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Guitar synthesizer - Wikipedia

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Finally, two more important considerations that may propel this fourth guitar synth revolution: Acoustic guitars can utilize the technology, and you can now use any electric guitar (meaning guitar) with virtually all systems. Although it’s unlikely that we’ll see the hoopla or hype that accompanied guitar synths of yesteryear, it is likely that you’ll see a sustained interest in guitar synthesis and an actual acceptance of the instrument.

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Guitar synthesizers haven’t enjoyed the warm embrace from players that has been received by such technologies as whammy bars, dual-preamp amps, or just about anything else. By comparison, Rodney Dangerfield has gotten heaps of respect. But it isn’t for lack of trying to win acceptance that the guitar synth has fallen short of guitarists’ expectations. Ever since the first keyboard-equipped synthesizers hit the mainstream market around 1970, a lot of guitarists (and a lot of manufacturers) have been lured into thinking, "If a keyboardist can have these sounds, why can’t a guitar?" As a result, countless millions of dollars have been devoted to putting synth sounds under the control of a pick-wielder, fortunes have been won and lost (mostly lost), and the fight still isn’t over.

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The GR-20 Guitar Synthesizer makes playing high-qualitysynthesizer and instrument sounds from your guitar as simple as 1-2-3.

Oncor Sound of Salt Lake City didn’t try changing pitches to voltage. Instead, they opted to follow a more keyboard-like approach: 96 fret switches determined which note would play when you struck one of the six "strum bars" that were laid out like strings. The synthesizer circuitry was built into the instrument, which let you mute, bend, hammer on, and infinitely sustain notes. In theory, it was wonderful, but in practice it meant that you didn’t get any real guitar sound since there were no strings or pickups. This was eventually one of the kisses of death for Oncor, and it was a problem that would eventually plague SynthAxe, Stepp, and Yamaha.



Oh and the synthesizer is played with keys that trigger oscillators, which are led through a series of customizable filters to shape the final sound, whereas the electric guitar is played by touching strings moving in the mangetic field of the pickup coils, or not at all if the amount of affectionate female fans prohibits this.

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To say that guitar synthesis is the revolution that failed is, in many ways, inaccurate. In point of fact, there have been revolutions; we’re currently in the fourth. And unlike series of political upheavals, where there may be small insurrections followed by increasingly bigger insurrections followed by full-scale revolt, the history of guitar synths has mostly gone the opposite way. From the 1970s through the 1980s, dozens of companies have come and gone, all trying their own approach to guitar synthesis.

Few companies last very long in this part of the music business, with Roland the most notable exception. But is anyone to blame? Is guitar synthesis something that just can’t work? Is there too much prejudice built up in guitarists because so much of the early controllers just couldn’t cut it? Or, was the concept simply oversold? Consider how few successful synth controllers for drummers, wind players, or violinists have come along–should guitarists be expected to have greater inclination toward using synths? A look at the history of effects and synth controllers provides an insight that would say, "Yes." However, history can be a tricky thing. . . .

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Slowly but surely, early guitar "synths" appeared, mostly boxes that simply combined effects. The EMS Synthi Hi-Fli from England was one of the coolest. Developed in conjunction with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, it included a ring modulator (which gave notes a bell-like out-of-tuneness), distortion, various waveforms, and filtering. Maestro’s USS-1 Universal Synthesizer delivered similar effects, as did the Syntar, the Condor, Ludwig’s synthesizer, and Frogg’s Spectra-Sound. Guitarists were mostly unimpressed, partly because they were so limited (compared to keyboard synths), and partly because they cost several hundred dollars and up. A major component in guitarists turning thumbing their noses at these boxes was their own unrealistic expectations. The guitar is a pretty complex instrument (in terms of the sound it produces), whereas the keyboard synth was, at that time, a series of on/off switches that activated oscillators, filters, and envelope generators to produce sounds. To shoehorn the dynamics, the bending, the almost endless number of nuances of guitar technique into a form that could be squeezed through a synth and sound good was almost an impossibility. In fact, to this day, the task is still somewhat daunting for engineers.

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Other major players of the period were 360 Systems, which had an expensive but functional polyphonic guitar synthesizer system, as well as a monophonic one. In a few years, 360 Systems was out of the guitar synth business, although other synth-related gear continued to be made. Another experiment that dead-ended was Walter Sear’s massive guitar synth prototype that utilized Moog modular synthesizer gear. Its consultants included Steve Howe and John McLaughlin, but it never got out of the lab.

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By the end of the decade, poor guitar synth sales put a bad taste in the mouths of most manufacturers, who mostly wanted to pursue other avenues (namely ones that would make money). Raging inflation and increasing interest rates forced more conservative R&D decisions, and the guitar synth’s development slowed considerably.

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The BOSS SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer can be used with all your guitars right away, with no special pickup required—just plug into the standard 1/4-inch jack and play! Thanks to revolutionary new BOSS technology, you’re able to explore fat, analog-style polyphonic synth sounds with zero latency, seamlessly extending the natural expressiveness…

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