What's the origin idea of "guitar-synth"?

  • What I know is: Pat Metheny is the one who used it on guitar. But, some said that he's the first one who ever use it.

    Is it correct? Because I read in Wikipedia that Jimmy Page used it too. What it's came from/origin?

    Do you want to know which manufacturer invented the first one, notable early players, or both?

  • user546

    user546 Correct answer

    7 years ago

    The first guitar synthesizers were hand-built instruments that went under the trade name "Guitorgan", were the work of an American inventor named Bob Murrell, and first came out in 1968, ten years before the guitar synth became really well-known. The Guitorgan was polyphonic, meaning you could play 6-note chords on it.

    There were a number of guitar effects devices marketed as "guitar synthesizers" in the 1970s, and they were used by professional guitarists on recordings, but these devices were not true synthesizers: they were merely extreme stomp-box-type effects which performed signal processing on the audio output of a conventional electric guitar.

    Jimmy Page used the first "proper" mass-produced guitar synthesizer, the ARP Avatar, on the song "Fool in the Rain" on the Led Zeppelin album In Through the Out Door, 1978.

    Pete Townsend of The Who also had an ARP Avatar around the same time.

    Aside from a 6-note polyphonic fuzz-box mode, the Avatar was a monophonic synthesizer, meaning you could only play one note at a time, and not chords. This was extremely limiting for a guitarist.

    The story goes that the research and development cost to create the ARP Avatar was so high, and the sales were so poor (because the instrument did not really work well and was not practical), that it caused the ARP company to go out of business.

    The most practical and common guitar synths were made by the Roland company. Their instruments were polyphonic. Roland produced a very long line of different models, I believe starting with the GR-500 model in 1980. It was featured on David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" in 1980, played by Chuck Hammer.

    Andy Summers made use of a Roland guitar synth on the song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" on the Police album Zenyatta Mondatta in the same year, 1980.

    In 1981, Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp made extensive use of Roland's newest guitar synthesizer, the GR-303, on every song on the landmark King Crimson album Discipline.

    Pat Metheney also played the Roland GR-303, but he interfaced it to the New England Digital Synclavier, a digital audio workstation instrument that cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars in its day. His first use of the guitar synth was on his album Offramp in 1982.

    So Metheny's use of the guitar synthesizer was preceded by David Bowie, the Police, King Crimson, and undoubtedly others.

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