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42)   Warranties

Installing your Ztar drivers etc...
Your Ztar came with a CD in the case when it arrived at your door. Pop that CD into you computer and navigate to the folder named "Drivers". Catchy name huh? In this folder you will find 3 files;

Starr USB Installation Guide.zip StarrLabs_USB-PC_Driver_Setup.zip zTar Mac Driver 2_1.zip

It probably wouldn't hurt to read the Installation guide, especially if you are on one of those Windows things. Basically the guide is going to take you through the installation of the driver (another catchy name huh?). Once you are done installing the driver, restart your computer.

On a Mac, the first thing you will want to do after restarting is to check your Audio MIDI Setup application. This can be found in the Utilities folder of you computer. With your Ztar attached and powered via USB, check to make sure that the zTar USB icon is appearing and not "grayed out" in the "MIDI studio" window of the app. If the zTar USB icon is showing and is crisp in color, this means the computer can see you Ztar and it's time to play!

Next launch the sequencer or stand alone software instrument of your choice and select the zTar USB as your input device. Check the documentation for your specific sequencer or instrument as this selection is made in different areas in different sequencers. Usually you can check in preferences or Audio/MIDI settings on most instruments. Play. *We currently do not have or support USB Drivers for Windows 7 or Vista 64. Please check to see if your audio interface has MIDI i/o and use MIDI cables to connect, or an external converter i.e. MIDI to USB conversion cable. We are currently in the final phase of development in making all of our instruments class compliant. Please call us for any questions concerning this issue.

Syncing your Ztar to External Clock
There are a couple of ways in which you can sync your onboard arpeggiator to an external sequencer / DAW / drum machine / synthesizer / 1982 Datsun.

For this how-to lets start with the Ztar preset "ARPPOLY"

First, connect the MIDI or USB output of the device you wish to sync the Ztar from to the MIDI or USB input of the ZTar. It is important to make sure your master device is sending out MIDI clock! Some sequencers will allow you to send MIDI clock while idle, while others require that the session be "rolling" to generate clock.

Next, go to the UTILITIES > CLOCK section of the Ztar menu and select the following:

"Clk: L"

This tells the ZTar to look and accept MIDI clock on the 5 pin MIDI in port.

If you want to accept MIDI clock from the USB port, set to "Clk: R"

To clarify - Clk: L = MIDI in port source. Clk: R = USB in port source. Clk: Int = internal clock source.

The changes you make to "Clk:" in the CLOCKS menu will be reflected in the ARPEGGIATOR menu as well. UTILITIES > MORE > ARPEGGIATOR. You can also set the subdivisions of the Arpeggiator in this menu as well.

Experiment, have fun, make good music.

What the #$%#$ is a Ztar?
The Z-tar is an electronic musical instrument that you connect via a MIDI cable to synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, and computers. The main difference between the Z-tar and other MIDI guitar controllers is that there are no strings on the neck. Instead, the fingerboard is actually a specialized keyboard with a touch-sensitive key each note position. You can play the Z-tar like a guitar where you fret with one hand and strum with the other hand, or you can tap the fingerboard keys to play them as you would a keyboard, only you’re playing the same scales and fingerings that you use on guitar.

The Ztar is not a guitar. It does not replace a guitar. It helps a guitarist play synthesizers and play into computers.

The advantages when using this type of fingerboard are:

You can sustain notes with your fingers as you would with a keyboard but cannot do with a guitar. You’re playing a MIDI controller because you’re playing a synthesizer, and most commonly using sounds other than guitar. Pianos, organs, strings, horns, etc. sound more authentic if you can hold the notes the way a keyboard player does it, rather than strumming a string which dies away and having to re-strum or use a sustain pedal to maintain the sound.

The Ztar fingerboard as able to play up to 24 notes per string, simultaneously! Where you can use this capability is in playing tightly-voiced chords the way a keyboard performs them. An ordinary guitar is quite limited in the type and number of chord-voicings that are normally easy to play on a keyboard. Also, the Ztar’s polyphonic string enables complete independence when playing in a two-hand tapping style.

Because the Ztar has no strings it is not necessary to analyze string vibrations for pitch-detection purposes. While this technology has improved, there are theoretical limitations that will always yield time-delays and glitches in performance, a drawback with most traditional gutiar-synth controllers. It should be mentioned that solving this problem is not the main focus of the Ztar.

How are the notes played from the Z-tar?

The Ztar may be played tapping-style just by fretting the fingerboard alone, or it may be strummed and picked guitar-style. We offer two types of Strumming-triggers: either real guitar strings or a bank of 6 velocity- and pressure-sensing strips called “KeyTriggers”. The StringTriggers play as would an ordinary guitar by responding to the force of your picking technique and muting notes when you rest your fingers on the trigger-strings. The KeyTriggers are very sensitive to a downward tapping or a strumming-motion sideways across them with the thumb. They also will respond to pressure applied after a note has been sounded. This can be used to play a legato-style or add in afterpressure EFX to existing notes. The KeyTriggers are also used effectively for playing Drums.

The String-triggers are quite familiar-feeling and will give the best rendition of guitar-techniques. The KeyTriggers feel unusual at first but offer the ability to control Expression-effects for individual strings.

How are Open-Strings played?

There are two modes of operation for the fingerboard, Guitar-mode and Poly-mode. In the Poly-mode you can play multiple-notes-per-string and there are no Open-strings available because there is no way to indicate when you want to hear the open-string. In the Guitar-mode the fingerboard will sound only the highest fretted note emulating the performance of a real vibrating string, and the open-string sound is played by strumming the trigger with nothing fretted on the fingerboard.

Will I have to “adjust” my playing technique?

Yes, a little. The right-hand strumming-triggers and the left-hand fingerboard are not connected physically with a single set of strings so in that regard the Ztar does not feel like a real guitar. The fingerboard is also faster than a guitar fingerboard because there is less force required to fret a note or chord. Most people will over-play the Ztar when first starting. The Z-tar is a bit like “power-steering” relative to the “manual”-steering of a regular guitar. The instrument however, is sensitive and consistent, so it’s not hard to quickly start making music if you let your ears be yuor guide. Most people find that the feel of the Ztar complements the sounds they’re getting from their synths. If you intend to play straight-up blues-guitar with the Ztar, you may be happier with a real guitar. However, if you’re a guitar-player and you want to play blues-piano for instance, you can kick-a** on that with the Ztar.

What are the Expression Pads for?

The Ztar also incorporates a number of other Expression Pads and sensors for MIDI control beyond what is provided with ordinary guitar-synthesizers, and even most keyboard controllers!

The Pads are velocity- and pressure-sensitive raised surfaces that respond to your touch to output a wide variety of MIDI controls. They are capable of storing and playing notes, chords, MIDI continuous controller effects, sequencer controls, and special triggering effects. Often you may assign more than one effect to a single pad if you wish.

The Pads are arranged in several configurations. Our standard MarkII Pads are about 1? square and are quite sensitive. They are suitable for Tabla-style drumming as well as cross-fading and other effects. Our approach with the MarkIII was to group 6 Pads under the picking-fingers and group the 6 thumb pads for a “raking” effect where you’re applying either MIDI controller EFX or notes/chords that would apply similar to the way one does a “strum” on a guitar where you’re not terribly concerned that you might hit 3 strings on one strum, 4 strings on the next, or 5 or whatever… sort of mimicking the percussive use of the guitar… strum,strum, strum. You might think of it as the way that the sympathetic strings on a sitar are strummed as drones to interleave with melody notes played on the main set of strings.

The idea of having pads on the guitar in the first place came from Vernon Reid who requested a feature that would allow putting a chord on a pad and tapping it or latching it while playing on the fingerboard. The first extension of that idea was to let you capture a chord from the fingerboard while you’re playing and put it on a pad immediately. The next extension of the idea was to allow MIDI EFX and sequencer controls to be played from the pads so that you could control more aspects of your performance right from the instrument.

The pad configuration on the MarkIII was intended to make all of the pads accessible by the right hand from the picking position. But there was a compromise that had to be made due to the available real estate on the surface of the top instrument and the fact that we’re only equipped with a single thumb which can only reach about 3-4 inches comfortable without a major arm or wrist movement.

Having said all that, the genius in these things resides in your own imagination! Seriously, if you close you eyes and imagine your hand motions and sounds that you might wish as results from those motions, then you’ve already started the process. The point is to conceive that all this electronics nonsense can give you power to do things you couldn’t do with a traditional instrument. It’s for the few and the brave.

What else can I get on the Ztar?

The Joystick is standard, but you can also add pressure-sensing strips along the neck for your thumbs, ribbon controllers on the body of the instruments, sustain and expression pedals, and a breath controller.

What is the MarkIII(or is it VRXIII?)?

“MarkIII” refers to our StringTrigger/12 Expression pads right-hand assembly that we’ve fitted to both the Strat-shaped (VRXIII) or the diamond-shaped (624-III) bodies.

How does your model numbering system work?

The model names have grown independently from each other but there are some conventions we use:
“-II” in the model name means “KeyTriggers, 12 pads”.
“-III” in the model name means “StringTriggers, 12 pads”.
“X” in the model name means Expression Pads are installed.
“S” in the model name means String Triggers are installed.

I play with a lot of bends in my notes in a real bluesy style. How can I emulate this on a VRXIII?

We have a new aftertouch mechanism that we’re installing as an option in our fingerboards for $125 that adds string-bends via a programmable MIDI assignment to any MIDI CC effect, in this case Pitchbend. This can also be achieved with a neck-strip sensor that is laminated to the edge of the fingerboard for use by the thumb of your fretting hand, or also by use of the Joystick which is used like a whammy-bar. Having said this, if what you’re looking to play blues-guitar on a synth, there is no electronic instrument or synthesizer that will ever do as good a job of this as a real guitar.

Is it possible to turn off strings triggers separately? For instance, I turn the “A” string trigger off, but not the rest?

Yes, by assigning separate channels to the strings.

Are there problems associated with open strings staying sustained longer than needed?

No. The open-string notes will mute either by muting a “string” on the fingerboard with your fretting hand or touching the String Trigger with the picking hand. There’s also a programmable muting threshold on the fingerboard: press the fingerbaord-key with a pressure lower than your programmed threshold and the string will mute, press harder than the threshold and you’ll get a hammer-on. Rather like a guitar.

What is the joystick for?

All of our models have a joystick as standard equipment. It’s used both as a performance controller and as a data-entry device for our menu-system. Each of the 4 directions of the Joystick are independently programmable to 8 separate events. Pitchbend Up and Down, Channel Aftertouch and Mod Wheel are the power-up defaults.

I have tracking and glitching problems with my regular 'pitch-to-MIDI' Guitar-synth. Are you saying that your Ztar will track better than the BrandX MIDI-guitar?

There is no 'tracking' in the Ztar. It’s a keyboard with extra triggers for the left hand. It’s actually faster than many keyboards. Also, it can put out over 100-note polyphony in the process. 'Tracking' is a term used with pitch-conversion systems. The Ztar, or any keyboard, 'scans' for velocity-readings and pressure-measurements, that’s it. The 'pressure' part of this is important because it allows the Ztar-fingerboard to sustain notes as long as you hold its keys depressed, as opposed having them die away when the string stops vibrating.

What would be the distinct advantage of a Ztar over a midi pickup on a standard guitar besides its more accurate triggering?

The two instruments are different animals really. The guitar-pickup will feel really guitar-like. For blues-guitar this may be the best. If you’re playing guitar patches the regular guitar will feel the most natural. The Ztar will never replace a guitar. The Ztar is best at playing everything other than guitar sounds although it can do that very well also. Pianos, organs, stings, horns, etc. Sounds that have inherent sustain like an Organ are sustained from your fretting fingers just like they’re played on the organ itself. Sounds more natural that way. Using a sustain pedal isn’t quite the same.

If you like polyphony, the Ztar will play multiple notes per string. So you can play piano-chords the same way a piano player does. Cluster voicings. You can’t do this on a real stringed instrument.

If you like to play fast, you can’t possibly outrun the Ztar for speed.

If you have an interest to tap the fingerboard like a keyboard, either one hand or two, you can get an incredible amount of note-information from the Ztar.

Whether strumming or tapping, the Ztar fingerboard can be split into arbitrary rectangular-shaped zones, not just string-by-string as with a traditional guitar synth. Splitting the neck into zones at the fret boundaries is quite a useful way to separate different sounds on the neck at the same time.

The Ztar can control Patch change information to the rest of your MIDI equipment similar to the way a MIDI foot controller works.

There are a variety of other features that separate the Ztar from a guitar, but getting to the basic question: while you can “play guitar” on a ztar, it will never replace a guitar. Instead, it excels at doing things a guitar does not do well, which is controlling synthesizers in a big way.

What body shapes are available?

The Z1 is wedge-shaped, sort of like an original Steinberger™.

The VRX models are Strat-shaped.

The 624 models are Diamond-shaped.

The Z6 is a roughly Strat-shape body.

Does the Z-tar have a fretted fingerboard or can it be fretless?

Frets are standard. The frets are machined into the fingerboard material then fretted by hand. They tend to bound your fingers into the fret spaces somewhat and reduce wrong notes. On the other hand, higher frets will slow your slides going up and down the neck and will make half-tone voicings tough in the full Poly mode. Our standard fret is .025? high which is farily low, but high enough to give you some tactile awareness of the fret positions in addition to the sensation of the individual keys. If you really want to fly and can stand a few wrong notes, fretless feels slinky.

Do your ztars require a midi cable & a power cable?

Just the MIDI cable is required. Phantom power is routed to the Z-tar in two unused pins of the standard MIDI cable.

Do they come with cases or will they fit in stardard cases?

Each Ztar comes standard with a padded gig bag. The diamond is the only shape that will fit into a standard Strat-case. We do offer custom hardshell cases to order.

Do you offer the on-board synth? If so, do you have audio samples or a video?

We’ve been using the Yamaha DB50 or DB51 wavetable soundcard. No audio samples of that card at this point. It’s pretty nice for the money is the general consensus.

Do you just plug into any sound module via a MIDI cable? (I currently have the Roland JV 1080.)

Any MIDI module or computer with a MIDI input interface will work.

Do all of the instruments have a bolt on neck?

Only our MiniZ does not have a bolt-on neck.

Should I have it shipped with the neck unattached to save money?

This really does save in shipping costs when the instrument travels out of the US. It doesn’t matter much when shipping within the US.

What is the Steinberger™ leg rest?

A fold-out leg rest that attaches to the Z1 body. Because the Z1 has flat sides it may slide down your knee if you’re not using a strap. The leg rest may be mounted to place the Ztar at the correct height for your playing position.

Is there any time-delay when using the String Triggers?

There is no noticeable time-delay but there is still a need to adjust the String Triggers for proper sensitivity in relation to your touch. If you have the Triggers set up too “hot” you can get a loud MIDI velocity from a really light touch, but you’ll lose some speed because the string-preamps are saturating when you pick hard and fast. To help this situation, we’ve recently moved to a new optical pickup system which has a more even response.

What is the PALM WHAMMY?

We found that by placing a very low joystick near the tailpiece, it’s possible to simply drop your wrist when you’re picking and place the heel of your palm on top of the stick. Then, by moving your wrist and arm as you play you can perform whammy-style bends with a very natural motion without having to reach over to grab a bar.

Where can I find prices on these instruments? Do you have any specials not mentioned on the website?

It’s quite possible. It changes from day to day. Best to email or give a callOur pricelist is here.

What are the most popular models?

The MarkIII is still our top of the line model and is now priced at $2995. The Z1 is out of stock. The Z6 is our newest instrument. Very sleek and rugged body a bit like a PRS in style. 24 fret fingerboard and either String Triggers (Z6 -S)for the right hand or a combination Trigger/Drumpad (Z6) panel with hard rubber strumming bars and 6 pressure-sensing drumpads. The MiniZ can have the same hardware setups as the Z6. Our Z2 is a double-neck guitar/Ztar. Our keyboards are 2-dimensional key layouts which differ slightly. The Zboard is like a 12-string guitar fingerboard played like a piano (!) with two hands in front of you. The MicroZone is a large honeycomb array of keys that are individually programmable for note-output, and pitch output using our PC-based software. The Z6 and the MiniZ are what I would prefer to build at this point. Options are available for these instruments if you choose to upgrade.

As I see it the main difference for my purposes between the Ztar ans a regular guitar synth would be better tracking on the Z10 but without the ability to mix real guitar with synth. Anything to add to this?

Yes, the Ztar will track better without any glitches. If you’re recording this saves a lot of time according to most people. More important though, if you’re playing piano, organ, vibes, strings, brass or woodwind patches you can finger the notes to sound more as they’re played in their native instruments and the results will be more realistic. The Ztar fingerboard-keys will sustain notes as long as the keys are pressed rather than letting the notes disappear when the strings stop vibrating. Things like organ patches sound weird when they’re strummed

Also, the ztar fingerboard can play more than one note per string so you can play piano chord voicings just the same as a piano player does. Also, the Ztar fingerboard can play much faster than any guitar if you’re into sheer speed. Our intention was not to replace a guitar but to give a guitarist a way to lay down clean backing tracks for composition and to creating entirely new non-guitaristic sounds. The goal is to give guitar players the same clean access to synths with all of the control features that keyboards provide. If you’re using it live most guitarists pull it out for a few tunes unless they’re in the band to replace a keyboard player in which case the ztar is the main axe.

You can also use the Ztar as your main MIDI controller for sending patch changes to your effects-rack and synths, eliminating most of what a foot-controller does. One button can send 16 ProgramChange commands. You can also run your outboard sequencer live from the Ztar if that’s part of your show. Sorry, the list goes on….

What about this two-hand tapping technique? It seems hard.

As you try to emulate the feel of the other acoustic instruments new techniques fall out of the ztar. There’s a lot to say but… a good place to start with tapping-style is to use your ’strumming’ hand, the one that’s new to fingering the fretboard, in a rhythmic capacity. Form an interval shape, say root-5 or 3-b7, and comp that chord in tempo. Then slowly add one note at a time with your left hand (normal fretting hand). Practice sustaining the note for 1 beat, 2 beats, 3, etc. so that you can develop the independence to place that note anywhere over your comped chord.

Now play two notes, experimenting with the same variations until you arrive at a comfort level. If you start slowly and build a piece at a time you’ll soon be able to play lines with your left hand while the right hand chunks away merrily.

Now flip the exercise. Use your left hand to comp a chord and add a note with your right hand. Your right hand will be awkward at this when you start. Remember what it was like when you started playing guitar? Probably not. Anyway, if you want to get over the hump and develop some chops in a hurry, some focussed practice will work wonders. If you’re right-handed it’s likely that your right-hand is more coordinated than your left anyway, for everything else other than playing guitar.

So, approach it like you’re learning piano.

1) take this most difficult advice that was given me by Stanley Jordan: re-tune the instrument in straight fourths. This will reduce the learning curve by 2/3. It’s hard at first, but: a. your right hand doesn’t know the difference as it has no muscle memory for this activity. b. you only have to learn one set of fingerings for every chord inversion and scale patterns are easier see and memorize. c. every fingering pattern will transpose anywhere on the neck. d. you’re not playing barre chords anyway. e. when you’ve got two hands going you’re otherwise going to have a hard time to watch both hands and recognize which string set each hand is working on and which scale pattern or chord shape to play. This is a real impediment to building muscle memory which is what we’re after. You may have to be playing two different shapes for the same chord at the same time.

So, whether or not you decide to re-tune, start to practice major scales, tapping with the right-hand (let’s now call it the “top” hand). Pick one scale and play it 100 times every day, up and down across the fingerboard. Start slow and try not to make any mistakes. You’ll find you can build ridiculous speed on this fingerboard if you begin slowly and deliberately. You can develop what Emmett Chapman calls a “3-finger motor” (I think that’s what he calls it) where the first three fingers of the top hand develop into a little machine with a steady rocking back and forth of the wrist to keep it going. Pentatonics are great to look at this way. Keep your fingers *close* to the keys and try to minimize your motion. Your left hand is used to the wider motions required to fret and un-fret guitar strings, but you right hand doesn’t need any re-training so you’ve got a leg up in that regard.

* rule of thumb * if you play anything daily for one lunar cycle it will embed in your brain and it will be yours forever. (from Howard Roberts although I’m not sure where he got it.)

2) another good excercise is to let your top hand mimic what your bottom hand is playing. You’ll be using the same fingers on either hand (different from what happens when you do the same thing on a piano) so it’s pretty easy to do. You can make it interesting by splitting the fingerboard at the 12th fret and putting sasy, a bass patch in the bottom hand and a guitar patch in the top hand. Or, trumpet and sax. Practice scales with both hands in unison. Slowly, to jam the new process into you brain with clear impressions.

Does the Ztar allow to replace a piano? Can I play a Piano-part with a Ztar as good as with a Piano (if I were a piano-player)?

The physical layout of the notes on any instrument determine much of its character. It might be too much to say that a piano part could be played better on the ztar than on a piano, but the nature of the ztar fingerboard will give you a chance to come pretty close. A piano player would play a given part better on the piano and a guitarist would likely do better with the Ztar. I think that’s a fair statement.

I think these things are key issues (get it?): 1) On a piano one finger plays one note. On the ztar you can do the same thing when playing tapping style. 2) On a piano-keyboard the notes will sustain as long as you hold the keys dodwn. The Ztar will do the same thing. 3) On a piano keyboard you can easily play notes 1/2 step apart. This gives a characteristic sound to a lot of piano styles. On the ztar you can play multiple notes per string in the Poly mode. So, not only can you easily get these voicings, because the ’strings’ are offset in guitar (or preferably straight-fourths) tuning you can easily voice combinations of minor second intervals for thick chord voicings that are hard to finger on a piano. Great for jazz I think.

Also because of the Poly mode you can play two hands independently just like on a piano, separate bass line and melody line, etc. In some cases you can even play the piano sheet music straight from the page. Because you can Zone and transpose sections of the fingerboard, you have the opportunity to set up a low bass with a high melody register. This works well but has limitations because the 6-string Ztar neck only offers 4 octaves in guitar tuning. This is the tradeoff for having two octaves under the fretting hand on a guitar neck. A piano gives you less than one octave directly under each hand. This makes a difference when playing scales.

An interesting workaround to achieve a wide range on the Ztar is to set up the Ocatves tuning which offsets the strings by 12 half-steps. This puts 7 octaves on the neck, nearly the range of an 88-key piano. Two hands are required to play scales because there’s only one instance of each actual note up to the 12th fret. This is a little hard to describe effectively but speaks for itself when you can put your hands on it. Really fun to play.

4) a small advantage to learning the two-hand style on the ztar vs. the piano is that, with the bottom fretting hand in its normal position coming from underneath the neck and the top fretting hand coming down from the top, scales and chords may be played with the same fingers on either hand. PIcture this: on a piano, if you play a scale in unison with two hands, the left hand starts with a pinky but the right hand starts with a thumb. On the Ztar you might start each hand with the index finger. The fingering is the same for each hand. This is easy on the brain when you want to start in with the 2-hand style by fretting a scale with the bottom hand and the same scale, 12 frets higher, with the top hand in unison. Your left hand which is already trained will control the timing to help teach the top hand.

I think the drawbacks to piano style on the ztar have to do with the position of the bottom fretting hand which has to articulate note timing and velocity just by dropping the fingers with none of the wrist and arm motion that you have when playing piano, or that your top hand has on the ztar. It takes a little practice for a guitarist to tap crisply with the bottom hand which is used to letting the right hand deliver all of the velocity information.

I hope this helps and isn’t too confusing.

How about windcontrollers like the Yamaha WX 5. Do I get as realistic brasses & woodwinds with the Ztar as I’d get with the windcontroller?

You’re going to be fingering guitar scales and patterns because of the note-layout of the fingerboard. If your note choices are the same as what a wind player chooses then the level of realism should be about the same. The breath response is about the same however, the WX5 (and the others) have lip sensors and thumb controls desgigned for ease of use by wind players. These things can be re-assigned to other controls on the ztar, like the neck-sensor strip or joystick. Not exactly the same but you can come pretty close with practice. You could probably fool anyone but a wind player.

Is the Ztar good with samplers or just usable with synths?

Works great with samplers. particularly where you can velocity-switch between sample-sets as in the Kurzweils.

And strings: Do I get “real played”-sounding strings with a Ztar?

That’s a function of the synth/sampler.

The MarkIII is the Top-product is said on your webpage. What exactly does miss on the new model Z6 (compared to the MarkIII)? Anything the Z6 has the MarkIII hasn’t?

The MarkIII has 12 multi-purpose Expression Pads. The Z6 has none. The Z6 body is smaller and has a carved top so it won’t accept our existing ExpressionPad hardware on the face of the instrument. We’ve yet to create a new assembly that will work with the Z6. We can however, fit an added 6Trigger add-on assembly to the Z6.

Let me ask:I still don’t grasp the concept of those key triggers. What can one do with them one can’t do with the string triggers (and the other way’round)?

The KeyTriggers are pressure-sensing where the String Triggers sense velocity only. With a KeyTrigger (or TriggerBar), you tap it to initiate the note and you can then continue to hold it down to keep that string “alive”. As long as it is held down you can hammer-on forever, using the pressure on the TriggerBar as a volume pedal for that string. Also, you can press down harder to apply an Aftertouch effect such as pitchbend, modulation, channel crossfade, or 100 other things.

When you’re playing the fingerboard tapping-style you can use the KeyTriggers as pressure controllers to add expression on a string-by-string basis which is a pretty intuitive technique.

The StringTriggers respond to velocity only, just the initial pick attack. They feel quite natural, like a guitar, but they don’t offer any pressure-based features. However, one thing… if you set up the StringTriggers to behave *as if* they could deliver aftertouch (the software will let you do this) you can do funny things like adding pitchbend which will track the velocity of the pluck. Instant Koto effect!

In general, the StringTriggers will get you into the instrument more quickly and will support traditional guitar styles. The real strength of the Ztar is its fingerboard and most people find that the left hand wants to take over as they start to emulate other instruments and stretch out with new sounds. That being the case, eventually *some* people find that the StringTriggers are like training wheels inhibiting one’s performance, and that they might prefer to start using the right hand to either add expression to the left hand or to play notes by putting it on the fingerboard. Classical guitar players will probably want to stick with the StringTriggers. If you’ve got piano in your background you may gravitate away from them.

Does the Ztar require a GX2 or other hex pickup?

The Ztar itself is a standalone instrument that does not use a real guitar and does not capture and analyze string vibrations. The GK2 is normally used with a pitch-detection system such as Roland’s GR-series or their VG-8 guitar processor which applies DPS processing to each string’s sound. Our Z2 double-neck instrument has a real guitar on one side and can accept a GK2-style hex pickup for use with either of these ‘traditional’ guitar synths or processors. The Ztar itself does not have long strings that you fret to create the pitches that are analyzed by a traditional pitch-to-MIDI converter. Pitches on the Ztar fingerboard are selected by pressing Keys, not strings, so there is nothing for a pickup to capture. The StringTriggers on the Ztar are 5-8 inches in length and are ‘tuned’ simply to bring them to proper tension for ‘feel’. If you attached a GK2 to them and routed the output to a pitch-converter you would hear the same six (nearly) identical notes, always.

How different is your instrument from the Roland guitar synth? Is is more versatile?

It’s quite different from the Roland GR-series. The Ztar has none of the tracking or glithcing problems associated with regular guitar-to-MIDI pitch converters. But then again you’re actually playing a keyboard and there are subtle differences in the touch involved. Even though the keys are designed to feel and travel like strings,there is no common set of strings that joins your two hands. And, because of the Ztar keys, a strictly accurate guitar-like or s’string’like performance is only acheived by further setting your synthesizer to deal with hammer-ons, legato, and velocity which are things most all synths can do. Bearing in mind that you’re probably using a MIDI guitar for sounds other than guitar-voices the Ztar fingerboard will prove to be an advantage. Because of the Ztar’s keyboard nature it’s more suitable for piano, organ, string- and horn-section parts ,etc. because the notes do not die away when the strings stop vibrating as does a Roland or other type controller. Instead the notes will sustain as long as you hold the keys. This makes keyboard and horn section parts sound more realistic. Another feature missing from the Roland is the ztar’s ability to play multiple note per string. This is great for piano-voicings, counterpoint, and two-hands on the fingerboard. our instruments also have optional programmable percussion/pressure Pads, Breath control, joysticks, ribbons and pedals. The Ztar is designed specifically for running synths. It has on-board software to allow multiple zones of arbitrary size on the fingerboard and lots of MIDI Continuous Control flexibility. You can control sequencers directly from the Ztar. You can read more details about this stuff in the FAQ on our web-site.

If you’re interested in playing you classical guitar repetoire the Ztar and the Rolands are pretty close. The Roland will feel more guitar-like because it’s a real guitar. The Ztar will be faster, in particular on the bass notes, and tend to play fewer wrong notes in general. Both instruments will probably require a slight modification to your technique. The Ztar may be somewhat more consistent and will certainly provide more versitility if you decide to experiment or set up a ‘one-man-band’. Our instruments are also upgradeable as we improve or add various features.

What pedals work with the Ztar?

Volume /Expression Pedal: We’re looking for a 50 KOhm 3-terminal pot wired to a 1/4? stereo phono plug with the center tap being the ring terminal. 25 KOhm pots don’t quite swing all the way. 100 KOhm pots are fine but no one seems to use them. The Yamaha FC-7 is ideal. Music Industries I think has a not-so-rugged pedal which is electrically about right. Kurzweil re-sells these. Also, I’ve seen them in Guitar Center at various times. The Roland EV5 has a different pot with different wiring but still works a little. I’d assume the Boss pedal is about the same but I haven’t tested it. Also, I think a Korg expression pedal works.

Sustain Pedal: is simply a Normally Open momentary footswitch wired to a 1/4? mono plug.

How may I purchase a Ztar?

Are there are any resellers of your brand in the US or in Europe? We don’t have any re-sellers of the Ztar as we currently sell directly from our factory. But we still need to make the instruments available to people try out without too much risk for either party. So we’re often flexible to as required.

Payment conditions:
All instruments are built to order with payment in advance.

Warranties
: There is a 30-day trial period. We can extend this when asked for extra time.

If you’re not satisfied with your instrument you may request a full refund for the price of the instrument excepting the shipping charges or any custom features that require special construction that is not part of a ’standard’ instrument. These features are identified in advance.

What are the prices?

The prices are shown at our pricelist.

Shipping options?

We ship domestically and worldwide via UPS or FedX. Cost of overseas shipments of full-sized guitar may be reduced by disassembling the bolt-on neck or by shipping the instrument in an optional hardshell case, either of which sufficiently reduce the dimensions of the package to give a cost savings.

Availability?

We currently have a 8-10 week delivery schedule after receiveing your order. Occasionally we have a unit in stock which may be available at a reduced price. Remember to ask if you’re in the market.

Customs requirements?

Customers outside of the US is responsible for customs charges and import duties which can vary significantly for different countries. It is much easier for a customer to find out the customs charges and procedures in his or her own country by callingthe local Department of Customs. This information is not easy for us to obtain here in the US.

How do I adjust the R20 trimpot on the Z7?

This is an older Z7 model if it has the R20 trimpot, the master sensitivity adjustment. Turn the master sensitivity adjustment all the way clockwise until the ztar fires itself, then back off just a little bit, about 1/8 turn. Also, in the Zones/Scan-mode/hammers-menu set the hammer-level=0. You can adjust the threshold for the triggers in the Response menu.