There is/was a great discussion happening over at the awesome blog Create Digital Music about guitar technologies, the guitar as an instrument in general and how it and it's players fit into the realm of modern music making gadgetry and innovation. Guitarists can be some of the most 'purist' musicians out there. Let's face it, it can be hard to compare the tactile interaction and expressiveness that can be harnessed with a guitar in the hands of a master with someone pushing buttons and turning knobs. But why the hesitant nature of even the most experimental of guitarists to openly embrace true innovation in their chosen instrument? Is it a matter of having to learn or re-learn techniques and concepts found within this new technology?
Guitarists have manipulated their instrument over decades, creating new and exciting tones and sounds full of subtleties and high expressiveness, and they've done this with generally few technological advancements to their rig (amps, pedals, pick-ups, strings etc...). Enter the realm of synthesis and MIDI, and many guitarists quickly turn the other way and head back to their tried and tested ax. I suppose what I'm getting at is the importance of actually creating and sculpting a sound and how its characteristics directly pertain to its performance and expressive capabilities, regardless if its being triggered by a keyboard or guitar. A lot of the MIDI guitars/guitarists out there, both past and present, seem to only take on the roll of a 'controller' versus that of an actual expressive instrument used in composition and performance. To say it plainly: using an instrument's inherent values and characteristics to create/express/sculpt one's music, not simply trigger it.
We here at Starr Labs are constantly asked to show a Ztar playing, of all things, guitar samples. While this is all fine and good, it still speaks to the overall importance of the sound's characteristics, and what you can do with it other than simple sample play-back and amp/rig emulation, i.e. triggering speed, accuracy, precision, velocity sensitivity, bends etc... 'If its guitar sounds you want, why not play a guitar?' is the rebuttal we get from those persons interested in alternate MIDI instruments/controllers who want to hear serious synthesis manipulation and performance innovation. Sampling/emulation harware and software have improved immensely since the dawn of MIDI, with decent products such as Sampletank and Orange Tree providing realistic guitar sounds full of expressive qualities that are right at home when played on a Ztar. On the other hand, we're quite excited about the innovations in modal and additive synthesis hardware/software such as Prism and Razor from Native Instruments, or the amazing engine found in the Nord Modular G2, and the resurgence of the Karplus-Strong algorithm! We're indeed fans of pure synthesis and the creation of new sounds and how they can be expressed through a Ztar!