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Gibson Unveils Self-Tuning 'Robot Guitar'

Musicians of the world are getting a new kind of artistic freedom with technology that eliminates the challenging chore of tuning.

Robotics technology developed by German company Tronical Gmbh in partnership with Gibson Guitar Corp. enables Gibson's newest Les Paul model to tune itself in about two seconds.

For users who purchase the add-on technology, the guitar recognizes pitch. Then its processor directs motors on its six tuning pegs to tighten or loosen the strings accordingly.

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Tronical has offered its "Powertune System" online and through retailers in Germany since March, according to the company's Web site.

The Gibson Les Paul guitar model with Blue Silverburst finish goes on sale globally this Friday.

Nashville, Tenn., guitar maker Gibson and Tronical said Powertune is the world's first self-tuning technology, and Gibson says it is particularly useful for beginners, who tend to find tuning a headache.

Musician Ichiro Tanaka, who tuned and played a sample guitar at Gibson's Tokyo office Monday, said the technology is handy for professionals too.

If they use special tuning for just part of a concert, as he often does, it means they don't have to lug around an extra guitar with the second tuning ready.

"It's more than just convenience," said Tanaka, of Japan. "It's a feature I really appreciate."

The Les Paul Silverburst model is to cost about $2,780 in Japan and $2,499 in the U.S., with self-tuning offered for $900 extra.

Powertune is also listed online for 899 euros, about $600, and Tronical says it can be installed on many different models of electric guitars without leaving a mark.

Gibson guitars with the technology come preset with six types of tuning to play different kinds of music. They also can remember a player's additional original tuning styles, by listening with a microphone to the sounds of the strings.

To set the instrument to a particular tuning, the user pulls a knob, turns it to the desired style, indicated with a blue light, and then pushes the knob back in. An electric signal travels up the strings to the motors on the tuning pegs. The system is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Gibson hopes to sell 4,000 of the first limited-edition "robot guitars" worldwide, with 10 percent of those sales expected in Japan, said Yasuhiko Iwanade, president of Gibson Guitar Corp. Japan.

"Robots are very popular in Japan. So this is something that matches the developments here these days. It's a technology that Japanese can understand," he said.

Gibson has a history of innovating with guitars that fits well with robotics technology, Iwanade said.

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