Article by Daniel Perretta | 748 words
Since the dawn of the electric guitar, not much has changed in the way of technology. Most technological advances continue to occur in the fine tunings of existing hardware, such as the creation of humbucking pickups in the 1930s, their numerous variations, and noise canceling single-coil pickups. Of course, improvements in intonation through numerous modified bridges, string nuts, fanned frets, and locking tuners fuel debates on forums around the world about which type or brand is the pinnacle of guitar tech. Even with all of this progress, one problem has plagued guitar players since the beginning.
Most guitarists will agree that keeping a guitar in tune is an annoying inconvenience that can often drive a person a little crazy at times. That is where the Gibson Min-ETune automatic tuning system comes in handy.
The Gibson Guitar Company decided to tackle the tuning dilemma the way Gibson typically does such things. They made a guitar.
It All Started with the Robot
In December 2007, Gibson released the Les Paul Robot Guitar. It had all the particular styling and sound of their iconic Les Paul, but included an automated tuning system created by musician and inventor, Chris Adams. After all, how could they go wrong with musicians such as Billy Corgan and Steve Vai already using it? According to Adams, some of the reactions dealt out by big name guitarists ranged from disbelief to feeling the fear of not being on stage without it.
Although the new Robot Guitar delighted its users, it commanded a price upward of $3,000 and Gibson only made a few. So, in 2013 Gibson released a revamped version of the automatic tuning system as an option on their more reasonably priced guitars, and dubbed it the Min-ETune system. The concept and results remain the same as the Robot, but the design differs in some ways.
On the Robot, the tuning system is controlled by a nob on the body of the guitar that communicates electronically with the tuning pegs on the headstock. In the case of Min-ETune, the whole system is located on the headstock and attached to the tuning pegs.
How does the Min-ETune System Work?
Gibson describes the function of Min-ETune as “tuning the physical strings, not by digital trickery that degrades your tone,” which has been a concern that most guitarists take very seriously. So, without any digital manipulation of the guitar, it works like most tuners, but much faster.
In the past, a guitarist would tune each string individually by looking at a reading from a traditional tuner. Two common complaints about this method are time and accuracy. During a show, guitar players have to tune in between songs, costing them valuable time, and often the more affordable, portable tuning pedals have a less than perfect accuracy rating. The Min-ETune takes much less time because it takes a reading from every string at once. The guitar player simply activates the system and strums all of the strings. A green LED indicates which strings are in tune and a red LED indicates out-of-tune strings. Then, the guitarist picks the individual, out-of-tune strings. The Min-ETune takes it from there, turning off after it has finished.
It runs off of a rechargeable battery, and according to the Gibson website, the device is good for about 80-100 tunings before it needs a recharge, so no worries about the system dying on stage. It is also important to note that the tuning pegs can be turned by hand as well, so if the device is not charged, the guitar can still be tuned.
The Min-ETune is currently available on a few of the Gibson Les Paul or Gibson SG models ranging in price from $800 to $3,000, but Gibson announced all of the 2015 lineup of guitars, besides a very select a few, will all have this tuning system. Besides being included on all American factory guitars, the system was improved for even faster tuning. The system has also been renamed G-Force, according to a source. For those of you who already have a guitar that you would like to retrofit with one of these devices, Tronical—the company that makes the Min-ETune for Gibson—has a tuning system for almost any guitar on the market, and they start around $300. Overall, the Min-ETune system is a pretty awesome tool for everyone from the novice musician to the touring virtuoso. It’s going to be hard to top, but keep your eyes open for what comes next.
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