The Near Futures of Acoustic Guitars
(Where are we going next?)
When people asked Bob Taylor why he didn’t put in those cool new amenities some other builders had, things like built-in tuners, for example, he explained that Taylor is making guitars to last a lifetime and then be handed on to future generations, that the guitar may last over a hundred years, but electronics gadgets won’t remain the same. His was a rare and beautiful wisdom. Taylor acoustic electrics have a place for a battery at the tailpiece, and 3 very small holes for the knobs to control Treble, Bass and Volume. And while those will likely be there a long time, I expect it won’t be long at all before they are deemed redundant.
Taylor Sense was an easy add-on that provides bluetooth data on humidity and reports g-force shocks to the guitar. No need to open the case and let the moisture out or in to determine if it’s appropriate anymore. Good thing he didn’t start building them with humidity gauges in the side either. I use a program on my cell phone, PitchLab Pro, most of the time any more. For $3, I have a digital strobe tuner with me almost always, one that offers alternative instruments and tunings, and enven lets me add my own custom tunings, provides accuracy to within half a penny and even controls about how the pitch is determined! The only thing lacking will probably be the next thing: sending of the pitch to the phone so you can tune while others are making noise as well. What’s next? Locators so if someone steals your guitar it can be easily recovered? Why not? Maybe even a dye packet that can be discharged remotely. The sky is truly the limit on what all we can put into a guitar. But one of the more practical ideas might be EQ controls in the phone instead of on knobs (which is why I suggested they may soon be redundant.)
The last article was about the GA 12th frets and how some think it is the future of the acoustic guitar, especially for the more seasoned players who may be finding their hands less cooperative than they used to be. But that’s hardly the only reason to have one. The SOUND is an even greater reason. And now Andy Powers is bringing even more innovation and Variation to the lineup! Lutz spruce? You betcha! I’m looking forward to the day, and expect it won’t be long in coming, when one can choose to have NO extra holes in the guitar’s body. Just a tailpin jack. The phone/pad/computer will be able to control those things from right there on the phone, alongside your tuning.
What else? If you’re gigging much, you’ve probably already come across sites like Ultimate-Guitar.com , which provides an ever-growing library of songs and chords, tabs, and other formats for various instruments. Too high for your voice? A couple clicks and you’re in a key you can sing in. But that makes it an awkward E-flat? Okay, no biggie . Drop it down another click and capo up one fret. They have an autoscroll feature that makes it a LITTLE easier, but a far better option are the bluetooth the page-turning devices that can be used with both Android and iOS pads and computers. You tap the right one with your foot, the next PDF page comes up. Missed something? Go on back with the left pedal tap. Then there’s Bandhelper (Bandhelper.com) which also syncs those songs up between all the members of the band in real time. Changing the setlist last minute? No biggie. You make the change and everyone else is instantly on the same page — literally!
In other aspects, someone has a synth interface that slips over the bridge, reportedly easy and unobtrusive. There’s a plate out that is temporarily attached to your guitar’s top and provides a myriad of souns at your fingertips for the One Man Band thing. Although it’s a bit shy of prime-time there’s the Roadie tuner which you put on the button and it tunes your guitar for you. And that’s just the near future. Innovations beyond our imagination lie ahead. Just 50 years ago, this laptop was a pipe dream, and the analogue a nightmarish room-sized card-reader mainframe. Cordless phones were a dream, and the cell phones? The imaginings of some doped up sci-fi writer.
Some innovations are inherently specialized or temporary. Much as I’m fond of the Strapkeeper, for example, one day someone will make a better end pin and that won’t be necesssary any more. If radio controls come in, there may not even be a jack back there anymore!
What can we do, though, to make the actual guitar different? Fan Frets? Sure… for those who are capable of wielding them. More strings, more necks, adding harp to the box? Already done. Some became useful, some were gimmicks. The guy who first made a 18-string was just a glutton for punishment. Even the GA 12th fret that the author raves about in both first and third person isn’t truly new. And so Bob Taylor’s wisdom holds up to scrutiny. The guitar itself may be played 100 years or more from today… but the tuner? Likely obsolete in under a decade.
What’s next will still be gadgets. Even something as seemingly convenient as a bluetooth tuner and transmitter that makes your pickup wireless, that won’t last, because someone will come up with a better format than bluetooth. Will we see more armrests? I hope so. Strings that play better, sound better, last longer? And I expect to see aftermarket armrests that are well designed become popular as well. But none of those requires or even suggests that the guitar itself be made differently.
The good news is that the physical technologies continue to improve. Andy Powers’ Advanced Performance Bracing (angled) and the floating bracing of the Taylor 614ce Revoiced, for example, were a step in that direction. But as has been said before, in other aspects we’re headed back to the future.
What gadgets would you like to see making playing easier or better for you?