What do you do if you can’t find an instrument that you can play the way you want? In the digital domain, you can just invent one.

So, when Brooklyn-based artist Nick Demopoulos wanted a controller that’d allow him to articulate digital instruments more like a guitar and less like a keyboard, he built his own expressive touch controller. It uses arrays of touch-sensing strips on a guitar body. A future version, he says, will incorporate 6 “strings” (touch strips).

New York-based literary/culture quarterly BOMB Magazine shot a video in which Nick walks through his creation.

Nick has also played our Handmade Music series in New York, at Culturefix. (See documentation of that event, from 2010.)

Videos of Nick playing:

Lots of stuff on SoundCloud, too; I enjoy the rhythms in this one:

Whispers in the Water by Nick Demopoulos


It occurs to me looking at this, too, that if you could improve the sensing accuracy and physical feedback from the touch strip, you could radically improve the instrument. It’s really the quality of these kinds of sensors that will have the biggest impact on future instruments – that is, the fundamental ideas about these controllers are out there, and now implementation means everything.

Thanks for sharing your work, Nick!

  • David

    As someone who plays guitar, I too found it frustrating to interface with my computer using a keyboard controller.

    Not being able to build or buy a midi guitar, I found the  Melodyne convert Audio>MIDI feature actually works really, really, really well.

    Peter, not sure if you've ever posted about the feature before, but you should should check it out and spread the word!

  • Tim

    One addition that Nick could make if he reads this, is to add pressure sensitive strips under the variable resistor strips that he currently has. This would allow for velocity sensing and while not terribly similar to a guitar, would allow added control over the sounds. Glad that other people are going down the DIY route.

  • Tim,

    What's up, this is Nick. Thanks for the suggestion. I might do that. I'm kind of leaning toward putting Force Sensing Resistors on the body so the right hand can articulate the attack or shape of the notes. That way it would also be similar to a guitar.

  • Blob

    Great stuff, Nick, congratulations! Any plans for an OSC controller as well?

  • donsknotts

    The extension cord makes it look like a leaf blower from the year 3000. nj

  • Blob

    @Nick (in case if you have time to answer):

    I only work with conventional MIDI keyboards and pads,etc., and have little experience with sensors and hardware making – so, here's 2 newbie questions:

    – audio and MIDI effects apart, is pitch bending achieved only by sliding or is it possible to emulate guitar string bending technique?

    – Also, how does vibrato work, does it feel relatively natural?

  • j

    could have just bought a roland GI-20 or a roland gk3 instead of acting like an innovator. 

  • Guest

    why does the music has to be this lame?

  • hey, cool! and i like the track you posted. Nick, did you perform it in realtime w/your smomid?

  • Jason

    Starrlabs Ztar anyone? Um…. what's the real difference here?