Since Antares Audio Technologies first introduced its Auto-Tune vocal pitch correction technology in the late 1990s, musicians and fans alike have been somewhat divided about its use. Some artists like Cher and, more recently, T-Pain have openly embraced the voice processing tool while others have kept its use a closely guarded secret, and, at the opposite end, calls for an end to robo-voice gimmickry have been made by the likes of Jay-Z. Now, the company has announced that its Auto-Tune processing technology is being developed for the electric guitar, offering six-string slingers effortless intonation, pitch perfect tuning and access to whole new worlds of otherwise unavailable tone.

At the time of writing, ATG-6 Auto-Tune Technology for Guitar is still in the very fluid development stage and the official news from Antares is a little thin on the ground. The company has revealed that the technology will combine Auto-Tune pitch detection and manipulation with some in-house guitar and pickup modeling technology to add more flexibility and range to the electric guitar.

Incorporating a new Solid-Tune Intonation system, ATG-6 will monitor and correct the exact pitch of each string in real-time, regardless of finger position on the neck. Antares does point out, though, that the technology will be smart enough to recognize when players are intentionally trying to manipulate the pitch – such as when playing vibrato or bending semi or full tones. The many axe-grinders who have problems with bends will no doubt welcome the system's ability to take a feeble bend attempt and push it up to the correct pitch automatically.

Keeping in tune...

An ATG-6 equipped guitar can also be tuned at the push of a button, without the need for
robotic tuners, gears or motors. Antares says that a player would just need to strum all six strings, engage String Tuning via a footswitch or button and the output will be pitch perfect. The ability to switch to alternate tunings without touching the machine heads is also an appealing prospect for those of us who have to keep one guitar set up in Open E for slide, one in standard and an acoustic in Celtic tuning.

The current development prototype is said to offer "dramatic new tunings that would be physically impossible without ATG-6," as well as the facility to create custom tunings. Included so far are Double drop D, Open D, Open G, DADGAD, Bass guitar, Bass/standard split (bottom two strings shifted an octave down), Standard tuning doubled an octave down, Twelve string and Seven string (A0 doubled on lowest string).

ATG-6 will also provide a virtual capo for shifting pitch up or down a full octave, giving players the chance to play 12th fret hammer-ons or pull-offs from the open position, or simply switch to baritone or bass guitar without changing instrument. Real-time octave pitch shifting is also available via an expression pedal, which can be limited to plus or minus a whole tone for pedal-controlled string bends and vibrato.

Guitar and pickup modeling is claimed to give players access to a virtually unlimited variety of classic and modern tones, and further tweaking of the tone is made possible by boosting or cutting the frequency response of the chosen pickup configuration. Usefully, every function of the ATG-6 can be controlled by such devices like iPhones, iPads, computers or MIDI foot controllers via an onboard MIDI interface.

More to come

At this stage, it all looks very promising – although purists will no doubt spit fire at the very thought of such technology being brought to the guitar. While there will likely be many adopters who use the digital signal processing technology simply to automatically correct unwanted pitch variations, there will also be those who follow in the footsteps of the voice tweakers before them and come up with new and interesting variations on familiar instrument sounds.

However it's used, the controversy which has snapped at the heels of its ancestor will likely follow into its new incarnation.

At the moment, there's no news on a release date for the ATG-6 system but we'll be keeping an eye on this technology and will update you on further developments.

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