Les Paul, or Strat? Its a cool toy, but I don't see much use for performers.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now that just anyone can tune a guitar, I guess I have to find something more elite...
  • Kind of interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScottGant (642590) <{TONten.labolgcbs} {ta} {tnag_ttocs}> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:38AM (#8325438) Homepage
    I can understand maybe with people just starting out in learning the guitar, but with someone that knows how to tune a guitar, and having a guitar that stays in tune (ie, don't buy cheap crap), is important. But learning to tune the guitar by ear is part of the learning process.

    Well, perhaps as the strings age the guitar can compensate for that I suppose...but I use Elixers on my Martin and they last a good month before they need changing.

    Ah, also forgot, if you're into alternate tunings this would be a quick way to switch them around without having 5 different guitars all tuned differently.

    Also, in case you haven't check it out yet, go buy the Led Zeppelin DVD that was released last year. You'll see why Zeppelin ruled the stage in their day. Much better than the lack-luster "Song Remains the Same" performance we were stuck with for so long. I actually saw them in concert in May of 1977 in Maryland, and they were MUCH better than that movie. This new DVD shows this, and without all the silly acting parts (remember Jimmy Page's eyes glowing red?).
    • You saw Zeppelin and you remember it? You lucky bastard.
    • by cozziewozzie (344246) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:58AM (#8325580)
      I can understand maybe with people just starting out in learning the guitar, but with someone that knows how to tune a guitar, and having a guitar that stays in tune (ie, don't buy cheap crap), is important. But learning to tune the guitar by ear is part of the learning process.

      The tuning of your guitar depends on many factors, and only one of them is the quality of the guitar. For example:

      - How often and how hard you bend
      - How hard you bang your guitar while you play (blues vs. punk)
      - The gauge of the strings
      - How fresh/old the strings are
      - Use a tremolo/whammy bar? Things go way out of tune with those.
      - Retune your guitar often for alternate tunings? This can also affect the stability of the strings
      - Alternative playing methods, a la Sonic Youth (playing with drumsticks etc)

      For some people, it is easy to stay in tune. For others, tuning between each song is a must, even with really good equipment.
  • Bridge (Score:5, Interesting)

    by debilo (612116) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:38AM (#8325443)
    Hello, don't hate me for it, but I followed the link and read the story. Seems like the bridge is replaced by motors that tune the guitar by moving the bridge slightly, thus increasing or lowering the string tension. I can't speak for everyone, but I for one like my strings in a fixed position from the frets. I want the distance between the strings and the frets as small as possible. Does anyone else see a problem with that, since moving the bridge alters that distance? Or do you think those movements would be so subtle that one could hardly tell there was a movement at all?
    • I thought about this too. Before following the link I was somewhat expecting to see something attached to the headstock.

      "My action is 1 inch, but the guitar is in perfect tune!!!"
    • Re:Bridge (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SoTuA (683507)
      If they are to affect the tuning, they should be more like "lengthening or shortening the string" that "raising or lowering the string". The effects on string action(*) should be negligible... of course, this assumes you have your guitar mostly in tune, as if you are grossly out of tune you will need BIG bridge movements to compensate.

      (*)action: Shortest distance from the strings to the fingerboard.

    • Re:Bridge (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, the intonation is controlled by the length of the string, the action by the height of the bridge. This thing alters neither of these but works by altering the tension in the string. Since the frequency of oscillation is determined by string length and tension you can change the note without effecting intonation. In fact, this is exactly how standard tuning pegs work.
  • I have invented the self-playing guitar. In a fit of creative frenzy I have named it the CD!
  • by bodland (522967) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:39AM (#8325448) Homepage
    Each guitar has it's quirks. Depending on the intonation the "b" string on a guitar needs to be tuned manytimes slightly flat to allow chords to ring true.

    The human ear has a problem with "b". Even though the tuner may say it is perfectly in tune a simple "D" chord will sound awful.

    Compensating bridges make up for this intonation problem but it is still not exact.

    Automatic tuners may look cool but will go the way of locking nuts. Remember those locking nuts and big ass whammy bars forced on us by Eddie VanHalen in the 80's?

    • by UrGeek (577204) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:49AM (#8325516)
      ...the locking nut whammy bar. The best invention since the electromagnetic pickup! Floyd Rose is a genius!
    • Actually, the human ear has no problem with "B". The problem is that the 12 frets, or the 12 steps of the chromatic scale, stand for multiple notes. Bb is not the same as A#, and even any one of those notes actually stands for several other slightly different notes that fit with different chords in different keys.

      It's all about equal temperament not matching the notes one really wants to use. Good guitarrists compensate slightly by stretching strings just a bit, but it still can't match the flexibility
  • i teach bass.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by musikit (716987) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:42AM (#8325458)
    and i meet students all the time that don't want to learn to tune because of digital tuners. i would imagine how "bad" music would sound when they can figure out they can just press a button to retune their guitar. people listen. you ear tune to train your ear.
    • Well I play bass and the best lesson I ever learned was to tune my Bass without any reference tone at all (think the tone in your head, then tune to it. To master this skill you constantly check it later to see how close you were). Practicing this exercise over and over forces you to learn the "notes" and not the positions.

      Now when I hear pop songs I can determine every bass note played without having to have a bass in my hands. I can then go and play the song (not perfectly, practice is _always_ necessary
  • by OctobrX (2726) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:43AM (#8325468) Homepage
    On the surface it seems like something that's quite cool. But to be honest, most people simply play stuff live either half-a-step down or in drop D. Sure, there are other bizzarre tunings out there that are really cool to play in, but that's why most guitarist are also guitar collectors and like to take at least a few of them with them even while simply playing at local shows...

    This seems like a cool thing, but all it all I doubt seriously it'll catch on. Plus, I can't can't see anyone who can afford a $2k(US)+ guitar taking a chance at killing its resale value by doing this mod.

    From their FAQ: Some wood is removed and replaced with the computer and mechanical device.

  • These aren't new (Score:2, Informative)

    by samsmithnz (702471)
    These have been around since the 80's... The only difference is that now they can be lifted by a 'normal' man now that electronics have become so much smaller...
  • People... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ProudClod (752352) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:48AM (#8325510)
    Don't seem to understand what this product is for. It's not for tonedeaf idiots who can't tune a guitar.

    It's for professionals, who want to expand their sound by being able to change tuning midsong and at a rate of a tone a second, so that you can get effects and changes in sound that are impossible on a normal guitar tuning headstock (believe me, I just tried to emulate this video with my guitar: http://www.selftuning.com/video/video.html )

    I think the price tag of 3300$-3899$ says it all really.
    • Re:People... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by prockcore (543967)
      so that you can get effects and changes in sound that are impossible on a normal guitar tuning headstock

      It's not impossible, just really really hard. I saw Adrian Legg open for 3G, he would hit a note and while it's ringing, change the tuning of his guitar. The result is what sounds like an impossible bend on an acoustic guitar.
  • So, how long before they add wireless networking support? The studio techs could just sit behind the desk tweaking away... cool. ...until some kid in the audience h4XX0rs the lead guitarist mid-solo, I suppose. :)
  • ...about harpists seem somewhat appropriate here:

    "Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives tuning their harps, and 10 percent playing out of tune".
  • butterface guitar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by carpe_noctem (457178) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @10:47AM (#8326112) Homepage Journal
    Jesus, who designed this damn thing? It looks like someone glued a harmonica onto a les paul.

    I like the idea of having embedded electronics in guitars, but when you get down to it, it's a really dumb idea. A guitar is a musical instrument, that can be played for years and years. A circuit board will be obsolete by next christmas.... why would you want to disgrace a 3,000$ guitar with some cheap silicon junk? Let the effects processors do the processing and tuning, and the guitar just play the damn music.
  • Tea Party (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheTomcat (53158) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @10:55AM (#8326230) Homepage
    The frontman for the tea party has had this for a while (dunno if it's exactly the same.. I was under the assumption that his was a custom job...)

    Check out this [www.exn.ca], from the Discovery Channel (.ca) ("Jeff Martin on 'smart guitars'").

    S

  • by Bazman (4849) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @11:09AM (#8326396) Journal
    Drummer friend of mine worked on an auto-tympani tuner as his final-year student project, I think. Part of the problem was recognising the really low frequencies you get from tympani.

    I'm not sure how far he got with the project.

    Actually, I should probably call him a percussionist :)
  • by theolein (316044) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @11:28AM (#8326536) Journal
    Why even bother to buy a guitar and learn to play it if you can't tune it yourself? I find this pathetic, I'm sorry to say. Just buy a synthesizer and learn to play with that if you can't be bothered to learn to train your ear.

    What ever happened to talent and skill?
    • I don't think this is a laziness device. I think it's intended as a retune-during-performance device, to dramtically increase a single guitar's playable range.

      I'm reasonably sure that Jimmy Page knows how to tune a guitar.
  • by trailerparkcassanova (469342) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @11:56AM (#8326964)
    It's a conspiracy developed by the wives of guitar players to eliminate a reason for buying another guitar!!! The "I need another guitar for an alternate tuning" has been ironclad for the last 50 years. If you run across one of these turn away. Don't look at it. Next they'll comeup with a guitar that lets you interchange bodys, neck and pickups to eliminate the "I needed a (insert one: Gibson (insert one) LP, SG, ES335,etc Fender (insert one) Strat, Tele (insert one) w/HB,, w/S, 12 string, Rick, Gretsch, PRS, etc) justification.
  • Tips (Score:5, Informative)

    by blackmonday (607916) * on Thursday February 19, 2004 @12:10PM (#8327188) Homepage
    Guitar tuning has a lot to do with the nut (save the jokes...). This is the piece of plastic, bone or graphite on the end of the fretboard that holds the strings in place before they hit the tuning machines. Most guitars that won't tune aren't so bad because of the tuning keys, it's that the nut is not cut properly for the size strings you're using. If they don't sit right, they won't stay in tune, simple as that. Oh, and STRETCH those strings when they're new! Search google, its very simple and your new strings will behave very nicely after a stretch, because you get the kinks out.

    Also, there's a handheld tuner that you can buy that physically turns the peg for you, all you do is pluck the string. I'm surprised no one's mentioned it yet, it's been around for over 10 years. The difference is that it only does one string at a time, and you hve to physically hold it in place while you tune.

    In the long run, tuning a guitar is not rocket science and keeping your nut in good shape and having a decent set of tuners (even ones on a cheap Fender Squire are pretty good nowadays) will keep you playing alright. This invention is pretty cool for a wow value, but it's like using an Abrahms tank to kill a mosquito. I play several guitars with old-school Bigsby tremolos and I don't have any tuning problems.

  • by sydbarrett74 (74307) <sydbarrett74@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @12:18PM (#8327304)
    Whilst this may be a boon for experienced guitarists, it's a disaster for those just starting out. Learning to tune your own guitar teaches you pitch and trains your ears. Any musician worth his/her salt can quickly tune an instrument using the grey matter betwixt the ears and nothing else.
  • Very Cool (Score:4, Informative)

    by Java Ape (528857) <mike...briggs@@@360...net> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @12:56PM (#8327783) Homepage
    This would be an excellent tool for the professional musician. I'm a moderatly skilled guitarist and perform small gigs on the side for giggles and pocket change -- usually on a twelve string acoustic.

    IMHO the posts about "ruining the musicians ear" are bogus. If you RTFA you'll see that this gizmo allows the scales to be tempered to suit the musicians taste. You want to modulate the B-string a few hertz flat -- go ahead, that's what a tempered scale is. Besides, you develop a good ear by playing a well-tuned instrument, not by compensating mentally for a discordant mess.

    I have a reasonably good ear, and use harmonics when "ear tuning" because they're more accurate than the fret placement (and less subject to the rising tone problems caused by fretting the previous string, which raises it's tone slightly). I'm at least as good as the cheap electronic tuners, but not as good as the higher-end needle-guage based units. Based on the price of this unit, I'm betting it uses a pretty high quality tuner - far better than most guitarists ear! Having strings 1 hertz off doesn't make much difference on a six-string played with high distortion at a rock concert. But on a twelve string, even a small difference between paired strings leads to an unpleasant audible "beating". The same thing happens with classical guitars, where it becomes annoying (usually when lower strings are fretted above the twelvth fret, and sound out of sync with a supposedly identical note played on a higher string).

    So, this unit is faster than a human, more accurate than a human, allows complete control over scale tempering, and stores a couple of hundred alternate tunings. It's got me beat hands down, and I suspect that's why professionals are paying nearly 4g to get one!

  • Guitar Value (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BadBlood (134525) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @01:08PM (#8327942)
    I don't know about you, but if I'm buying a REAL Les Paul for $3500 then I'm not modding it with anything. At all.

    I'd rather manually tune it than ruin a fine piece of craftmanship with modern technology that isn't worth the bang for the buck.

    I'd have trouble even changing the pickups on a Les Paul for fear of devaluing it....
  • by c13v3rm0nk3y (189767) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @01:39PM (#8328328) Homepage
    There's a long audio interview with Jimmy Page on the site. It's funny to hear him speak.

    Why? Is he out of tune?

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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