There are now hundreds of dedicated music apps available for the iPhone and iPad, but these digital devices are not musical instruments in the traditional sense. Over a year ago, designer Massimo Battaglia set about bringing the electric guitar and the multi-touch interface even closer. His Hyper Touch Guitar concept is the result. It features a capacitive touchscreen neck with 24 fret positions, and either a small touchscreen pick zone or a version where the multi-touch interface continues down into the body from the neck. The guitar will also feature wireless technology that will communicate with equipment such as amplifiers and computer systems, and allow the player full freedom of movement.
The Hyper Touch Guitar has the look of a double-edged battle axe and would no doubt find fit quite nicely with the likes of WASP or KISS. Battaglia has actually designed two versions of the HTG – a basic model with a small touchscreen and a capacitive fingerboard, and an EVO model that's completely multi-touch and has a carbon fiber body. The designer told Gizmag that the touchscreen interface on the EVO could be used to "change any guitar parameter: tuning, number of frets, number of strings, sound effects."
The 24 frets shown in the renders have a very similar appearance to those on the neck of the Kitara, but being displayed on a capacitive, flat surface are kind of like a fretless version of the production digital guitar from Misa Digital. The pick zone would be raised above the body and there would also be a tremelo arm – although whether this has been included for purely aesthetic purposes or would actually serve to alter the sound in some way is not clear.
The body of the instrument would contain volume and power switches, a standard guitar jack and possibly MIDI or USB interfaces, but it would also have wireless technology built in. This would allow the player to communicate with equipment such as amplifiers, studio boards or computer systems without any bothersome cables limiting freedom of movement. Power for the instrument would be provided by some sort of high-capacity battery technology to allow for many hours of use.
Although moving the guitar into the digital age does seem to be a natural evolutionary advancement, Battaglia says that he didn't design the Hyper Touch Guitar to replace the traditional favorite. "First there was the pencil, then the typewriter and then the computer... but the pencil is still there," he explained. "This musical instrument is completely new, with new expressive possibilities."
Even though the Hyper Touch Guitar is a concept for future development, it was designed with current technologies in mind. Battaglia told us that he has no doubt that it could be put into production with only some minor modifications, but added "I do not have the financial resources to create a prototype with a technology so sophisticated."
Even though I've been playing electric guitar for more years than I care to admit, I am quite excited by this brave new digital world that's opening up before us – confirmation (if any were needed) that guitar innovation continues to thrive.