Strings stretch and bind. Fluctuations in humidity and string tension cause instrument necks to bow, arch and twist. Something--it is not always clear what--throws string pitch out of whack. Professional players on stage and in recording sessions find themselves twisting tuner knobs between every song and sometimes in the middle of songs.
"It is maddening that we play instruments that do not stay in tune for very long," Mike Marshall, one of the top mandolin and guitar players on the acoustic-music scene, wrote during a recent online discussion on the topic. "This seems a bit insane, considering the fact that we are surrounded by so much incredible technology."
Technology, it turns out, does offer a remedy for tuning problems--at least for those who play electric guitars. Backers and users of an electronic system called the Performer say it offers a big leap beyond the ubiquitous electronic pitch readers that, while reasonably accurate, still require the player to tune manually. It's also seen as a way to let players use the same instrument for a variety of musical purposes.
Those attributes have helped sell the system to rock icons Graham Nash, Jimmy Page and Joe Perry, along with other concert-stage veterans.
With the touch of a button, The Performer is designed to automatically tune open, unfretted strings to whatever notes the player programs into the system's computer. The retuning can happen any time the player has a moment to strum on open strings, even in the middle of a song.
"Now how," you might wonder, "is this at all related to Brian poking around the Internet for mention of himself?" Well, the connection can be found here (emphasis mine):
As it is currently offered, The Performer is designed to readjust the tension on all six strings simultaneously in about five seconds, with the push of a button. A small LCD screen cut into the guitar body displays the note, octave and "cent value" of each string. (A cent is a unit of relative pitch; there are 1,200 cents in one octave). Neil Skinn, the man who developed the system, says the gadget's tuning is accurate to within 2 cents.
And yep, we're related... Neil is my dad's youngest brother. So, I've got an Uncle Inventor! Is it not nifty?
Ok, well, I think it's pretty cool, anyways. :-P
In all seriousness, from what I understand of what's involved in playing a guitar, the ability to automatically retain tuning is powerful enough in and of itself. However, the ability to dynamically retune mid-song seems like something that could lead to all sorts of awesome sounds.
<shrug> I could be wrong. :-)
Regardless, if you or anyone you know plays electric guitar and wants the ability to re-tune automatically, please link 'em to this. I'm sure my uncle wouldn't mind a little word-of-mouth advertising. ;-)
Some additional links: