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  • School me on guitar synths

    Was thinking the other day about how many songs in my cover band use Piano organ banjo mandolin in the cover band. Thinking about adding a guitar synthesizer to my rig. What models are good? at what price range? do I need a special amp setup?
    <div class="signaturecontainer">Les Paul's &amp; Strats, Fender Super &amp; Blues Junior, Fulltone pedals &amp; a whole lot of stuff that I don't use and can't seem to let go....</div>

  • #2
    I used an oldschool Roland GR50 for a while. It actually tracked surprisingly well, but it was pretty sensitive to setup. newer models have better tracking and better sounds - I was really impressed with the GR33 I tried out. As far as amp setup, you'll need something that's completely clean and hi-fi - exactly the opposite of what you'll get in a guitar amp. I'd suggest running the dry guitar to your amp and the synth channel direct to the PA.

    The most important thing, though, is technique. You mentioned piano and banjo specifically, so I'll address those.

    The tones that you'll get out of a guitar synth will sound pretty close to the real thing, but that's not the issue. The biggest factor in making your synth sounds believable is the technique that you use to play them. Playing open guitar chords through a piano patch won't sound anything like how a real piano is played because that's not how you voice chords on a piano - a piano generates close groupings of 3-4 notes because you're limited by the size of your hands and the layout of the keyboard. Likewise, a banjo is tuned to open G, and the top string is also the highest in pitch - it's laid out (high)G-(low)D-(low)G-B-(high)D. Playing a 6-tone E minor chord through a banjo patch will sound completely wrong and fake, just like adding vibrato to a piano.

    With the right technique, even a pretty lame patch can sound good. With the wrong technique, the most perfect synth patch in the world will sound ridiculous.
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    • #3
      I used an oldschool Roland GR50 for a while. It actually tracked surprisingly well, but it was pretty sensitive to setup. newer models have better tracking and better sounds - I was really impressed with the GR33 I tried out. As far as amp setup, you'll need something that's completely clean and hi-fi - exactly the opposite of what you'll get in a guitar amp. I'd suggest running the dry guitar to your amp and the synth channel direct to the PA.

      The most important thing, though, is technique. You mentioned piano and banjo specifically, so I'll address those.

      The tones that you'll get out of a guitar synth will sound pretty close to the real thing, but that's not the issue. The biggest factor in making your synth sounds believable is the technique that you use to play them. Playing open guitar chords through a piano patch won't sound anything like how a real piano is played because that's not how you voice chords on a piano - a piano generates close groupings of 3-4 notes because you're limited by the size of your hands and the layout of the keyboard. Likewise, a banjo is tuned to open G, and the top string is also the highest in pitch - it's laid out (high)G-(low)D-(low)G-B-(high)D. Playing a 6-tone E minor chord through a banjo patch will sound completely wrong and fake, just like adding vibrato to a piano.

      With the right technique, even a pretty lame patch can sound good. With the wrong technique, the most perfect synth patch in the world will sound ridiculous.
      <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="4"><div align="center"><font face="Garamond"><b><a href="http://acapella.harmony-central.com/showpost.php?p=37810128&amp;postcount=149" target="_blank">Good Transactions</a> - <a href="http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2282795" target="_blank">Peavey VTM Mods Lounge</a></b></font></div></font><div align="center"><font face="Garamond"><br />
      <a href="http://www.myspace.com/legacyofmusic" target="_blank">The Legacy Of...</a></font><br />
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      • #4
        thanks for the response. good points, that's a big help.

        I figured there'll be two learning curves with a synth- one is manipulating the equipment, the other learning how to use chord voicings and techniques to sound like those instruments. I just figure I've got a better chance by using my strengths as a guitarist as opposed to trying to learn new instruments.

        Or.................

        would I be better off learning a few key piano parts and bringing out a keyboard? or a few banjo licks if I buy a 6 string banjo/guitar? or an electric mandolin? Would buying all those instruments be cheaper than buying a good synth? would the learning curve be just as fast on a few key instruments/parts to specific songs, than a synth? would i be a better musician for learning how to play a lilttle piano/mando/banjo? or do I just keep plugging away at covering those parts with my guitar, manipulating the tones with my hands and the equipment i've got? Would anybody in a cover bar really care if the banjo parts sound like a banjo or are just covered on guitar?

        things to ponder...........
        <div class="signaturecontainer">Les Paul's &amp; Strats, Fender Super &amp; Blues Junior, Fulltone pedals &amp; a whole lot of stuff that I don't use and can't seem to let go....</div>

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        • #5
          thanks for the response. good points, that's a big help.

          I figured there'll be two learning curves with a synth- one is manipulating the equipment, the other learning how to use chord voicings and techniques to sound like those instruments. I just figure I've got a better chance by using my strengths as a guitarist as opposed to trying to learn new instruments.

          Or.................

          would I be better off learning a few key piano parts and bringing out a keyboard? or a few banjo licks if I buy a 6 string banjo/guitar? or an electric mandolin? Would buying all those instruments be cheaper than buying a good synth? would the learning curve be just as fast on a few key instruments/parts to specific songs, than a synth? would i be a better musician for learning how to play a lilttle piano/mando/banjo? or do I just keep plugging away at covering those parts with my guitar, manipulating the tones with my hands and the equipment i've got? Would anybody in a cover bar really care if the banjo parts sound like a banjo or are just covered on guitar?

          things to ponder...........


          agreed, you'll want to spend some time experimenting with chord voicings. When I had mine I stuck to simple close voiced triads for piano and strings and it worked well. For tracking horn parts I'd stick to root and octave or drop 2 (root and 3rd but drop that third a whole octave).

          For fretted string instruments you might be better off getting a Line 6 Variax, I believe they have a patch for banjo, sitar, mandolin and a few other things. I've never used one but I've heard great things about them.
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          • #6
            Probably all going to depend in finding a good used unit that I can afford. And between now & then ill be trying to learn how to make my guitar sound somewhat like other instruments. Also worth mentioning, I've got some classical guitar experience , so I'm not stuck on the basic open chord positions. Should be able to figure out how to make voicings work. Thanks for your suggestions though. Takes a little of the guesswork out of it.

            Might try to borrow a gr30 from a buddy to see how it works and if I want to invest.
            <div class="signaturecontainer">Les Paul's &amp; Strats, Fender Super &amp; Blues Junior, Fulltone pedals &amp; a whole lot of stuff that I don't use and can't seem to let go....</div>

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            • #7
              I used a GR30 and GR20 for a while. I use a Roland KC-550 as an amp (big, heavy, loud, clean, multi-channel). I used two guitars, a strat with the Roland synth pickup installed and a Godin XTSA, piezo pickup. The Godin ran the piezo (acoustic guitar tones) and synth into the KC-550. The guitar's magnetic pickups went into a Mesa I was using. The guitar synth and piezo both had foot volume pedals. It got a little complicated but sounded huge. I still have the complete rig but don't use it that much. Truthfully I am tired of lugging it around.
              It does require technique, both fingering for clean tracking and instrumentally as mentioned to sound convincing. It's a commitment.
              <div class="signaturecontainer">FDP Political Exile and Proud of It</div>

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              • #8
                Cool. There is AGR 20 for sale locally. Do you think it would do what I am looking for?
                <div class="signaturecontainer">Les Paul's &amp; Strats, Fender Super &amp; Blues Junior, Fulltone pedals &amp; a whole lot of stuff that I don't use and can't seem to let go....</div>

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                • #9
                  Cool. There is AGR 20 for sale locally. Do you think it would do what I am looking for?


                  Do you mean a GR-20? That unit is good. I started with one but then sold it for a GR-33. TheGR33 has more program/edit features but truthfully I miss the GR-20 which I though sounded better. Don't forget you will need the GK pickup or a synth ready guitar. You can't just plug any guitar into it.
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                  • #10
                    Right. Kinda thought the 20 might be a little simpler to use. Emailed the guy about it. Will do some more research tonight.
                    <div class="signaturecontainer">Les Paul's &amp; Strats, Fender Super &amp; Blues Junior, Fulltone pedals &amp; a whole lot of stuff that I don't use and can't seem to let go....</div>

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                    • #11
                      I used an oldschool Roland GR50 for a while. It actually tracked surprisingly well, but it was pretty sensitive to setup. newer models have better tracking and better sounds - I was really impressed with the GR33 I tried out. As far as amp setup, you'll need something that's completely clean and hi-fi - exactly the opposite of what you'll get in a guitar amp. I'd suggest running the dry guitar to your amp and the synth channel direct to the PA.

                      The most important thing, though, is technique. You mentioned piano and banjo specifically, so I'll address those.

                      The tones that you'll get out of a guitar synth will sound pretty close to the real thing, but that's not the issue. The biggest factor in making your synth sounds believable is the technique that you use to play them. Playing open guitar chords through a piano patch won't sound anything like how a real piano is played because that's not how you voice chords on a piano - a piano generates close groupings of 3-4 notes because you're limited by the size of your hands and the layout of the keyboard. Likewise, a banjo is tuned to open G, and the top string is also the highest in pitch - it's laid out (high)G-(low)D-(low)G-B-(high)D. Playing a 6-tone E minor chord through a banjo patch will sound completely wrong and fake, just like adding vibrato to a piano.

                      With the right technique, even a pretty lame patch can sound good. With the wrong technique, the most perfect synth patch in the world will sound ridiculous.

                      Some month ago I bought an old Peavey Predator Plus, made in Korea, with Seymour Duncan Invader in bridge position and modded to Graphtech Ghost pickup system, which include hexaphonic and piezo pickups hidden into the bridge, with volume controls and key to scroll through any GK1 thorugh GK3 Roland device. Then I bought a Roland GR33. GR33 stereo output goes direct to PA, while standard guitar jack goes to my usual rig. In case PA it's for voice only I have a 400w active monitor for GR33 only. I use an A/B switch and keep both my guitar, standard and synth, always connected, and by pressing a switch I only need take a guitar or the other.
                      GR33 sounds are great. Here you can hear our cover of Purple rain where strings and keyboards are my synth guitar (forget our singer voice which was ****************ed up....), while the solo is my synth guitar switched to my standard guitar rig (Digitech RP7, into EL34 Tube Power amp 60+60w, into V30 2x12 cab.
                      As already stated, sounds are perfect, but you must reinvent your approach to guitar, since people will listen to hammond, or piano, or sax, or brass section.
                      Not so easy, believe me.

                      http://soundcloud.com/rockin-loud/purple-rain
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