Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SyntAxe happy New Year 1985

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the SynthAxe, it is essentially a guitar-like controller of MIDI instruments.

The strings which are plucked with the right hand aren't attached to those fingered with the left - the right hand set of strings telling the on-board computerwhich strings are being played and how hard (envelope), with the fretboard strings giving the pitch information to the computer. Each fret has eleven contacts measuring the amount of string bend for each string as well as relaying which fret the string is held at.

It is a long process to explain, yet all this happens with quartz-like accuracy and lightning speed.

Anyway, the computer is thus told pitch information, envelope (touch sensitive) information, and all without any glitches or odd notes popping up here and there.

On the guitar's body are various triggering mechanisms which can be used in addition, or instead of, the conventional plucking of the strings.

There are the six black oddments above the strings as well as the other switch strategically placed for thumb control.

These will sound the strings on and off as they are depressed, which should cheer them up a bit...

Other on-board switching is for 'left hand only trigger switching' - which automatically triggers the notes every time a new fret is fingered, thus making it possible to play the fret board with two hands; and a tremolo arm which, as it is not connected to the strings and is simply another control for the computer, can control anything from pitch bend to filter sweep to amplitude etc.

In addition to the controls on the guitar body itself, the SynthAxe has its own set of pedals. These give the user three extra functions - Automatic Hold, Automatic Capo, and Left Hand String Damp Disable.

When the Automatic Hold pedal is depressed any note played is permanently held by the system - a very musical device which is a very easy system to incorporate into your playing, especially if the SynthAxe is linked to a synthsiser such as the Oberheim Expander, which can assign different voices to different strings.

The second function is the Automatic Capo. If you held the chord of Em7,say, and then depressed the automatic capo, you would in effect be playing with an open chord tuning of Em7.

If you held a barré on, say the ninth fret, then you would have an auto capo on the ninth fret as well as being able to play below the capo, as this would then have note priority over the capo points!

The third pedal-activated function is the 'left hand string damp disable', and this disables envelope control from the fretboard and makes the envelope shapes of the notes played dependant on the envelope shape programmed into the synth.

So if you had a long release time, then in this mode the note would sound for the duration of the release time, even after you may have taken your fingers from the fretboard completely.

An optional accessory to the SynthAxe is the SynthAxe console which enables multiple interfacing with a maximum of eight synthesisers at once, making the SynthAxe constantly switchable from one target synth to another.

There is no limitation to the variety of syhthesisers which can be connected to the SynthAxe via the console - the only limiting factor is whether the target synth can fully interpret the multitude of different pieces of information emanating from the SynthAxe.

At the time of writing, the SynthAxe was fully interfaceable with Oberheim's Expander (an excellent match as the Expander is capable of assigning different voices to different strings and also has immense control, more so than almost any other instrument yet available in this league), the OB8, OSCar, Prophet T8, the Rhodes Chroma and Polaris.

Additionally, most American and European companies are closely cooperating with SynthAxe in developing interfaces for their instruments - including Linn, Many Japanese companies have also followed the SynthAxe's progress with great attention and the whole Yamaha team came down to the SynthAxe factory.

Other than the conventional-ish synthesisers I've just mentioned, the SynthAxe will also interface with the Emulator I and II, the Kurzweil (shortly) and... the Fairlight!

I have yet to witness that partnership, but I don't think it would be too hard to imagine what it would be capable of That, I hope, might clarity the myths and mysteries of the SynthAxe, i.e. they're all true.

Extracted from from Music Magazine

happy New Year 1985

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