The other day I was thinking about the difference between “electric” and “electronic” instruments (would Spock play analog?) and began wondering about what’s happened in guitar world. I ad-hoc decided that an “electronic guitar” would not use magnetic pickup magic, but would actually sense and analyze string motion and send that digital information to the (nominally 6) built-in oscillators.

Having decided that, I asked around and learned about the existence of a chintzy but fun Casio MIDI controller, model DG-20 made in the mid-80s. Then I turned to the web. I soon came across Troubador Tech’s MIDI guitar roster which led to his (?) Casio MIDI guitar page. It does not include the DG-20, which was a bit of a toy (manual here), but does point to the top-of-the-line 1987 model PG-380 (which cost $1500 1987 dollars). Five years after the first MIDI synth.

Casio PG-380 (1987)

The PG and (cheaper) MG-series derive the pitch information from a magnetic hex pickup next to the bridge. Both put out MIDI pitch, velocity and program change data…. More to the point, The PG- electronics include a built-in, monotimbral, playback-only synthesizer using VZ technology, with 64 preset sounds in internal ROM and take a RAM card.

Doesn’t quite fit my definition of “electronic guitar” but may come as close as anything has. (No? Comment!) I mean: is it really ‘guitar’ without the overtones of slide, bends, the pluck-attack?  Maybe Germans could succeed at digitizing string motion, since US geeks are preoccupied with OpenSSL (and Italian and English CPU boards) and Japan seems stuck in cleanup mode.

I’ll keep ruminating on the question and post the results here.
Does the SynthAxe count? There are only 100 in the world.


Grant Muller was asked to repair a 380, his description of the innards includes some pictures.

Wikipedia: Guitar synthesizer.

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