As I learn about guitars and tone it seems like we are in a period of great tension about future direction. There seems to be two major directions - vintage or technology enabled.
Recently someone opened a thread about changing tone capacitors. I followed the link to the capacitor being considered and found that someone wanted $24.00 for a .022 uF oil-and-paper capacitor. When I was a teenager in the '50's building Ham radio gear I could buy bags with hundreds of resistors and capacitors for just a few dollars. I know this particular capacitor was vintage, original, taken from and old guitar, etc. - but really, .022 uF is a totally common size and as an electrical engineer I find it difficult to believe that different capacitor construction techniques make that much difference. I could be wrong. And the 12AX7 tubes used in the first stages of tube amps is a tube design that may be seventy years old. That's the best we've got?
It seems that the whole "Vintage" movement is out of control. The ideal that we must spend thousands of dollars to exactly recreate technology of fifty years ago seems unnecessary. To me, it seems like a game people are playing and which is encouraged by the manufacturers. Is this the last gasp of the buggy whip manufacturers?
I had never owned an electric guitar until I bought my Strat about a year ago. When I got it and realized it was just a chunk of wood with some spaces milled out I was surprised. I don't know what I expected but beyond the nice finish and good hardware the guitar itself wasn't much. My Martin acoustic seemed like a work of art and fine craftsmanship compared to the Strat. After some consideration my thought was that you could do a lot with the electric guitar in terms of adding function. Gibson seems to be hedging their bets by producing both vintage guitars and also robotic, self-tuning guitars.
With electronics today I think you could build lots of stuff into an electric guitar. Guitar tone basics (like the tone capacitor), stomp box functions, amp simulation, speaker emulations, etc. could all be built into the guitar. Even the guitar synth that HBL just got could be part of the guitar. Self-tuning seems to be an idea whose time will arrive soon. The problem is the user interface. Where do you put all the knobs, dials, sliders and displays?. I know there are some creepy looking guitars out there that have tried to solve this. I really hate the way they look.
I love the vintage idea. After all, I'm a child of the '50s. My first 45 record was "I've Got My Mojo Working" by Muddy Waters. My next was "Peggy Sue" by Buddy Holly. We grooved to the music of the '60s. Those are the guitar sounds I want to produce. And its fun to learn about guitar types and woods, types of strings, tone caps, pickups, effects, amps, amp mods, etc. It keeps you engaged.
On the other hand, as a technologist, I see a lot of sillyness and wasted money when guitars could be a lot more advanced than they are.
So what do you think the young guitar players of 5 years from now (or ten) will think an electric guitar should be like? What do you see (or want) in the future?
I find it very difficult to guess where things might be in 5 years time as to guitars and their functions and features. I don't even understand where we are now, when it appears from the reviews in magazines that the trend is for limited edition signature guitars, and artificially reliced guitars. Neither of these appeal to me in the slightest as I have no wish to pay huge premiums to get a guitar that either is supposed to make me sound like someone else but won't as I don't have the skill or desire to do so or is supposed in some way to make me feel good due to the guitar looking old when I know it isn't. I have a feeling that marketing forces are at work here trying to sell guitars that give the manufacturer a better mark up.
I fear in these times that most manufacturing is based around cost and margin profiles and that any musical considerations in what is made are of much less importance - the continuing world recession will make this much worse too. I did see a quote somewhere recently that suggeste dthe current electric guitar market is run by "non-players, making guitars for non-players" - I worry that this is probably true.
I don't know where we are going with technology, but I do know that of all the effects pedals and guitar interfaces I have used and the ampifiers that I have used that the ones with those very old design tubes in them are the best by a HUGE margin. I also know for sure that if the new technology in the guitar gets in the way of the guitarist demonstrating his individuality of playing then it's of little worth other than in enabling some sort of build up of the musical structure, over which a more traditionally played part can make us know "that's the work of Fred Smith".
Drawing as an example HBLs guitar synth I can see great possibilities for his creating a piece of music that is enhanced with a much broader pallette of sound and apparent instrumentation, but if HBL then forgets to put over it some Tokai Strat through his Cyber Twin it will be unlikely to spark my interest by anything like the same degree and I would rather just hearhim and his guitar. Also this technology requires skill from the player in being able to create and organise these mixtures of sound and instrumentation into some musically coherent form.
The variax idea has now been with us for 7 years, but still seems to lack something in the final third. Sorry - a soccer reference there, taht's the world cup for you. Eemmm - good build up but the finishing touch in scoring a great goal is lacking. As least that's in my view I do know players who are convinced the Variax is already superior and means you never need to have more than one guitar and that technology will very soon let us play and sound like (1) we're playing any type of guitar we want to choose, and (2) that we sound like any player we want. For me though the jury is not so much out as the court case hasn't even started and the jury hasn't been chosen. At the moment the idea of all these artificially created musical imitations leave me cold. We are just possibly too early in the process yet - think how long it took for keyboards to be able to produce even half convincing string sounds.
I know wht you mean MojoJim about electric guitars being just chunks of wood. Do remember that the basic design by fender of the strat and the tele where of guitars that would be easily and cheaply assembled and their style to a large degree reflects that. I find it difficult to get excited by the look of electric guitars except where I can see a lot of the wood finish. And I do find it difficult to get excited by the craftsmanship in the electric guitar except I do like something about the look and feel of the semi acoustics that seems to suggest craftsmanship. But then I'm probably out of step here as I don't get that kick that most players do out of the worn aged finish nitro cellulose guitars have - I just think they look a bit old and shabby.
So where will we be in 10 years??? Given that the basic Les Paul, Gibson ES, Strat and Tele have survived all these years and so many designs are still variations on these, it's tempting to guess that'll still be the same - maybe this is down to the conservative taste of the players though. I don't know - when you think of the emotional and musical impact one old recording of an old blues guy from the 50s or earlier with just one basic guitar, his foot tapping and his voice recorded on very old technology .... I'm not sure if I need a great technological advance .... or am I just an old fart?
I personally hate the idea of having all sorts electronics that will easily break down, on the guitar.
Of course to get all the pedals to do all these things you'll need to rob a bank first.
you pose a great question.............. .the future of Guitars??
and there is a part of me wants to run with that, play the speculation game and speculate on what guitars might look like sound like and deliver as we go forwards in time
However , I'm not sure its all about technology and progress
HBL's new bit of kit ( and its no new by any means ) can sound like an organ .. the variax guitars can emulate pretty much anything already. ( Tried one ... didn't like it .. No soul & wrong image )
But is that progress ?? .do I actually want a guitar that sounds like an organ ??
Do I want a basson that sounds like a voilin ?
Well actually no I don't.
The orchestra and its make up and instuments remain pretty much the same today as they did 250 years ago
People pay vast amounts of money .....not for the lastest electric violin
but for a Stradivarius built in the late 1600's !!
How much progress is there in pretty much any muscical instrument ??
Stringed ?? Woodwind ?? ..Brass........even Percussion , whilst the old hide coverings have given way to a synthetic membrane .and you can get a Roland 'virtual' drum kit .. a drum is still a drum ........a piece of kit designed for moving air and creating sound
its all pretty much about varying tone , vibrations and moving air at different frequencies.
and Music when you boil it down is about people and feel and expresssion.
So I question how much technology one wants in your bit of musical kit
Eric./ BB/ Jeff/ Keef / Jimmy Ray / Eric J / and any other guitar musician of note could afford almost any bit of kit they wanted ... futuristic / technically advanced/ bells whistles and all ..........and pretty much no-one does. Music is about both the bit of kit and the musician and the interactione between the two.
they mostly all hark back to older stuff , better made stuff/ .and I can't say that they are wrong
I want a guitar to sound like a guitar .
Yes there is a palce for sythethisers .and that is probaly the biggest adavance in music since the early 70's .keyboards that can sound like .anything you want really ?
Computers and all that they can bring to the show
have people given up guitars .or flutes or violins ...no !
I agree about beatiful craftsmanship in Acoustic Guitars ....they are not just muscical insturments .but a good acoustic is a work of art
a Martin 000-28 EC ..............a Gibson J-45 ( I wish I still had mine !!) etc etc
Personally i wouln't want it to be updated , as it is its a perfect instrument for what its designed for.
and its the human element and feel and touch that brings it alive .
If you've ever watched Eric Bibb tune his guitar ..and he'll chat to you while he does it .....you'll know why a self tuning acoustic would just be a waste of time, certainly for him
music is about the sound and the ear and its just a personal and audible experience .....not a technoligcal press a button , get a green light thing and off we go ...."thing"
So I am gonna stop with the olde stuff ..I agree 100% about paying bucket loads of money to buy an old looking guitar ...............plain daft.
But I want my guitar to remain as a guitar ............blimey it difficult enough as it is to get a bloody tune out of it .........never mind more buttons and bells/ screens and as for self tuning ( Gibson have it already I think) .
So in ten years time .................I see Fender / Gibson and Taylor and PRS still producing much of what they do today .hopefully meeting the challenges of sustainable production and ensuring quality tone woods and their substitutes are keeping things on target environmentally.
alongside the violin makers, the clarinet makers the trumpet makers and the piano builders.
lyric from "Out in The Fields"
Gary Moore 1952-2011
About my gear and guitar synth. mhh I see it a an extension of what I can do (play) I'm a bad keyboard player/
Now I can record my guitar parts straight into a midi program and use it (band in a box, cakewalk music creator)
Different instrument sounds make me play different styles, I don't no why. A trumpet makes me play glen miller alike stuff, the flute changes me to -well I don't know- something else
My first and most important instrument and loe will always be the guitar
It seems to me that there will probably be two groups of thought in the next five to ten years... those who want the most advanced guitars available so that they can make their own unique sound which has never done before... and those who prefer the vintage sounds of the past (perhaps the sounds of the 2010's?). With this as a premise, I can envision a market for those "old" technologies with the hopes of getting that vintage sound and a market for the most advanced guitar available, like the Gibson Tiger is now. Sort of like some folks liking to collect and restore antique cars and others dreaming of a sleek new sportster or those who like ulta-modern furniture and others who like antiques. I can envision both sides for our future but I am sure that technology will continue to advance and someday ordinary guitarists will not need amps or tuners or pedals or anything other than an all-inclusive, very advanced, guitar. However.... with that in mind I do not foresee the basic premise of the guitar changing much.... body, neck, strings, headstock. And I base this on such things as cars... they are much more advanced today than they were in Mr. Ford's day but they pretty much all still have four round tires, one steering wheel and windshield wiper blades.
Well.... that's my go on the topic.... hopefully we will all still be around the forum in five years. Maybe we will link back to this thread and say "Gee... we were ALL wrong !!! Who would have thought......"
- Henry Ford
Another question for me is where the accoustics are headed with the wood issue.
VB - it was amazing what those EHX pedals can do! I didn't even know about that stuff.
In my view, when a guitar is used to make that kind of music (or just sounds) then the question gets turned around. The question is no longer "Should a guitar make this kind of music?" but rather "Is a guitar a good human interface and input device for an electronic music/sound production system?" The focus shifts from the guitar to the electronic music system. If the guitar is an appropriate device to drive the system then the guitar should be free to evolve to be the best input device it can be. At that point we are not worried about a guitar as a guitar. It might as well be a theremin (or something).
I agree with most of the comments. The electric guitar in its traditional form is iconic to Blues, Rock, Jazz, etc. and won't change much. The standard forms of Strat, Tele, LP, SG, ES-135 and a few others are going to be around for a long time. I just can't see that changing.
But I also think that technology will play a bigger and better role in guitars. Think of how the telephone of our youth has been transformed into the modern cell phone. It does a vast number of new functions and has gotten much smaller, lighter and more convenient in the process. I don't want my guitar to look like my cell phone but I'll bet these are a few changes we will see.
* Why is my guitar not wireless? Everything else is these days. Professionals go wireless on stage - but the gear is expensive. Well, it doesn't have to be. What part of the cost of your cell phone is the cost of making it wireless? Pennies - if anything. Current technology (Bluetooth, WiFi, etc.) may have problems with fidelity, latency and range - but short range radio communications operate in the GHz range with plenty of bandwidth. Think of your wireless home network for your computers - but now it includes your guitar. Future guitars will have a wireless transmitter built in. So will amps and other gear so they can receive the signal.
* Why is my guitar analog? Everything else in the world is digital. CDs are digital. DVDs are digital. MP3 format is a digital format. Cell phones in Europe and most of the world send and receive digitally (not so much in the US). Etc. I have an analog turntable and lots of records from the 60s but I don't believe that the sound is superior to a good quality digital CD. Future guitars will have high quality analog-to-digital converters built in and the music will leave the guitar in digital format to the outside world.
* Why aren't some effects included in my guitar? Digital Signal Processing (DSP) has come a long way in the past few years. From what I have read the early attempts at modeling amps were are joke in terms of how the sound came through. But people take them serious now - the technology has improved. Fancy effects have moved into small stomp boxes. Effects can certainly fit in a guitar if some company wants to spend the money to have the chips designed and manufactured. It's a market growth and revenue issue. I don't doubt at all that someone will produce DSP software that will exactly emulate the better overdrive sound of a tube amp. In the future some effects will be built into the guitar. But I think effects will still be spread across guitars, stomp boxes and amps. The market will have to sort that out.
* Why does my guitar still have strings? How about a touch sensitive fretboard? Well, I'm sorry but I'm not going there. MY guitar will always have strings.
I love the way my guitars look, feel and play and I don't want anything to change that. But I can imagine that some technology can be applied in an unobtrusive way that will make things easier, cheaper, more convenient and more functional.
We need to keep the Blues vibrant and alive both in how it is played and how it is practiced. After the blues masters of the previous generation are gone (BB King, Buddy Guy, etc.) the blues runs the risk of becoming like barbershop quartet singing - you have to wear straw hats, striped vests and sing a certain way. We don't want the blues to get relegated to that.
There will probably always be some magical thinking around playing blues on guitar. I read advertisements that say that a certain capacitor will "peak up the mid range". Well, without an active element or an inductor a resistor-capacitor circuit is not going to "peak up" anything. Half of what I read in the magazines is touting some form of pixie dust that will transform your playing or your sound. Some of it may be true but most of it is just a market driven impediment to keeping the blues alive and vital.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.