Tracking speed and accuracy have always been a big issue with guitar synths. Things were a bit hit and miss in the olden days, but tracking has come on a long way since then. The software “algorithm” inside the guitar synth processor which is responsible for frequency detection and conversion, is looking for clean, unambiguous pitches which it subsequently turns into information to control the internal (or external via MIDI) sound generator. Simultaneously, this algorithm is trying to suppress what it considers to be extraneous harmonics and noise components such as fret buzz or unwanted resonance. Although most units do an excellent job of this, there are a few things to bear in mind: |
Traditional electric guitar techniques such as plectrum scrapes, string damping, pinched harmonics and the whole range of unpitched noises and grunge that are associated with modern Rock and Funk styles will be suppressed as they are likely to have no relevance when being used to control a piano or trumpet sound for example.
Also bear in mind that a synth sound with a deliberately slow attack, such as a string sound or a new-age pad will not respond well to lightning fast lines. This is not a tracking problem; it’s simply that the wrong sound has been selected for the job. Imagine playing Status Quo riffs with a bagpipe sound and you’ll get the picture!
Don’t worry about being forced to change your technique to humour the guitar synth -you won’t have to. Just think about the sound you’re playing and try your best to play in an appropriate manner. You’ll soon find yourself switching automatically for different sound types. Many guitar synthesists report that they felt in the first few weeks of playing their new instruments that the unit was somehow learning their technique and improving it’s tracking accordingly – what is actually happening though is that the player subconsciously and effortlessly learns to play in a more guitar synth-friendly way. The pitch tracking techniques employed are constantly improving and many users have decided to upgrade to newer models to take advantage of the enhancements, although the law of diminishing returns is perhaps starting to come into play now!
Lastly, when setting up a sound it is important to select the appropriate “Play Feel”. This can usually be set differently for sound or Patch in the synth engine. For example, if you are using a fingerpicking style for a particular sound, then Play Feel should be set accordingly so as to take full advantage of the available dynamic range or when playing a harpsichord sound for instance, which should not be velocity sensitive, you may benefit by setting the Play Feel to “No Dynamics”. This will ensure that all notes are produced at the same level. Don’t confuse Play Feel with Pickup Sensitivity. The latter is used to optimize system performance, whereas the former is associated with individual sounds and the differing techniques you may employ to play them.