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#2468685 - 02/05/13 06:36 AM Most versatile instrument in the world
Eric Iverson Offline
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I happened to see a book at a local bookstore: "Violin, the most versatile instrument in the world."
Now I haven't read the book, but I happen to think that the most versatile instrument is the GUITAR.
Think about it - a nylon string classical is tuned the same, usually, as a solid body electric, or a Martin dreadnaught, but it's not just about different styles and repertoire, the playing techniques are very different.

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#2468690 - 02/05/13 06:44 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Eric Iverson]
Fred_C Offline
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100% agreed.
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#2468695 - 02/05/13 07:00 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Fred_C]
Terrell Offline
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The keyboard forum would probably have a pretty good argument for supremacy since they can fake any instrument. However poorly it might be...

I agree that the guitar is my favorite versatile instrument.

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#2468713 - 02/05/13 08:04 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Terrell]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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Originally Posted By: Terrell
The keyboard forum would probably have a pretty good argument for supremacy since they can fake any instrument. However poorly it might be...

I agree that the guitar is my favorite versatile instrument.


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#2468714 - 02/05/13 08:05 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Eric Iverson]
Scott Fraser Offline
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Originally Posted By: Eric Iverson
I happened to see a book at a local bookstore: "Violin, the most versatile instrument in the world."
Now I haven't read the book, but I happen to think that the most versatile instrument is the GUITAR.
Think about it - a nylon string classical is tuned the same, usually, as a solid body electric, or a Martin dreadnaught, but it's not just about different styles and repertoire, the playing techniques are very different.


Sounds like the author of that book is using a criterion of "versatile" that we may not be sharing. I'll hazard that he means stylistically, since violin is well established in the folk or informal traditions of cultures all around the world, as well as the classical or formal end of the spectrum.
Guitarists, obviously, would point to other factors favoring guitar as the more versatile instrument, such as tessitura, harmonic complexity, the ability to play melody & accompaniment simultaneously, etc., as well as Eric's mention of the existence of several variations on the basic guitar concept.
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#2468721 - 02/05/13 08:20 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Scott Fraser]
Sharkman Offline
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I agree wholeheartedly with Scott Fraser. While the types of music that a violin can be featured in are numerous, the guitar, is even more so. While there are literally hundreds of different types of guitars, there are basically two types of violins: the standard version, and a standard version that has been modified (such as adding a pickup to make it an electric). Guitars can be played with the bare fingers, a pick, a violin bow (like Jimmy Page), an empty beer can (Edward Van Halen on the song Intruder), and many other implements. Violins are almost always played with a bow, and only plucked with the fingers on rare occasions.

The author of that book is obviously a violin music enthusiast, and is displaying a huge bias towards his taste in music. But hey, it's his book, and he can write whatever he wants to. Just like this is my message, and I get to write what I want to.

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#2468731 - 02/05/13 08:38 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Terrell]
Larryz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Terrell
The keyboard forum would probably have a pretty good argument for supremacy since they can fake any instrument. However poorly it might be...

I agree that the guitar is my favorite versatile instrument.


+1 on the guitar as my favorite. The keyboard forum would have another good argument for supremacy as they can play chords, leads, bass, treble, etc. simultaneously, without having to be as good as Tommy Emmanuel...

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#2468756 - 02/05/13 09:11 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Larryz]
p90jr Offline
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Eric Johnson might aurally challenge the violin supremacy at times. I was listening to "Cliffs Of Dover" a while ago and somebody walked past my office and said "oh, I love violin music."

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#2468772 - 02/05/13 09:43 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Sharkman]
Scott Fraser Offline
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Originally Posted By: Sharkman
While there are literally hundreds of different types of guitars, there are basically two types of violins: the standard version, and a standard version that has been modified (such as adding a pickup to make it an electric).


If one is including hundreds of different types of guitars, one must also include the hundreds of different folk fiddles & viols seen in indigenous settings all over the world. Look up er-hu, kemanche, hardingfele, Strohviolin, gusle, etc. It's a vast family of related instruments.

Quote:
Guitars can be played with the bare fingers, a pick, a violin bow (like Jimmy Page), an empty beer can (Edward Van Halen on the song Intruder), and many other implements. Violins are almost always played with a bow, and only plucked with the fingers on rare occasions.


Largely true, but with significant exceptions. My day gig is running sound for a well known, very experimental string quartet. Over the years we have utilized: chopsticks, guitar picks, bottlenecks, pencils, thimbles, guitar strings, rosined dowels, cardboard plectrums, credit card plectrums, glass rods & no doubt a few I can't recall. Add to that all the various bowing techniques available to the violinist; sul tasto, sul ponticello, col legno, spicatto, flautando, ricochet, tremolo, pizzicato, etc. The various techniques for exciting strings has to be seen as roughly equivalent for violins & guitars.
Where I see the greater versatility favoring guitar is in the ability to voice complex harmony & provide polyphonic counterpoint. That's a pretty big deal, as far as a major portion of Western music theory being essentially unavailable to the solo violin. Then again, guitars work less well in large group settings, so you win some, you lose some.
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#2468779 - 02/05/13 10:00 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Larryz]
Eric Iverson Offline
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Yes indeed keyboards are used in many kinds of music. They are not USUALLY used in bluegrass bands or classical Indian music (the guitar IS used in the latter nowadays). Or brass marching bands, but hey, that's unfair, LOL.

When we say keyboards, are we referring to all kinds of keyboards: acoustic piano, organ, harpsichord, electronic ones?

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#2468783 - 02/05/13 10:20 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Eric Iverson]
Scott Fraser Offline
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Originally Posted By: Eric Iverson
Yes indeed keyboards are used in many kinds of music. They are not USUALLY used in bluegrass bands or classical Indian music (the guitar IS used in the latter nowadays).


Well, there is the harmonium, although one could make the point that its use is more a part of Indian folk song tradition than the classical tradition, but there's a much more fluid dividing line between those two than in the West.
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#2468797 - 02/05/13 10:43 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Scott Fraser]
whitefang Offline
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I have to agree with Scott as far as what the author meant by "versitile". Certainly the violin is easier to carry around, but the guitar, when played either correctly or incorrectly, still sounds a lot more pleasant. No pick? Use your fingers. No BOW? Well then, NOW what? Certainly, within the family of bowed, string instruments, you'll find more instruments world-wide that have similarities to the violin; ie; viola, cello, bass viola, crowd, etc. That doesn't really indicate versatility, however. Other cultures have developed both types of instruments(guitar or violin)for playing indigenous music, from ancient celtic devices to the far East. Other cultures remained largely percussive or carved out flute type instruments. The author of that article(which I haven't read)DID need to make clear what was MEANT by "versitile".
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#2468806 - 02/05/13 10:55 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: whitefang]
Dannyalcatraz Online   content
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I come from a classical background, and I have to vote guitar #1, if for no other as on than that the extra strings give its greater operational scale.

In addition, sticking purely to the acoustic models, the bracing and overall structure of the guitar is a bit more robust, meaning it can handle more radical departures from standard tuning than can a violin. A violin simply couldn't be down tuned to its equivalent of C standard. You couldn't find strings the right size to maintain tension, nor would the instrument be able to seat them properly.
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#2468816 - 02/05/13 11:19 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Scott Fraser Offline
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Originally Posted By: Dannyalcatraz
In addition, sticking purely to the acoustic models, the bracing and overall structure of the guitar is a bit more robust, meaning it can handle more radical departures from standard tuning than can a violin. A violin simply couldn't be down tuned to its equivalent of C standard. You couldn't find strings the right size to maintain tension, nor would the instrument be able to seat them properly.


I'm going to disagree there. You can, & in fact Kronos has, put a viola C string on a standard scale violin. I just did a set of gigs with Laurie Anderson & she plays a 5 string electric violin/viola, a custom instrument built by Ned Steinberger, with a low C on a standard violin scale neck. Also, alternate violin tunings are common in Gypsy, Arabic & other indigenous folk traditions.
Nonetheless, guitar reaches, in standard tuning, down to 2 whole steps above the low end of the cello, & on a 24 fret model, encompasses 4 octaves of range. Violin can't do that.
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#2468826 - 02/05/13 11:46 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Scott Fraser]
Dannyalcatraz Online   content
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I stand somewhat corrected!

However, you're talking a custom instrument- possibly made with that tuning in mind. I tuned my nothing special about it production Ovation Elite to NST and all I did was use some different strings. Didn't even need a change of setup.

Hell, at first, I didn't even change the strings...
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#2468842 - 02/05/13 12:10 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Scott Fraser Offline
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Originally Posted By: Dannyalcatraz
I stand somewhat corrected!
However, you're talking a custom instrument- possibly made with that tuning in mind.


Certainly. I know others with 5, 6 & 7 string electric violins.

Quote:
I tuned my nothing special about it production Ovation Elite to NST and all I did was use some different strings. Didn't even need a change of setup.
Hell, at first, I didn't even change the strings...


True also on bowed strings in classical contexts. One of the Bach Cello Suites is retuned, i.e. the low C is tuned down, to B or Bb, I forget which now. It's not common, but definitely not unheard of in classical string playing where it's referred to as scordatura. It's done occasionally for certain Kronos pieces.
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#2468865 - 02/05/13 01:01 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Scott Fraser]
Michele C. Offline
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Hmmm, have you considered that the literature existing for guitar in the classical world is negligible confronted to how much violin there is?
The violin has been the Strat of the eighteenth century and that has been enough to make it dominate.
The scales are balancing, but they have been for no more than a century.
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#2468894 - 02/05/13 01:55 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Michele C.]
Dannyalcatraz Online   content
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Quote:
True also on bowed strings in classical contexts. One of the Bach Cello Suites is retuned, i.e. the low C is tuned down, to B or Bb, I forget which now. It's not common, but definitely not unheard of in classical string playing where it's referred to as scordatura.


Yes, downtuning can be done on classical strings.

But I'm talking going from E down to C on a guitar in NST- on a cello, that's like going from C down to, what, G#? You'd have the issue of the larger string to accommodate- not just in would it fit, but also for maintaining the proper string tension to keep the bridge properly seated.

I'm not us a standard cello would be up to it...and mine's on loan so I'm not in a position to try it out!
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#2468960 - 02/05/13 04:48 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Eric Iverson]
Larryz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Eric Iverson
Yes indeed keyboards are used in many kinds of music. They are not USUALLY used in bluegrass bands or classical Indian music (the guitar IS used in the latter nowadays). Or brass marching bands, but hey, that's unfair, LOL.

When we say keyboards, are we referring to all kinds of keyboards: acoustic piano, organ, harpsichord, electronic ones?


The electronic keyboards can emulate many sounds to include piano, organ, acoustic piano, harpsichord, strings, horns, space effects, and other instruments using samplers, etc. The electrics are mostly 88 keys played in 440 and the acoustics and other keyboard type instruments are all playing the same way with the same basic notes but with different dynamics.

To narrow the playing field let's just take an acoustic piano, guitar and violin...

1st thing to consider whether it's a violin or anyother instrument is that it's going to have a hard time standing up to a chord instrument like a guitar or a piano when it comes to being versatile. It's hard to play and sing while playing the violin at the same time. It can be done on any stringed instrument but not as easy as a guitar or a piano and definately not on wind instruments. I agree that none of them will fit in with a marching band and the piano gets left out of Bluegrass for some reason? But, violins get left out of other genres as well. If I were to write music and chord changes in any genre, I would prefer a piano or a guitar over a violin. I'm sure there have been great composers that play the violin as their main instrument but most play pianos. Violins are great in many ways, but they are not considered stand-alone instruments. You can play chords and bass lines along with the melodies much easier on a guitar or piano as a solo instrument covering many genres. One must admit, it's harder to pack an acoustic piano to a gig though...

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#2468984 - 02/05/13 06:05 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Scott Fraser Offline
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Originally Posted By: Dannyalcatraz
Yes, downtuning can be done on classical strings.
But I'm talking going from E down to C on a guitar in NST- on a cello, that's like going from C down to, what, G#? You'd have the issue of the larger string to accommodate- not just in would it fit, but also for maintaining the proper string tension to keep the bridge properly seated.
I'm not us a standard cello would be up to it...and mine's on loan so I'm not in a position to try it out!


I'm agreeing that guitar is ultimately a more versatile instrument than violin, but just disagreeing that certain characteristics are exclusive to guitar, or really meaningful signifiers of that versatility. The truly great advantage guitar has over violin, in terms of versatility, I believe, is the ability to play fully realized polyphonic music.
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#2468993 - 02/05/13 06:41 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: p90jr]
Minte Offline
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Originally Posted By: p90jr
Eric Johnson might aurally challenge the violin supremacy at times. I was listening to "Cliffs Of Dover" a while ago and somebody walked past my office and said "oh, I love violin music."


I finally am going to see him live. He is playing at a small venue in Madison on March 1 and I am really looking forward to this concert.

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#2469000 - 02/05/13 07:36 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Scott Fraser]
Dannyalcatraz Online   content
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Scott, I know you were agreeing, but my point was that even many of those things that both instruments do- such as handle alternative tunings- the guitar still has the advantage.

OTOH, the classical stringed instruments can do things no acoustic guitar (assuming normal exemplars, of course) can do. By virtue of their being constructed for being bowed, they can sustain a note far longer. Some members of the classical family can also drown out any guitar.

My last instructor had a cello that was several hundred years old. Its wood was unimaginably thin, and when he hit an open C with any vigor, he could rattle things on the shelves and piano in the practice room.


Edited by Dannyalcatraz (02/05/13 07:43 PM)
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#2469001 - 02/05/13 07:36 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Minte]
Dannyalcatraz Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Minte
Originally Posted By: p90jr
Eric Johnson might aurally challenge the violin supremacy at times. I was listening to "Cliffs Of Dover" a while ago and somebody walked past my office and said "oh, I love violin music."


I finally am going to see him live. He is playing at a small venue in Madison on March 1 and I am really looking forward to this concert.


I've only seen him once, and I will remember it forever. The man really brings it.
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#2469002 - 02/05/13 07:42 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Minte]
russclan Offline
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Originally Posted By: Minte


I finally am going to see him live. He is playing at a small venue in Madison on March 1 and I am really looking forward to this concert.


You're in for a treat. I've seen EJ twice...first time in '91 when he opened for Rush on their "Roll The Bones" tour. It was funny to listen to the people sitting around us before the show started. Most of them were like "Who the hell is Eric Johnson?". Once he hit the stage and started playing, they were all like "Hell Yeah!"

The second time was better, though. It was the first Alien Love Child tour, with Derek Trucks opening. That was probably the best live show I've seen.
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#2469005 - 02/05/13 07:45 PM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: russclan]
Dannyalcatraz Online   content
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I saw him at a multi-day open-air festival in San Antonio- the day after SRV played- and it is the one and only show I've attended at which the drunks were shushing everyone around them when EJ was talking between songs.


Edited by Dannyalcatraz (02/05/13 07:46 PM)
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#2469764 - 02/08/13 05:59 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Eric Iverson Offline
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In 1986, GP had an issue that said, "who is Eric Johnson and why is he on our cover?" This was before "Tones" and "A Via Musicom" and his mass popularity, at least among guitarists.

In that article Eric stated that he really liked listening to violinists, "their tones... that royalty of sound" and how he wanted to bring some of that class into rock guitar.

Back to the topic of versatility, EJ plays a lot of different guitar styles very well indeed. He's not a great singer or songwriter,especially his lyrics, but most guitarists are mainly interested in the great playing anyway!

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#2469772 - 02/08/13 06:27 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: Eric Iverson]
SEHpicker Offline
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Saw EJ in Aspen in the late 90s - And Yes, Derek Trucks opened for him. It was in a little nightclub below street level called the Black Diamond. The place only holds about 200 people. I got there early and got a table 6 feet from the stage. Fantastic show.
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#2469780 - 02/08/13 06:58 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: SEHpicker]
CEB Online   content
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The keyboard stuff is getting really good. I don't carry a banjo or mandolin anymore. The new Yamaha Motif library can pretty much nail those sounds it sonically. I've thought about using a Tele to trigger the sounds but my rig is already complex enough.

Guitar has it advantages and disadvantages. Main disadvantage is limited polyphany and a limited range to spread your voicings, it is a 6 voice instrument unless you use some variation with more strings.

In piano we talk about playing between the cracks, using crush notes and touch to get the feel of playing between the notes. With guitar it is easy you have bends.


Edited by CEB (02/08/13 07:01 AM)
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#2469825 - 02/08/13 10:00 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: CEB]
whitefang Offline
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It's kind of hard to do ANYTHING when you have the "bends". Oh, wait...I get what you mean.

Sorry.

I STILL think of, when this kind of topic arises, that old "Far Side" cartoon that shows a bunch of cowboys sitting around a fire. One of them has a HUGE grand piano sticking out of his back pocket. The caption reads: "Say, Jeb. Why don't you pull that thing out and play us a few tunes?"
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#2470216 - 02/10/13 11:11 AM Re: Most versatile instrument in the world [Re: CEB]
Winston Psmith Offline
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Originally Posted By: CEB
The keyboard stuff is getting really good. I don't carry a banjo or mandolin anymore. The new Yamaha Motif library can pretty much nail those sounds it sonically. I've thought about using a Tele to trigger the sounds but my rig is already complex enough.

Guitar has it advantages and disadvantages. Main disadvantage is limited polyphany and a limited range to spread your voicings, it is a 6 voice instrument unless you use some variation with more strings.


I would respectfully argue that once we bring MIDI into this discussion, limited polyphony is no longer the issue. My guitar only has six strings, true, but if I plug into just one of my guitar synths, the synth engine allows me to use two of its internal tones to construct a sound - tones I can set to very different pitch values from my original guitar signal, so right now, I'm up to 18 possible notes; if I patch in my other GR unit, we're at 30. Add in my outboard synths & modules, and MIDI patchbays . . . well, you get the point. Loopers, sequencers, and effects like Pitch Shifting & Ring Modulation allow for self-accompaniment, harmonizing, and even micro-tonality.

In fairness, a fully-equipped kb MIDI rig clearly has all the same sonic potential, and, yes, you can use all ten of your fingers & thumbs. The guitar is still the most versatile instrument for me, because it's the one I have the most skill with. YEMV. . . .


Edited by Winston Psmith (02/10/13 11:12 AM)
Edit Reason: punct.
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