Powertune: Self-tuning Guitars?

Gibson Guitars' new Powertune SystemI’ve heard old-school musicians bemoan the use of electronic tuners. They feel a person should train their ear to hear the pitches and tune that way. Electronic tuning devices have become a part of the fabric of playing a stringed instrument though.

Now Gibson Guitars is taking it one step further. This month Gibson has introduced a new line of guitars featuring what they are calling, the Powertune System.

The Powertune System, available as original equipment only on Gibson guitars, is the first fully functional, performance-ready, and non-obtrusive automated tuning system, and the only self-tuning system practical for use by the professional guitarist.

Powertune, at it’s simplest, is simply a built in electronic tuner that automates the process by taking control of the instrument’s tuning pegs and making the necessary adjustments. It looks like it adds some mass to the back of the headstock, but at this time it’s only available on electric guitars so I don’t know what kind of effect it would have on the sound of an acoustic instrument.

Beyond the basics, Powertune has some interesting features. It is not on by default, so you don’t have to worry about it attempting to tune a string while your bending it. It’s controlled by a tuning knob they have dubbed the Master-Control Knob. The MCK allows one to chose from multiple preset tunings, or to create your own custom tunings and save them. Standard tuning is included, along with drop D tuning and a couple different open tunings.

Operation seems simple enough. All that is required is to activate Powertune, select the desired tuning (both of which are done with the MCK), and lightly strum the strings. Powertune does the rest.

I suspect it won’t be long before Powertune finds it’s way into acoustic guitars as well. Is that a good, or a bad thing? You decide.