Synth City: 10 Classic Guitar Synth Songs
Here are 10 classic tracks that demonstrate the many voices of guitar synths.
Here's an ode to a piece of gadgetry rarely heralded on GuitarWorld.com, something that has brought a whole new world of sounds to guitarists' fingertips: the guitar synthesizer, aka the guitar synth.
A guitar synth is a synth module whose input device is a guitar instead of a keyboard. To quote Norm Leet from Roland's UK website, "The most important part of a guitar synth system is the divided — or hexaphonic — pickup, which allows each string to be treated individually and for the attached synth to be able to detect finger vibrato and string bending."
At first these systems were farily sizable, taking up so much space that they had to be housed in specially designed guitars that were part of the entire synth system. Today's synth systems, however, are tiny things that can fit into pretty much any guitar.
Modern systems send the pitch information as MIDI to allow you to control external modules or keyboards. This also means that pitch information can be recorded by a MIDI sequencer.
Countless artists have dipped their toes into the world of guitar synths -- everyone from Eric Clapton to Steve Hackett to Eric Johnson and Jeff Loomis -- and some players made it a massive part of their sound, including Pat Metheny, Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew. Carlos Alomar even recorded an entire album for synth guitar -- 1990's Dream Generator.
Here are 10 classic songs that feature guitar synths. They demonstrate at least some of the many dreamy, bizarre sounds (or "soundscapes," as some people like to say in this context), these devices can create.
10. "Stranger In a Strange Land," Iron Maiden, Somewhere in Time, 1986
After completing a masterful trilogy of albums with 1984's Powerslave, Iron Maiden took a turn for the progressive, unleashing a barrage of synth guitars on their listeners with with sixth studio album, Somewhere in Time.
Easing their fans into the idea, the album's first single, "Wasted Years," was the only track on the album to feature no synthesizers at all. Its follow-up, "Stranger in a Strange Land" — the tale of an Arctic explorer frozen and lost in time — featured both Adrian Smith and Dave Murray's guitars processed through synth effects, giving their dual guitar attack a distinctive larger-than-life chorus sound.
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