What Does it Mean to Be an Electronic Instrument?

The electronic music analog to visual media’s question “is it art?” is clear. “Is it really a musical instrument?” Ableton will this week officially launch its Push hardware with Live 9; we’ll have an online exclusive review alongside that release. I know that the company is fond of calling it an “instrument.” For a profile by the German-language magazine De:Bug, Ableton CEO Gerhard Behles even posed with a double bass, the Push set up alongside. The message was clear: Ableton wants you to think of Push as an instrument. We’ll revisit that question regarding Push, but this isn’t only important …


Guitar Innovation, Then And Now: Paul Vo Reinvents Fretless, Acoustic Guitars [Videos]

Imagine any acoustic instrument able to act as a synth, and you begin to appreciate the potential instrumental pioneer Paul Vo may be about to unlock. As we reported last month, music-technological innovation can absolutely involve guitars, not just synths with keyboards. So, it’s fitting that we tun now to a lover of keyboards and guitars alike, Chris Stack, for a look in video at the work of Paul Vo. Vo may not be a household name in sound tech, but he should be, as the inventor of the impressive Moog Guitar. Here, we get look back at what came …

3D printing can not only replicate existing forms - it can produce new ones. The Atom Guitar, from Odd Guitars. Courtesy the manufacturer.

Six 3D-Printed Musical Instruments, and What 3D Printing Could Do for Musicians

3D printing has quickly risen to buzzword, from a technology initially of interest primarily to hobbyists to one that is catching mainstream business and consumer attention. But the actual substance continues to catch up with potential and expectations. Here are six examples of musical instruments that have taken on 3D printing as a challenge. They may not yet compete entirely with wood and other conventional materials. But they do actually play music, and by pushing against the limitations of the technology, they both reveal what’s possible and refine printing’s usefulness. Arvid Jense, Create Digital Music’s summer intern and himself both …


Video: Multi-Touch Soundplane Meets KYMA in Resonating Digital Instrument

Resonations from bar|none on Vimeo. Digital instruments have the extraordinary potential to sound like anything – really, absolutely anything. Delivering on that potential, though, is another matter, a complex dance between physical input and sonic output. The Soundplane from Madrona is unique in that it provides highly-precise touch input across not one but three dimensions – pressure-based input across the X and Y axes, with multiple touch points. (See also: Haken Continuum.) Back to the dancing bit – you have to then use that input musically. Here, we see one possible application, using the insanely-powerful KYMA sound design environment. Description …


Credit Cards, Turned Into Musical Instruments, Sound Pretty Freaking Amazing [Video]

What sort of musical instruments can you make out of plastic credit cards? You might imagine results are limited. But with some clever use of mics, and brilliantly-simple application of time-tested ideas ranging from single-string monochords to music boxes, the results are eminently, wondrously sonorous. And the project benefits greatly from having some compositional intent behind it; the music is focused and makes those credit cards expressive. The project was a promotion for local Austrian banks, but they’re just as effective as promotions for making your own, unique instruments. Vienna-based composer Dr. Richard Eigner describes the project and the team …


AlphaSphere, Spherical Music Controller, Becomes A Messe Favorite; Keyboard Mag Video Hands-on

Music trade shows are typically full of sensible and useful instruments. They may not always represent something revolutionary, but people find homes for them in their musical lives. Of course, the world’s fair futurist in us may want something really different. It was a real treat to get my hands on the AlphaSphere, a UK-engineered alternative instrument that maps pitch across touch-sensitive surfaces arrayed in a sphere. It’s what a lot of people were talking about at Messe when people asked “what’s cool?”, as friends rounded up friends to march them over to the booth. (It’s Hall 5.1, stand C27 …


More Multi-Touch Keyboard Playing

As an addendum to yesterday’s teaser of the Evolution multi-touch keyboard, readers send along a couple of other examples. Andrew McPherson has a terrific example of an add-on, multi-touch, capacitive surface that can go on any keyboard (so, basically the same idea). Description: This video demonstrates a set of capacitive touch sensing piano key tops which mount on top of any existing piano or MIDI keyboard. The key tops sense up to three touches each by position and contact area, letting the performer continuously and polyphonically shape every note in multiple dimensions. The system connects to a computer by USB …


A New Instrument, in Practice: Eigenharp Players Build a New Musical Tradition (Videos)

A look at the keys of a new instrument, now embraced as such by a community of players. Alpha image (CC-BY) Ross Elliott. Amidst the general-purpose computing platforms (laptop, iPad), and latest iterations of the conventional synthesizer (keyboard, knobs), the quest to build something genuinely specific, self-contained, and unique drives on. These creations are strange breeds, evolutionary singularities that aim to embody something the more generic instruments of our age lack: personality and soul. They’re the kind of object you might want to practice for years, to treat in their digital, “post-mechanical” form the way you would a violin or …


Expressive Soundplane Touch Instrument: Decibel Video, Preorder, Tour, Images

Touch on devices like the iPad is functional, but limited in its expression – there’s no pressure or tactile feedback. That’s why we’ve enthusiastically followed Randy Jones’ “continuous capacitive sensing” technology on the Soundplane for some time. Sensing pressure, it behaves more like an acoustic instrument might – that is, if such an acoustic instrument were possible beyond the imagination of the digital realm. As advertised, it “transmits x, y and pressure data for every key continuously at 12 bits of resolution and about 1000 samples per second, letting players move beyond the ADSR envelope model of synthesis and articulate …


Open Source Multitouch Continuum-Style Controller, in Action

Cyril Stoller shares this project, for a variety of multitouch devices (Mac / Windows / Linux / Android, screens and projection) through the also-free-and-open-source Kivy framework. It’s inspired by the brilliant Haken Continuum fingerboard, but whereas that more tactile controller is hard to get, this runs cheaply all over the place. (It could also be a way to practice and save up for a Haken, it occurs to me.) Thanks to Graham Comerford for the tip. I wonder what other ideas might apply to playing multitouch as an instrument. More discussion on the excellent NUI forum – a great spot …