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Synth-Guitar Heroes

by Jason Gubbels

Synth-Guitar Heroes

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Does anybody remember synth guitar? No, we're not talking about those keyboards with a guitar strap that were all the rage in the 1980s (those were called -- groan -- Keytars). We're thinking of the SynthAxe, the Drumitar, the Ztar, the Guitorgan and other equally ridiculously named MIDI guitars and controllers. You might be forgiven for assuming such gadgetry had gone the way of Atari consoles, but the reality is that synth guitar retains its place within popular music (and thanks to the ongoing success of such video games as Rock Band and Guitar Hero, you might say synth guitar has never been bigger).

Metal fans might be surprised to learn that Morbid Angel's Trey Azagthoth and Cynic's Paul Masvidal routinely use synthesized guitars within their impressive axe arsenals, while Living Colour's Vernon Reid relies heavily on his Roland GR-20 system. But if you really want a taste of synth guitar in all its cheesy glory, you need to go back to the 1980s, when Chuck Hammer unveiled his self-named Guitarchitecture style on albums with Lou Reed and David Bowie; metal bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden overloaded their guitars with synth patches; and technical masters Allan Holdsworth and Steve Hackett turned their backs on traditional guitars. So behold two hours of synthesized guitar heroics, from big hits by The Police to bizarre extravaganzas like Les Fradkin's all-synth "Sabre Dance."

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