Monday, December 03, 2007

boy, could i have used this!

Gibson shows guitar that tunes itself

TOKYO - A new electric guitar from Gibson comes with robotics technology that allows the instrument to tune itself in a matter of seconds.

The technology, developed in partnership with German company Tronical, allows the guitar to recognize pitch and use its processor and six motors on its tuning pegs to tighten the strings accordingly.

Gibson Guitar Corp. claims it's the world's first guitar with such self-tuning robotics technology, and that it's particularly useful for beginners, who tend to find tuning the instrument properly a headache.

The Gibson Les Paul guitar model with Blue Silverburst finish goes on sale globally Dec. 7 for 308,700 yen (US$2,780; euro1,880) in Japan, and US$2,499 in the U.S. The self-tuning feature added an extra 100,000 yen (US$900; euro600) to the price tag.

The guitar comes preset with six types of tuning for the guitar's strings, which are used to play different kinds of music. But it can also remember a totally original tuning by recognizing the sound of the strings it picks up on its microphone.

The way it works is simple.

You pull a knob on the guitar, turn it to the kind of tuning you want, which shows up as a blue light on the knob, such as "E" or "D." You then push the button back in.

The electric signals travel up the strings to the tuning pegs, which begin turning by themselves with a whirl of a motor. It's powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

U.S. guitar-maker Gibson plans to sell 4,000 of the first batch of limited edition "robot guitars" worldwide. Ten percent of the sales are expected to be in Japan, said Yasuhiko Iwanade, president of Gibson Guitar Corp. Japan.

"Robots are very popular in Japan. So this is something that matches the developments here these days. It's a technology that Japanese can understand," he said.

It may offer the robotics feature in other models in the future, officials said.

Gibson, based in Nashville, Tennessee, boasts a history of innovating the guitar, and robotics fit right in with that legacy, Iwanade said.

Japanese musician Ichiro Tanaka tuned and played the guitar in a demonstration at Gibson's Tokyo office Monday. He said it's handy for professional musicians who may use special tuning for one song in a concert because he won't have to lug around an extra guitar.

"It's more than just convenience. It's a feature I really appreciate," said Tanaka.