History’s Unnecessary Inventions: 1980’s SynthAxe Guitar
This insane synthesizer was the answer to every musical question, which was never asked.
Back in the 80’s there was an overwhelming attitude of “out with the old, in with the new.” In their minds all traditional things had been mastered. This included transportation, information, technology and of course music. Why else would we now have the Aries K car, the pet rock and the calculator wristwatch?
Technology always moves forward, but music has long been steeped in tradition and technique. Instruments have long-been crafted from rare woods and the finest materials, to produce tone and playability by masters of their craft. Apparently someone in the 80’s said, “I have mastered every aspect of the guitar. Now, I must reimagine it as an overgrown plastic happy-meal toy, with two sets of strings, a set of keys, a hilariously phallic neck angle…and of course a wammy bar!”
Behold the Synth-Axe!
It’s the spiritual love child of Johnny-5, the robot from the movie “Short-Circuit”, and ridiculous guitar-legend, Yngwie Malmsteen. The Synth-axe is the perfect tool for any pretentious, neo-classical dweeb looking to draw a little extra attention to his unlistenable, high-flying jams. It’s super convenient too! The hand held unit weighs in at a cool 20 pounds, but the necessary computer console requires a moving van and two full time employees to transport and operate!
But wait, there’s more! It can play tuba and doorbell sounds too! Need it to chirp like a cricket? Done!
About the Synth Axe:
The SynthAxe was invented by Bill Aitken. It consists of a guitar like MIDI controller with the addition of right hand keys, a control console and a pedalboard which also houses the power supply. Complete with stands this takes 4 flight cases. The optional Step-On pedals add yet another. It’s about as portable as a drum kit isn’t.
How does it work?
The SynthAxe strings are sensors. The fretboard uses a clever diagonal cut to separate each fret into six zones. The string/fret matrix is scanned by a microprocessor and combined with information from string bend sensors to determine the pitch of the note. The string bend sensors work by passing a current through each string and measuring the change of electromagnetic field using tiny, (and very delicate) coils.
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