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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Kitara - not a guitar

It's definitely not a guitar.  This is how Misa, the manufacturer, explains the reason they developed the Kitara:

A guitar string is "beautiful" - because the sound generated comes from the very vibration of the string, interfering with a magnetic flux and inducing an electric voltage, which is then amplified. Why would you want to emulate that? It is perfection. It is pure nature. It is in the analog domain. Misa did not intend the Misa digital guitar to replicate a traditional guitar.

Okay, so what is the point of the KitaraElectric guitars are great for electric music. Digital music is a different story.

Traditional guitars by their very nature have limitations in the context of digital music. To create sound you need to hit a string, so that the sound at its most intense point is always the beginning of the pluck. The left hand controls what notes to play, and the right hand controls when to play these notes and the intensity of the notes. Effects can be inserted into the signal chain, but they are usually foot pedals which makes the experience of controlling effects disjointed from what your hands are doing. Plus, you can only really control one pedal at a time. 

Electronic music cannot be played effectively with such constraints. In electronic music, the timbre (or colour) of the sound can be morphed in an infinite number of ways. For a guitar to accommodate this, the right hand needs more control than just plucking strings. You need to be able to control elements of the sound, such as sustain, pitch, filter or any other synthesizer parameter, in a way that has no physical constraints. 

The Misa digital guitar is an experimental new instrument, similar to an electric guitar in shape, but with an interface designed to easily and intuitively control digital audio.

The Kitara not only unites traditional guitar playing technique with digital sound, but allows digital guitarists to use playing techniques that are not possible or comfortable on a digital keyboard.

The Misa Kitara consists of three main components: a full fretboard, a multi-touch screen and an onboard polyphonic synthesizer with sounds and effects.

The Kitara’s neck has 24 frets, but instead of strings each fret contains buttons.

You play notes by touching on the screen. The position and movement of your touch determine how the sound is generated and processed.

You can apply a number of digital effects, including distortion, delay and modulation, and you can control these effects through the touch panel interface.

You can save sounds as presets, and you can swap preset files online.

You can assign one sound to all six strings, or assign different sounds to different strings. The kitara can control compatible MIDI devices too. Everything is configurable. It runs Linux and is open source.

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