Peter Frampton knows first hand how much time guitarists spend tuning their instruments, and now the guitar legend is leading a crowd funding effort to market a product that automates the process. Called The Performer and produced by AxCent Tuning System, the computerized rig can be controlled through a simple keypad on a guitar, allowing players to quickly tune their guitars with just the press of a button. It also gives guitarists the ability to change from one tuning to another through user presets — while they’re actually playing.
“The main thing for me is I can at a moment’s notice go from one tuning to another,” said Frampton to Billboard. “I’m always writing songs in different tunings, so you can put your custom tunings into this guitar and it remembers them for me… and within a second or two you can change it from that particular tuning back to standard [tuning] and you can play a solo. And it’s incredibly precise.”
Frampton mentioned in a promo video (above) that Jimmy Page initially turned him onto the technology when he saw the guitarist playing a guitar that tuned itself — and changed to a different tuning immediately. The device, which can fit on any guitar and be controlled through your guitar or smartphone, is currently in the midst of a $1 million crowd funding campaign. AxCent plans to sell the device, which has also been used by Graham Nash and Collective Soul’s Ed Roland, for about $400.
While there are other devices available that perform a similar function, AxCent claims to have built a superior tuning system based on every musician’s favorite subject: math. According to the AxCent website, the system is designed to be more accurate than devices that use analog feedback by employing a computer which uses “calibration equations” to sense the exact motorized movements needed to increase or decrease string tension.
Along with the motors, the system is comprised of string sensors, an LCD display, push buttons to program the tunings, and a computer with the ability to store up to 96 personal tunings on top of 336 preset tunings chosen from thousands of possibilities. And the system goes much deeper than that, offering lux features like adjustable speeds, tuning progressions, and “quick capo touch up,” which adjusts the strings as if capoed. You can also activate tuning changes via push button, or foot pedal.
Since every guitar has its own “calibration” due to its physical design, The Performer is designed to adjust to your individual guitar’s harmonics with exact equations that its computer system learns and stores during installation. The system can be installed in several guitar models, including “Les Paul, Les Paul Special, Telecaster, Stratocaster, and Chet Atkins SST body shapes and their replicas.”
Backing the tuning system makes sense for Frampton, a self-proclaimed ‘gadget freak’ who has been tinkering with music electronics since he was a kid. “I made my own electric [guitar] out of an acoustic when I first started to play and realized through my dad that the tube radio in the living room could actually work as amplifier as well as a radio, so that was my amp.”
While Frampton didn’t assist in creating The Performer, he’s a regular user of the device. “This is one of the very few things that I would actually get involved in to go and raise some [funds] because I’ve used it for many years and actually believe in it.”
You can catch the guitarist with his self-tuning guitar on tour this summer with Cheap Trick. If you’re interested in helping the legend back AxCent Tuning Systems, perks include concert tickets and backstage passes to his shows, but they’re only looking for investors willing to shell out tens of thousands.