Guitar Synthesizer

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The guitar synthesizer is an electronic instrument that has undergone several iterations but commonly refers to a synthesizer module that receives information from a guitar-like controller to output sound. This can be done through an onboard pickup or a dedicated guitar that sends information to a floor module. These types of instruments experienced their peak popularity in the 1970s and 80s.
History of the Guitar Synthesizer
The history of the guitar synthesizer begins with the widespread popularity of rock ‘n’ roll during the 1960s. As rock ‘n’ roll became popular, instrument makers sought to find new ways to break into the guitar market and capitalise on a growing interest in electronic music. Early creations include the GuitarOrgan made by British amplifier maker Vox, however, the ARP by Avatar was the first mass-produced invention to use a guitar with an external synthesizer unit. The fuzzing sound of this instrument appeared on recordings by Led Zeppelin like ‘Fool On The Hill’ during the solo. The Roland GR series was a much more popular guitar synthesizer that followed in the late 1970s. This design required a dedicated guitar controller that resembled a Les Paul. During this time, players like Pat Metheny became famous for popularising the guitar synthesizer and showed the GR-300’s capability for live concert solos, something that he continued to do for 30 years. Other MIDI guitars including the Synthaxe appeared just this time, however, the limited soundboard capabilities of these instruments became a problem for players and the guitar synthesizer has experienced a drop in production since the late 1980s.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£350 - £600

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How to Play

A guitar-like instrument played by manipulating electronic signals to create sound.

In Popular Music

This unique electronic instrument was never widely popularised beyond the 1970s and 80s but the guitar synthesiser can be heard on popular recordings like ‘Ashes To Ashes’ by David Bowie in which Andy Summers plays the Roland GR-300. 'The Final Countdown' by Europe and 'West End Girls' by Pet Shop Boys may have also included a guitar synthesizer.

Famous Players

Pat Metheny

Close Relations

Keyboard, Synthesizer
Video Credit: WayneJoness
Understanding the Guitar Synthesizer


United States








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