Michael's Guitar Synthesizer Technique
As a young player I read a quote by Andres Segovia, “The guitar is a small orchestra, it is polyphonic. Every string is a different color, a different voice.” The quote stuck with me and I thought, "wouldn’t it be cool if an orchestra could jam; if my guitar could sound like an orchestra." So as I continued playing I would visit local pawnshops for used guitar gear. In those days there wasn’t a lot to choose from so the pickings were meager. There were a few Electro-Harmonix pedals and wah and volume pedals and so forth but not much more. I would use these pedals along with my 'PianoGuitar' tapping technique to try to sound like keyboards and other instruments. Then along came the Roland guitar synthesizers, the GR100, the “Yellow Box” as I called it, and then the “Blue Box”, The GR300. The Roland units tracked fairly well and the guitar sound pallet was expanding. Over time synthesizer sounds got better the chips got faster, and synthesizer technology overall developed further. The SynthAxe, an advanced guitar synth developed in the 1980s, had a wired neck and was incredibly fast. I had the great opportunity to add my neck zoning ideas to the SynthAxe. These concepts were eventually incorporated into the instrument. Although, with the neck being wired and incredibly fast, precise technique is a must. The Axe takes no prisoners! Playing the SynthAxe really honed my technique and concepts on guitar synths. Also, the development of MIDI was huge leap. A keyboardist could play a controller keyboard and use the sounds of many others through a simple MIDI cable connection. This is how I use MIDI and keyboard modules. I use my guitar as the controller. Think of the guitar as a stringing controller keyboard. I try to use the keyboard modules as the actual instruments they sound like. If I have a grand piano patch sound up I try to think and play the guitar as a piano, a violin sound I try to play like a violin and so on. Although, I do like to break the rules so nothing is absolute. Many times I layer these sounds, pianos, orchestral, horns, strings, in order to achieve a particular sound. ‘January’s Icy Slopes’ is a good example of this. The guitar playing technique is critical. Accuracy and precise touch is even more detectable on guitar than on a keyboard. Albeit a simple comparison, just think of the size of a piano key compared to the size of a guitar string. The great thing is that technology keeps progressing and the guitar’s sound pallet keeps growing.