Some time around 1973, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, then members of British pop/rock group 10cc, invented a device for guitar and bass that brought a bowing sound to selected strings when a key or keys were pressed. The Gizmotron, or Gizmo for short, was famously used by Jimmy Page on the intro to In the Evening on Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door and went on to make its public debut at NAMM 1979. But it was not a commercial success due to its rather temperamental nature. Now over 40 years later, the Gizmo has been revised and revived, with version 2.0 due for release by the end of 2015.
Back in 2013, Aaron Kipness and a team of engineers began a quest to design a new and improved version of the device that promised to open up "a new realm of musical expression." Where the original Gizmo was clamped onto the bridge of a guitar, version 2.0 features a new quick release mounting system that the company says was designed to fit virtually any electric guitar or bass.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
A player first needs to stick three mounting tabs to the instrument using tape, and then the housing of the Gizmotron 2.0, which is made from sturdy ABS plastic and is home to the electronics, a DC motor and five or six keys, is locked onto the mounting pads. The device is powered via a USB adapter or optional rechargeable power pack and doesn't require any modification to the host instrument or the addition of special pickups.
Once installed, pressing down a key brings a spinning wheel into contact with the corresponding string and a bowing sound similar to that of a cello, viola or violin is produced. One or more keys can be pushed down simultaneously while fretting at the neck, and a speed control knob can be used to tweak the volume, tone and attack of the device, or players can choose to place such control at the feet with the optional SPD-1 foot pedal. The company says that users can expect the wheels to last about as long as a guitar pick.
A bass version Gizmotron 2.0 is currently priced at US$439.99 (list price $579.99), while the electric guitar flavor is $449.99 (list price $599.99). Each device will be supplied with a toolkit for mounting and servicing. The first units are expected to be ready for shipping by this coming Festive holiday season.
You can see the Gizmotron 2.0 prototype in action in the video below.