Future Shock – Guitar Technology!

Posted: February 12, 2016 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

AtlantisThe 2016 NAMM show was very interesting. I demoed an amazing new guitar, the Willcox Atlantis (left). Also, in between Willcox performances, I got a chance to roam the show and see what was out there.

Let me first tell you about the Atlantis guitar. It’s equipped with what Willcox calls the Lightwave Optical Pickup. This pickup lives in the guitar’s bridge and it shoots a beam of light across each string. The vibrating string creates a shadow that is picked up by a photo sensor charged with a small voltage. The shadow affects the voltage and out of this sensor comes a pure, clean, analog, guitar tone. How’s that for high tech! 

Since the Atlantis has a separite optical pickup on each string, it’s perfect for 13-pin synths like the Roland GR-55 or modelers like the Roland VG-99. (Btw, the VG-99 is my favorite guitar processor of all time!) One reason the Atlantis lightwave pickup works so well with 13 pin devices is that there is no crosstalk between the strings. With a traditional Roland GK pickup you have 6 mini humbuckers, one for each string and there is a little bleed between strings. I really had fun demoing this cool hi-tech guitar.

Small pedalsTiny PedalsWhile roaming the show I saw tons of pedals, amps and guitars but two things jumped out. There were lots of very small pedals, and I saw guitars with very weird frets.

First, check out the pictures (left and right). I held my hand next to these pedals so you could tell how small they are. The small size is great for pedalboard real estate. Using these I could fit two pedals in the space I currently have only one!

Second, look at the guitars with the weird frets below. The acoustic is a Riversong guitar. The green electric is made by an Australian company called Ornsby. These fret layouts are called by different names: multi-scale, fanned-fret or graduated scale. Ralph Novak patented this design in 1989 but the patent has run out and now several companies are building guitars like this.

FretsThey work like a piano or a harp. The bass strings are longer than the treble strings. Imagine a larger guitar, like a baritone guitar. The frets are farther apart, right? Well, these multi-scale guitars have different scale lengths for each string. The high strings are shorter, so the frets are closer together. The low strings are longer so the frets are farther apart to compensate for the string Frets?length. I think the original idea of different string lengths is for tone, the low strings will have a deeper, richer tone than the high strings.

It looks like a multi-scale guitar would be hard to play, but this Ornsby guitar blew my mind, it played great! Perry from Ornsby explained the frets in the slanted position fit your hand better than traditional frets. I only played the guitar for a about five minutes, I think I want a longer try. You may want to check these out, especially if you have any tendonitis or carpal tunnel issues, or just want a more comfortable playing experience.

Well, the rest of the show was as usual, crazy. When you put about 100,000 musicians from all over the world into a small area, roughly five blocks by five blocks, it gets loud and weird!



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