In search of the mythical computerized SynthAxe

SynthAxe was a guitar-like system controlled by computers that made incredible sounds

Interesting post from the curator of the Computer History Museum who says that of all the possible historical items he'd like to get his hands on for the museum would be a computerized, pseudo-guitar device called a SynthAxe.

A Wikipedia entry defines the device, which really looks like some sort of deformed guitar as "a fretted, guitar-like MIDI controller that was created by Bill Aitken, Mike Dixon, and Tony Sedivy and manufactured in England in the middle to late 1980s. It is a musical instrument that uses electronic synthesizers to produce sound and is controlled through the use of an arm resembling the neck of a guitar in form and in use. Its name comes from the words synthesizer and axe, a slang term meaning guitar. The SynthAxe itself has no internal sound source; it is purely a controller and needs synthesizers to produce sound. The neck of the instrument is angled upwards from the body, and there are two independent sets of strings."

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Computer History Museum curator Chris Garcia wrote: "Many musicians recorded using a SynthAxe, though only about 100 were made. Part of the reason for that was the price tag: ten thousand UK pounds; about thirteen thousand US dollars at the time. That put the instrument outside the reach of all the but the most well-heeled musicians. In addition to the hefty price tag, they were hard for even experienced players to play, and they were delicate. While the SynthAxe did not have a major impact on the mainstream music industry, it was a fascinating sidebar in the history of MIDI and electronic music, and an excellent example of the effect of a musician working with a technologist."

A good video demonstrating the wide range of sounds the SynthAxe could produce can be seen here:

So if you have one sitting around you might contact Garcia.

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