GForce

The last time a guitar generated this much controversy was—well, when Gibson introduced the Les Paul. We all know how that turned out: the Les Paul not only stood the test of time, but has become even more popular with every passing year.

The desire for a self-tuning guitar isn’t new (after all, who likes tuning more than playing?), but it’s not easy to do. Some approaches require extensive modifications to the guitar; others synthesize an in-tune guitar sound from a string, but then you’re not really listening to the string itself. The approach Gibson used in the original Robot Guitar, while transparent to the player, nonetheless required wiring inside the guitar’s neck—there was no practical way to retrofit an existing guitar.

In the decade since the Robot Guitar was designed, technological advances have allowed Gibson to invent a more accurate, reliable, and fully-featured way to do automatic tuning. Perhaps most importantly, it’s unobtrusive and doesn’t require specialized guitar construction—which helps reduce costs dramatically.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE G FORCE™

However, some guitarists who were 100% committed to traditional guitars resisted the idea of automatic tuning, regardless of how well it worked. Some even said they could tune faster than automatic tuning, so Gibson thought it would be cool to set up a series of competitions to find the world’s fastest tuner—sort of like the Russian chess champion who beat the IBM computer—and give a top-of-line guitar to the winner who could “beat the robot.” Well it seemed like a good idea at the time, but despite sponsoring contests at several trade shows on two continents, no one ever could tune faster. Gibson finally gave up, and just gave away a guitar to whoever could come closest.

THE REBEL ALLIANCE

Yet for many, G FORCE™ was a dream come true. For live performance, guitarists could not only tune their guitar in seconds, but choose alternate tunings—without having to swap for a specially-tuned guitar. Studio musicians had the security of knowing a guitar was in tune just before doing a take, while songwriters greatly appreciated that they could be playing guitar before inspiration evaporated. And in conjunction with the Zero-Fret Adjustable Nut, you could raise the action and be playing slide guitar in under a minute—then dial in an open tuning with G FORCE™. Over time, G FORCE™ continued to pick up fans who found G FORCE™ essential for what they wanted to do.

As a result, Gibson’s 2016 model year offers a choice: the Traditional line without G FORCE™, or the High-Performance version with the latest G FORCE™. At this point G FORCE™ technology is mature, so aside from a speed increase, it’s very similar to G FORCE™ in the 2015 models. However, the string post has been redesigned to make it easier to change strings, and when tuning manually (which you can do with G FORCE™ —you don’t have to tune automatically), the feel is smoother.

THE SOFT TOUCH

Software is the brains behind G FORCE™, and it does more than simply tuning to concert pitch or alternate tunings—it can accommodate low tunings, presets, tuning references other than A 440, and there’s even a capo mode for quick tuning when using a capo. Those who want to go really deep can use features like creating custom tunings, “sweetened” tunings, tuning to non-standard pitch (like if a piano is slightly flat), and more.

JUST TRY IT

Whether you think the existence of automatic tuning means you’ve died and gone to Heaven, or you assume it’s something you’d never use, there’s no way to understand fully what G FORCE™ offers until you try it. You can use it in the simplest way possible—push a button, strum, play—or dive deeper into alternate tunings and the advanced software functions.

In any case, once you start using it, it’s hard to go back because G FORCE™ means you can start playing almost as soon as you pick up your guitar. As one millennial guitar player asked, “Why would anyone want a guitar that doesn’t tune itself?” Good question.