A keyboard guitar is a relatively lightweight keyboard that is supported by a strap around the neck and shoulders, similar to the way in which a guitar is held. The keyboard guitar, also called the keytar, was designed to combine the advantages offered by keyboards and guitars. It was made to be easier to play than a guitar, and to offer a greater range of movement than traditional keyboards do.
The keyboard guitar was first produced commercially in 1980, and was made popular by many 1980s musical groups. As bands began to move away from 1980s musical styles, the popularity of the keyboard guitar began to diminish. However, due in part to new software innovations and a revival of the musical style known as Synthpop, the popularity of this instrument began to renew in the late 2000s.
Only a small number of companies have produced keyboard guitars, but they have had many variations over their relatively short history. The first true keytar was the Moog Liberation®, released in 1980 by Moog Music&trade. Being the first, it was one of the simplest of its kind, but it did feature several controls located on the neck of the instrument for pitch, volume, and other parameters. A popular, later model keytar was the Roland&trade AX-7®, which was manufactured from 2001 to 2007. It had many more advanced features, including velocity-sensitive keys, an LED display, and proprietary sensors which use infrared light to detect the nearby movement of the player’s hands.
The popularity of the keyboard guitar has given rise to spinoff versions of this instrument. These include some types of children’s toys made in the shape of a keytar, but which have only limited capabilities and less-than-ideal sound quality. The instrument builder Vinson Williams has also developed two instruments based on the concept and look of the keyboard guitar. His Keytar&trade V-1® and Keytar&trade V-2® combine a guitar body with a piano keyboard and strummable metal strings like those on a guitar.
The strings on the V-1® and V-2® are fretted differently from guitar strings. Instead of the string being strummed with one hand and fretted with another, the instruments have rubber pads which, when pressed, fret the strings. This method is reminiscent of the method used to fret strings on a clavinet. These types of advances represent a further musical innovation which places Williams’ instruments in a different category altogether from the original keyboard guitar.