The majestic Synthaxe
October 18, 2008 5:46 PM   Subscribe

In the wide world of synthesizer guitars, the Synthaxe may well be the choicest both in its aesthetics and its raw awesomeness could. John Hollis tells us what we're missing. Some guy demonstrates it. Allan Holdsworth whips it out in concert. Also, a music video from Lee Ritenour's Synthaxe-heavy Earth Run album.
posted by colinmarshall (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Good lord, sounds every bit as unexpressive as I would've guessed.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:59 PM on October 18, 2008 [3 favorites]

That should say "raw awesomeness count" above. No way to edit on MeFi, I presume?
posted by colinmarshall at 6:02 PM on October 18, 2008

One of the times I saw Allan Holdsworth live in the 80's he was opening for Chick Corea, and he played the Synthaxe. This era of course is when the Yamaha DX-7 ruled the roost. (Though I was more into the analog sounds of the Moog and the Fender Rhodes Chroma and Chroma Polaris at the time.) While it was an interesting instrument, I felt like Allan Holdsworth played the guitar just fine, and the Synthaxe really didn't add a lot. In fact, it seemed to add a certain amount of sterility.

Of the many things that doomed the synthaxe from the start, it's obvious that the ergonomics were off. Ass John Hollis says, the thing is heavy. Then the price, and the bulk of it. It was an interesting synth controller, and quite technologically advanced for the day. It tried to solve some issues as a controller as far as dynamics and expression, but in the end it was just a synth controller. Kind of a retrofuture modern now. I felt like the stuff Fripp and Belew were doing at the time were much more interesting.
posted by Eekacat at 6:09 PM on October 18, 2008

No way to edit on MeFi, I presume?

Ask the mods nicely and they might have mercy on your soul.

On the other hand, you've linked to Alan Holdsworth, so they might just let you dangle...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:09 PM on October 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

One step further.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 6:30 PM on October 18, 2008

This article may not meet the general notability guideline or one of the following specific guidelines for inclusion on Wikipedia: Biographies, Books, Companies, Fiction, Music, Neologisms, Numbers, Web content, or several proposals for new guidelines. If you are familiar with the subject matter, please expand or rewrite the article to establish its notability. The best way to address this concern is to reference published, third-party sources about the subject. If notability cannot be established, the article is more likely to be considered for redirection, merging, or deletion, per Wikipedia:Guide to deletion.
This article has been tagged since April 2008.

Man, Wikipedia is getting all snooty in it's old age.
posted by Eekacat at 6:33 PM on October 18, 2008

Office synth guitar of the Weather Channel (and now, your local forecast).
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:43 PM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

The modern version.
posted by Foosnark at 7:00 PM on October 18, 2008

Oh, yeah! I know what's happening!
posted by vorfeed at 7:31 PM on October 18, 2008

Aaaah, the suck, it burns! D:

I don't understand exactly why this sucks so hard. Robert Fripp can play the hell out of a Roland synth guitar - one of the ones that's an actual guitar with a hexaphonic pitch to midi pickup - and it sounds great - like the stuff on the Discipline album. But that's a real guitar with pitch to midi fittings.

Maybe he's just a better musician. His work on this David Sylvian track gives me chills.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:33 PM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh man, fleetmouse, the Sylvian/Fripp stuff is awesome. I'm a huge sucker for Frippertronics too. I have "Let the Power Fall" on vinyl, and he does a beautiful piece of Frippertronics on the Fripp/Sylvian album "The First Day" called "Bringing Down the Light". Yeah definitely Fripp is a better musician. But, it also shows that the Synthaxe really wasn't all that expressive despite all it's engineering to be that way.
posted by Eekacat at 8:03 PM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Really not terribly on topic, but gently loving YouTube considers Puerto Rico a different country and your link "music video" there is "not available in [my] country". Gentle lovers. I so like an Internet that distinguishes between countries when serving (or not serving) content, especially when it's wrong.
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:48 PM on October 18, 2008

Jesus. If Hillary Clinton is mom pants then John McCain is a Lee Ritenour synthaxe solo.
posted by bunnytricks at 9:03 PM on October 18, 2008

I don't know if this is relevant, but Moog has made a guitar. Granted, I don't think it does what the synthaxe does, but it sounds pretty cool.
posted by hellojed at 9:35 PM on October 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Moog has made a guitar.

Now we're talking. Bring Moog filters and features to the STRINGS. Reckon this'll be a popular item! And they didn't forget the most important feature:

posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:44 PM on October 18, 2008

If Hillary Clinton is mom pants then John McCain is a Lee Ritenour synthaxe solo.

That's... the most oblique analogy I've ever heard... ?
posted by colinmarshall at 10:37 PM on October 18, 2008

Wow. That Moog is interesting.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:41 PM on October 18, 2008

What? No keytar?
posted by philip-random at 12:07 AM on October 19, 2008

If Hillary Clinton is mom pants then John McCain is a Lee Ritenour synthaxe solo.

Hey, Dennis Miller joined Metafilter!
posted by P.o.B. at 4:09 AM on October 19, 2008

I really enjoy a blast of Holdsworth — he was amazing in the Tony Williams Lifetime, for example — but the Syntheaxe stuff just doesn't do it for me tonally. The dynamics are flat, the sounds are lacking in character, and it doesn't do anything a MiniMoog didn't do better and fatter. Ditto for McLaughlin and Metheney — I don't want denatured keyboard sounds, I love the guitar!
posted by Wolof at 5:26 AM on October 19, 2008

There's also the the ZTAR, but the Moog guitar looks more interesting.

Don't miss Phil Keaggy on the Moog guitar.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:20 AM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

> No way to edit on MeFi, I presume?
Synthaxe error on line 1
Ready > 

posted by davemee at 9:33 AM on October 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

My pet theory about the Synthaxe and synthesized guitars:

Had John Bonham not died in 1980 and Led Zeppelin survived to record a follow-up to In Through The Out Door, you'd be hearing tons of synthesized guitars from Jimmy Page. I can't guess as to how the 80s-era Zeppelin would have sounded; perhaps it would have been as sterile as Allan Holdsworth, or closer to 80s-era King Crimson, or even along the lines of Judas Priest's Turbo.

The same theory holds true for Yes, had they managed to make a follow-up to Drama with that same hybrid Yes/Buggles lineup as on that album.
posted by stannate at 4:17 PM on October 21, 2008

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