Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 142
VG APPROVED GEAR
n the Bizarro Effects Hall of Fame, perhaps
none was stranger than the aptly named
Gizmotron of the late '70s designed to make
a guitar or bass sound akin to a violin. Now,
all hail the Gizmotron 2.0, a revised and
updated version of the classic.
Back in the day, Jimmy Page and other
players shanghai-ed violin bows to coax eerie
drawn-out and sonorous sounds from their
electric guitars. With more elevated ideas in
mind, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley of 10cc
developed the mechanized Gizmotron using
miniscule revolving wheels fitted with the
equivalent of dozens of tiny plectrums. Then
they enticed famed American effects brain
trust Musitronics Corporation to produce
their vision starting in 1978.
As the ads pledged, "by pressing a few
strings... you can sound like a guitar, a
group - even a symphony orchestra."
Unfortunately, the original gizmo was too
fiddley (pun intended) and its failure took
Musitronics down with it.
Resurrecting the Gizmotron from the
dustbin of history has been a decade-long
labor of love for Aaron Kipness, who began
collecting originals, restoring them, and offering replacement parts. In 2013, he assembled a
team of engineers armed with original patent
drawings to reverse-engineer the new and
improved Gizmotron with modern materials.
The 2.0 attaches to most electric guitars
or basses to provide electromechanical
"bowing" to individual strings, allowing the
player to produce endless sustain and organic violin sounds, and create polyphonic
chord arrangements. Or so goes the promise.
The big question is, does it work?
Fitting the Gizmotron to a Stratocaster
or Les Paul is relatively straightforward.
It sits atop the bridge and doesn't require
mods or screw holes in your precious
baby. Mounting pads screw into existing
pickguard holes or stick to the pickguard
or body top, and they're removable without
damaging the finish.
Getting everything perfectly aligned,
though, requires patience; the picking
wheels must be spot-on. Adjustment screws
dial in the spacing. It's not difficult, just
exacting, but the company provides instructions and online videos.
The Gizmotron is not a permanent
attachment. It can be removed thanks
Price: $374.99 (list)
to a locking quick-release system. But
because of the detail involved in setting
it up, you probably won't swap it on and
off at random. You can play your guitar
normally with it on, though it can get in
the way depending on how you hold/use
your picking hand.
Once set up, playing is easy. Simply fret
the string and press down the Gizmotron's
levers - one for each string to move the
corresponding revolving plectrum wheel
into place. Yes, it's that simple.
As with a Theremin, The Gizmotron can
create sounds instantly. The trick, though, is
making music with it. This requires practice,
but no more than with most other effects
or implements such as bottleneck slide or,
yes, a violin bow.
Because the Gizmotron is an electromechanical device, it offers endless player input.
This is where one's artistry comes in - you
can control the attack, timbre, and sustain
of each note or chord based on the nuance
and touch-sensitivity of the levers. And the
Speed control allows fine-tuning volume
and tone on the fly.
Since the Gizmotron requires no special
pickups, midi interface, or - lord help
us - mobile app, it's entirely outside of the
signal chain, meaning other weird effects
and funky stompboxes will work in concert
with it. - Michael Dregni