I’m a tech geek as well as a guitar nerd. So when I saw this new little gadget called Roadie that connects to a smart-phone or tablet via bluetooth and tunes your guitar automatically, I got excited. Not even because it’s something I think I need. I mean, I can tune my guitar just fine using my good old Boss TU-2 or my Planet Waves clip on tuner. But a handheld, automatic guitar tuner? That’s just plain cool! And it could very well be the future of guitar tuning.
We’ve seen inventions before that could tune up a guitar automatically. When Gibson launched their first series of Robot Les Pauls and SGs, it was the first time a guitar that could tune itself was widely available. The guitars got everyone’s attention and I don’t think there was a guitarist on the planet that didn’t want one. The only problem was that the technology was built in to a very expensive guitar, making it more of a luxury novelty than anything else.
Shortly after the advent of the Gibson Robot Guitars, we saw Tronical, makers of the auto-tune technology, release the Min-ETune System as a stand alone device. This system could be retro-fitted to most guitars and was more affordable than buying a Gibson Robot Guitar. However, this was not a practical solution for most beginners who would have to do some serious modding to their probably pretty cheap instrument.
I think Roadie does a better job of solving the automatic tuning problem by 1) being a hand-held device thereby eliminating any need to modify the guitar itself and 2) using smart-phone and tablet technology that’s already ubiquitous to do the digital processing.
At a eventual street price of $99, will Roadie make it into the hands of people who need it the most: beginners who have yet to develop any skills or an ear for pitch? Well, probably not so much for kids, who’s guitars may only cost $100. My guess is the early adopters of Roadie will be adult beginners who have the expendable income, guitar techs who have to tune a lot of guitars on a regular basis, and technology geeks who also happen to play guitar, like myself.
Roadie is the first device of its kind to make it out of the proto-type stage and clearly, plenty of people are excited about it with the Kickstarter Campaign skyrocketing well past its required goal. But Roadie is just the first iteration of what may be a new generation of guitar tuners. If the idea proves to be popular then inevitably, competitors will come along and the technology and manufacturing process will become cheaper. The future of guitar tuners may be “automatic.” They’ll cost only about $20 or $30 and they’ll use our smart-phones which are only getting smarter and faster. But I suppose only time will really tell.