|INSTRUMENT MUSEUM||12/23/97||Page 8 of 11|
|Imagine sax lines, symphonic voices, pedal steel, endless drums and more â€¦ performed flawlessly in real time. This is the promise of Harvey Starr’s Ztar and Zbass instruments – keyboard-like MIDI controllers built like guitars. Very space-age appearance, and a simple premise â€¦
As most guitarists know, driving a MIDI synth from a vibrating guitar string is far from perfect. Even on the best devices, the ‘time’ doesn’t feel as right as when you’re playing the actual string sound, due to delays while the circuitry analyzes the string’s vibration.
Starr Labs’s instruments solve this problem by returning to the source. Keyboards work fine for MIDI because each ‘key’ is a contact point making contact at exactly the moment your fingers press it. No appreciable delays, and more important, no variation in delay.
You can’t exactly stick piano keys on a fretboard, so the Ztar fretboard has small specially-designed elongated keys, shaped like the string segment between two frets. So you can use the fretboard you know, but you’re playing a keyboard!
How do you play two-handed? Simple. If you watch a Stick or Warr player, you’ll see that usually the bass hand (left hand) is near to the tuners, and the melody hand is on the other set of strings, usually up above the twelfth fret. The reason why two sets of strings are necessary on a Stick or Warr is so that one set can be low and the other can be high; and also because if you tried playing on one set of strings, the hand higher up the fretboard would make some of the strings unavailable to the bass hand.
On the Ztar, however, you just program a ‘fret split’ – let’s say you decide that all notes below the tenth fret will be in the bass range, and all notes (on any string) above the tenth fret will be in the melody range. Now you just put your bass hand on the low frets and your melody hand on the high frets and start a-tappin!
Because on a keyboard, you can play more than one note on the same ‘string’! This makes new chord-forms available which cannot be played on any guitar. In fact, some of them cannot be played on any other keyboard!
For those as wishes to strum strings, you can get a short string assembly mounted on the body for triggering by strumming. Otherwise, you just trigger by tapping, like any good touch-stylist.
Midi Guitarist Magazine (Fall 1992): “It’s a dream to be able to play notes and not worry about glitches! Tapping techniques are ideal for the Ztar.” Player Allan Holdsworth says, “The Ztar is â€¦ a new way to look at guitar playing â€¦ an instrument with awesome potential.” And player Stanley Jordan says, “The feel of the Ztar is very expressive. For my style of playing, the features are 99% of all I could ask for. This the most comfortable instrument I’ve ever played for improvising free jazz.”
A wide range of electronic programming, fret-marking schemas, and space-age rock-cafÃ© designs are available. Want to wig right out with something beautiful and different? Be the first on your block!
1717 fifth avenue
san diego, california 92101
fax (619) 233-1231, voice (619) 233-6715
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