Gibson Shows Self-Tuning Guitar

Musicians of the world are getting a new kind of artistic freedom with technology that eliminates the challenging chore of tuning. "Powertune," a robotics technology developed by German company Tronical Gmbh in partnership with Gibson Guitar Corp. enables Gibson's newest Les Paul model, available globally on Dec. 7, to tune itself in about two seconds. The system is based around a processor which directs motors on its six tuning pegs to tighten or loosen the strings accordingly after listening for the guitar's pitch. To set the instrument to a particular tuning, the user pulls a knob, turns it to the desired style, indicated with a blue light, and then pushes the knob back in. An electric signal travels up the strings to the motors on the tuning pegs. The system is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The Les Paul Silverburst model is to cost about $2,780 in Japan and $2,499 in the U.S., with self-tuning offered for $900 extra.

Gibson and Tronical said Powertune is the world's first self-tuning technology, and Gibson says it is particularly useful for beginners, who tend to find tuning a headache. Musician Ichiro Tanaka, who tuned and played a sample guitar at Gibson's Tokyo office Monday, said the technology is handy for professionals too. If they use special tuning for just part of a concert, as he often does, it means they don't have to lug around an extra guitar with the second tuning ready. "It's more than just convenience," said Tanaka. "It's a feature I really appreciate."

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