here are three new instruments heard prominently on this album," begins Metheny, who on Imaginary Day continues to play electric and acoustic guitars and guitar synthesizer, as well as seven other stringed instruments ranging from the ukelele-like tiple to the baritone guitar to the acoustic sitar guitar. "The first of the new ones is something I've been working on for six or seven years, the fretless classical guitar. I've been trying to develop a fretless model since I was in high school; it's very difficult to get any kind of sustain with strings as light as guitar strings normally are. Linda Manzer came up with an idea a few years back that really works out well, which is to have a fretless classical guitar with a almost cello-like bridge. Ironically, I wound up running it through a fuzz tone to get the sound I like. It's featured on "Imaginary Day" and it offers me a set of new possibilities, in terms of phrasing and sonic colors. It ends up sounding a little like a slide guitar, but with me getting around the instrument a bit more than slide technique would normally allow and trying not to play the usual blues phrases associated with that instrument.
"Next, there's the 42-string pikasso guitar, which I've played here and there on different albums (viz. his 1986 encounter with the revolutionary multi-instrumentalist/composer Ornette Coleman, Song X; on young alto saxophone giant Kenny Garrett's 1996 Warner Bros. cd Pursuance; and on this year's meeting with the great bassist/composer Charlie Haden's Beyond the Missouri Sky, as well as on last year's pmg entry, "Quartet"). But it's never been featured before, as it is on Imaginary Day's "Into The Dream."
"Basically, it's a conventional guitar that's flanked by three other sets of multiple strings that cross underneath and over the main body of the instrument. So you can be playing a regular guitar but have these other areas on the same playing surface where you can have ringing notes, some of which are higher than the regular guitar and some of which are lower. It's really the closest I've come to something like a piano that's also a guitar; you can really have a lot of notes ringing and sustaining over other notes without using any kind of electronics.
"Finally, there's the vg-8, a new kind of guitar audio workstation made by Roland. It isn't a guitar synthesizer and it isn't an effect, it's something in an entirely new category. It's a pick-up you can put on your guitar that allows you to make any guitar sound like other combinations of guitars, amps, microphones, speakers, rooms. The vg-8 is an incredible tool for manipulating the amplified sound of what your guitar delivers to the listener. I also used it a lot on the album I did with (the British guitarist) Derek Bailey earlier this year (The Sign of 4, a 3-cd set).
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