One of the most memorable moments in the 1972 film Deliverance is the banjo/guitar duel of Billy Redden and Ronny Cox. Musicians looking to add some of that plucky magic to their own compositions could nip out and buy a banjo and lock themselves away while learning to play. They may choose to follow the lead of Bow Thayer and create a new hybrid instrument. Or they could seek some digital emulation wizardry. After being unsatisfied with the latter, guitarist Jon Langberg came up with another way. The Guitar-Jo accessory gives an electric six-string an identity crisis by making it sound like a banjo.
Players wanting to change the sound or timbre of an acoustic guitar, or just clear up any nasty tone issues or feedback, can look to digital processing or post-production for help. But Keeler Sound's Performer Series sound processors for nylon and steel string instruments make use of pipes and ports for the promise of an as-the-music-happens "perfectly balanced tone." Swapping out a unit's diaphragm, or not using one at all, will also alter the tone of the guitar.
Some time around 1973, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, then members of British pop/rock group 10cc, invented a device for guitar and bass that brought a bowing sound to selected strings when a key or keys were pressed. The Gizmotron, or Gizmo for short, was famously used by Jimmy Page on the intro to In the Evening on Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door and went on to make its public debut at NAMM 1979. But it was not a commercial success due to its rather temperamental nature. Now over 40 years later, the Gizmo has been revised and revived, with version 2.0 due for release by the end of 2015.
Originally crowd-funded as the YRG-Pro Midi Guitar on Kickstarter back in 2012, Inspired Instruments' flagship MIDI guitar has been reborn with a new name and improved functionality. Now called the Lineage, the device boasts full-scale strat-like look and feel, an onboard LCD GUI and a 10-hour battery life.
Instrument interfaces like IK Multimedia's iRig or Apogee's Jam opened the door to an almost infinite world of real-time digitized tone on mobile devices running apps like GarageBand and AmpliTube. But, frustratingly, selecting a virtual stomp on a tablet screen still involves taking a playing hand away from the guitar to tap the screen. South Korea's Wifo Corporation is currently crowdfunding the RemoFinger, a foot controller that sits on the floor and can wirelessly activate onscreen stomp switches via surrogate "finger tips" attached to the tablet display.
You may not know of Dr. Harold Hildebrand, but you'll almost certainly have heard the results of his sonic tinkering. Introduced in the late 1990s, Auto-Tune went on to make performers who can't hold a note into international sensations, but has also given new vocal expression to artists who could already belt out a good tune. In 2011, Antares announced that it was bringing its pitch correction technology to the electric guitar and we got to play in perfect tune with the AT-200 in 2013. Now the company is aiming for broader adoption with the introduction of the ATG-1 Floor Processor.
Last October, guitarist Andy Alt shared his dream of giving six-string axes some extra bottom end with the crowdfunding community. Since the close of the successful campaign, he has made a few tweaks to A Little Thunder's design and functionality, chief among them being capacitive touch. Backers started receiving their pickups last month and now sales have opened up to everyone.
Looking for a way to add more presence to his solo performances, singer/songwriter Pete Roe invented the Submarine. It's a pickup for two strings that, much like A Little Thunder, can be used to add some extra low end wallop to an electric or acoustic guitar or the signal could be routed through an effects pedal chain or separate amp for some out there sonic melding.
Mike Canavan is on a mission to bring guitarists the "greatest possible range and control over their tone" on a single instrument. The patented Pole Position Sliding Pickup System allows players to change the position of a guitar's pickup relative to the strings on the fly. This means a string-picker can opt for a bright bridge tone or a fat, warm neck tone, or anything inbetween – all with just a light touch from the picking hand.
Yamaha has revealed the third generation of its award-winning Silent Guitars series ahead of a July release in the US. Described as the perfect guitars for practice, travel or stage, the new "near silent" SLG200 series guitars feature something called Studio Response Technology that's been designed to recreate the body resonance, tone and ambiance of an acoustic guitar in an instrument that, well, doesn't have much of a body.