Guitars, microphones and home studio; musical instrument technology

Technology has always amplified – with the pardon of the pun – music. Whether enabling different forms of recording or creating new musical instruments, analog and digital resources marked the epoch. Some have been ostracized, like guitars with USB. Others, like Bluetooth, have become standard in speakers and audio monitors. In addition, applications now connect to 100% digital amplifiers and interfaces.

Absolutely everything can connect to your cell phone and the garage band cliché lost space for albums recorded in the room itself. I invite you to go from the first guitar to the mini-studio on your cell phone, with pedals and effects in the palm of your hand.

The first guitar

A significant physical limitation – more precisely acoustic – caused the guitar to shrink in bands from the 1930s, which had wind instruments: it was simply too discreet for so many combined instruments. It was necessary to amplify the strings using some electrical resources. That is, transform the sound of the guitar strings into an electrical signal to be amplified and converted into something perfectly audible.

This was how the Frying Pan came about, recognized as the first viable electric guitar in modern history, which came into the world between the years 1931 and 1932, receiving its patent only in 1937. The “frying pan” was created by George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker, later manufactured by the company they also founded, Rickenbacker.

Rickenbacker Model A-22 Electro Hawaiian guitar / Image: metmuseum.org

Officially called Rickenbacker Electro A-22, the instrument was a “lap steel” (Hawaiian guitar) model, played supported on the legs with a slider and had this nickname because its circular body and long arm made it look like the famous kitchen utensil.

The Frying Pan was already an evolution of an earlier 1928 attempt, which was short-lived, called Stromberg Electro, by Stromberg-Voisinet. But the first successful commercial semi-acoustic guitar – with pickups similar to the current ones – was the Gibson ES-150.

Gibson ES-150 / Image: metmuseum.org

Gibson ES-150 / Image: metmuseum.org

The USB guitar

Since then, varied shapes of bodies and guitar hands have given face to the most iconic models of Gibson, Fender, Epiphone, Yamaha, Ibanez, among many others…

There have also been some attempts to change these defaults by placing standard A and B (mini) USB ports next to the standard audio outputs. Doing a quick search, it’s easy to find videos of a 2012 Squier by Fender USB stratocaster, with digital connections and cables compatible even with iOS devices – sold even at the Apple store for $ 199.

The idea was to make a direct connection to the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac and use GarageBand, without additional hardware. It was also possible to connect it to any Windows computer. For the price charged and being part of the Squier line, it was a basic model, although it was not a bad solution for more experienced musicians.

Included in the kit were a “mini-USB to USB” cable and a “mini-USB cable for 30-pin connector Apple (at the time, the iPhone 4) ”. The guitar also had a convenient headphone jack (stereo) integrated with volume control, but only when using the USB port. However, it was still a functional Stratocaster with a jack jack that you could continue using analogously without any problems.

Fender Squier with USB / Image: Disclosure

Fender Squier with USB / Image: Disclosure

Gibson also embarked on the path of the “universal door” and, a year earlier, in 2011, wanted to encourage guitarists to connect Firebird X to the computer via USB. You could access the Gibson app store to download and share your own patches.

For anyone who is a string fan I recommend the list of 6 guitars that tried to predict the future – and failed – from Reverb (in English). Since then, innovation has aimed at another end: the studio.

I still feel very strange when I find guitars with USB, I confess.

If before, recording required a physical interface and a whole process not very simple for the weekend musician, technology has made everything easier. If there was not much to improve – or, deliberately, to change in the musical instruments – there was much work to be done in the studios and recording rooms, reducing to accessories and even to simulators.

Accessories & Interfaces

The lines of USB guitars did not succeed and the ones that replaced the demand were accessories such as the iRig, the best-selling product from IK Multimedia in Brazil. The device with the P10 plug was launched in 2010 and has already won other versions. The iRig 2 is offered as an interface between instruments or microphones and mobile devices (such as the cell phone), for very affordable values ​​that use the P2 connections (standard headphone jack), ideal for recording.

iRig 2 / Image: Disclosure IK Multimedia

iRig 2 / Image: Disclosure IK Multimedia

Between buying a specific guitar with additional connections and an inexpensive accessory that can be used on all your skinny ones, the second option made the consumer’s mind.

“We are a company in the musical instrument market, but we do much more than the term traditionally covers. I don’t see how to dissociate technology from the company’s DNA ”, explained JC Wallace, marketing coordinator for IK Multimedia in Brazil to Tecnoblog.

Speaking of interface – this time a more complex one – one of the brand’s latest releases was the T-RackS Sunset Sound Studio Reverb, which emulates the experience of one of the most iconic studios in the world at DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). This is Sunset Sound Studios, where they recorded such names Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, The Doors and Rolling Stones.

“We are talking about the sound that defined modern musical culture. It is a fantastic product, both in the sense of technology and in the sense of what society understands as audio, music and sound aesthetics ”, points out Wallace, about the famous Los Angeles studio.

Who doesn’t want a sound like that ?! I confess that I would like to visit the studios, of course.

Amplifiers

Not only external interfaces, but the traditional amplifiers gained connections and digital panels – which go beyond the adjustments that could already be made using analog buttons. This is the case of Marshall, for over 50 years manufacturing amplifiers and crossing generations of all styles and musical trends, with an application.

The CODE line is a digital treat for guitar amplifiers, offering a combination of unlimited sounds through the Marshall Gateway (iOS / Android), via Bluetooth.

Marshall CODE / Image: Disclosure

Marshall CODE / Image: Disclosure

“There are 100 fully customizable presets, allowing you to save tones like a true effects processor. There are 14 types of preamps (among the most famous of the brand) such as PLEXI, JCM800, JVM, BLUESBREAKER and etc. ”, explains Roger Santos, Marketing Manager at Proshows / Marshall Brasil, an exclusive representative of the brand.

There are 24 types of traditional effect pedals like Chorus, Reverb, classic distortions, Flanger, Pitch and Delay, activated through the Footswitch (which is optional). The digital hand allows you to obtain classic tones from guitarists like Slash, Randy Rhoads, Zakk Wylde and others who use Marshall amplifiers and heads in their shows.

It became easier for those who are just starting out and especially if they have skills with apps.

Pedals and Effects

Anyone who has already collected coins to buy a dubious brand name pedalboard and, after all, was not very happy, knows what it is to search for patches and try to find an effect (or its simulation) in a sea of ​​pedals – which are expensive. Boss, the famous pedal manufacturer, has made it easier to choose what effects the consumer wants with a site full of videos also published on YouTube. However, whoever tests effects can use apps.

I will suggest just a few of them, to use as a joke:

Boss offers a virtual tuner, pedal style TU-3 (chromatic tuner). You can download the BOSS Tuner App on iOS (iPhone) or Android and be happy, without paying anything for it.

Microphones

Since 1925 on the market, Shure brought, in 1939, the 55 – first unidirectional microphone – famous line that gave rise to the “Elvis microphone”. Since then, a lot has changed, partly due to the technology built into the microphones, which on the outside look the same.

Talk Switch, for example, is a technology that was already present in the Axient analog line and has also reached the digital line. Basically, this allows the artist or presenter (microphone user) to talk to his technical team using the same microphone – without the audience hearing anything. Observe more carefully during concerts.

Shure IP Audio Kit / Image: Disclosure

Shure IP Audio Kit / Image: Disclosure

In addition to channels, the brand also works with audio over IP (where each device has an identification address), available on stage and corporate lines.

“Audio over IP offers several advantages, such as an immense amount of audio channels traveling over the same cable and also the possibility to remotely control the equipment”, says Jon Lopes, Shure’s product manager for Latin America.

Technology teams

Currently, it is almost impossible to enter a website for the manufacturer of musical instruments and sound equipment and not find a solution based on software or a mobile application. It is no longer enough to just make the best instruments on the market, it is necessary to offer some digital pendant to make it possible to connect anything to the cell phone.

Marshall, for example, has an exclusive development area at its factory in the city of Milton Keynes, England. Shure recalls that it has a specific center in India focused on software development, in addition to other auxiliary centers in Scotland, Denmark and also at headquarters 1 and 2, in the Chicago region, in the United States.

The company claims that today it has more software engineers than audio engineers at work. “One of the reasons for this is the fact that we already have 95 years of experience in the audio field, which gives us a lot of luggage in this regard, while another reason is the need for the development we have for products in the software area”, he says. .

Do you use any technological resources to make a sound?

Leave a Comment