What I know is: Pat Metheny is the one who used it on guitar. But, some said that he's the first one who ever use it.

Is it correct? Because I read in Wikipedia that Jimmy Page used it too. What it's came from/origin?

  • Do you want to know which manufacturer invented the first one, notable early players, or both?
    – user16
    Mar 21, 2015 at 9:27
  • @topomorto both Mar 21, 2015 at 9:28

3 Answers 3


The first guitar synthesizers were hand-built instruments that went under the trade name "Guitorgan", were the work of an American inventor named Bob Murrell, and first came out in 1968, ten years before the guitar synth became really well-known. The Guitorgan was polyphonic, meaning you could play 6-note chords on it.

There were a number of guitar effects devices marketed as "guitar synthesizers" in the 1970s, and they were used by professional guitarists on recordings, but these devices were not true synthesizers: they were merely extreme stomp-box-type effects which performed signal processing on the audio output of a conventional electric guitar.

Jimmy Page used the first "proper" mass-produced guitar synthesizer, the ARP Avatar, on the song "Fool in the Rain" on the Led Zeppelin album In Through the Out Door, 1978.

Pete Townsend of The Who also had an ARP Avatar around the same time.

Aside from a 6-note polyphonic fuzz-box mode, the Avatar was a monophonic synthesizer, meaning you could only play one note at a time, and not chords. This was extremely limiting for a guitarist.

The story goes that the research and development cost to create the ARP Avatar was so high, and the sales were so poor (because the instrument did not really work well and was not practical), that it caused the ARP company to go out of business.

The most practical and common guitar synths were made by the Roland company. Their instruments were polyphonic. Roland produced a very long line of different models, I believe starting with the GR-500 model in 1980. It was featured on David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" in 1980, played by Chuck Hammer.

Andy Summers made use of a Roland guitar synth on the song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" on the Police album Zenyatta Mondatta in the same year, 1980.

In 1981, Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp made extensive use of Roland's newest guitar synthesizer, the GR-303, on every song on the landmark King Crimson album Discipline.

Pat Metheney also played the Roland GR-303, but he interfaced it to the New England Digital Synclavier, a digital audio workstation instrument that cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars in its day. His first use of the guitar synth was on his album Offramp in 1982.

So Metheny's use of the guitar synthesizer was preceded by David Bowie, the Police, King Crimson, and undoubtedly others.


The Roland GR-500 was one of the earliest guitar controlled synthesizers released in 1977, a couple of years after the Arp Avatar. The GR-500 was a polyphonic system that was made up of five sections: Guitar, Polyensemble, Bass, Solo Melody and External Synth. The main unit was controlled by a dedicated guitar controller, the GS-500, that looked like a heavily modified Gibson Les Paul. Like the later Roland guitar synthesizers, the GS-500 had a 24 pin connection and the Hexaphonic pick-up by the bridge to drive the synthesizer. Another ace up it's sleeve was the infinite sustain system that was operated by two powerful magnets of opposite polarity placed in position where the neck guitar pick-up would be. The GR-500 was put through its paces by legendary ex-Genesis guitar master Steve Hackett on his second solo album Please Don't Touch (1978) and the following album Spectral Mornings (1979).


Both Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend used - sort of - guitar synthesizers way before Roland GR-500, and ARP Avatar. They bought and used the huge ARP 2500 modular system, which usually was controlled by a regular keyboard. However, those modules included a pitch to voltage converter and you could run a monophonic guitar through it (not playing chords). However, latency, and problems with triggering proved them very unstable, and used only in studio experimental work. I am sure I've read that Jimmy Page used it even as early in the early 70s, on some LZ tracks, mixed way in the background only. He was involved with prototypes of the 360 Systems SlaveDriver, a unit with a dedicated guitar pickup.

Jimmy Page used it for film music for "Lucifer Rising" and it's all produced on guitar as a "trigger" or main controller. From mid 1970s and on I think. Released in limited editions in 2012 I think.

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