Barry Threw demos the K-Bow at Maker Faire from The Amazing Rolo on Vimeo.

Yann Seznec aka The Amazing Rolo brings CDM his coverage of
music tech at the Maker Faire in three episodes today.

As long as there have been computers, violinists have looked for ways of extending the nuances of their physical performance into the digital realm. (Us keyboardists have it easy – we’re used to pressing an array of levers, and a lot of the gestures we make are, arguably, superfluous.) Many of these concepts return to the idea of the bow.

The K-Bow by Keith McMillen Instruments is a Bluetooth-enabled bow with sensors that read bow angle, length, acceleration, grip pressure, and even hair tension. It’s accompanied by software developed in Max/MSP. The bow itself is one of those “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it situations,” at US$4000-5000 retail, though they claim the bow itself – specially-designed kevlar and carbon graphite, anyone? – can compete with more expensive bows even before you add in the sensors.

In the video at top, developer Barry Threw of Keith McMillen Instruments demonstrates the K-Bow.

Here’s what you get out of the software screen:

Barry has also written up a visit to the STEIM research center and work with sensor bow pioneer Jon Rose.

Jon Rose with the K-Bow

And yes, you can rock out hard with this thing:

I know what you’re thinking – you could also just hook your violin into a pickup and some distortion pedals. I think it’s really the experience of playing it that changes, though I’m just guessing, since I’m not a string player.

Previous research projects:

Jon Rose’s own Hyperstring project (warning: loud hyperviolin audio auto-plays, and I don’t see any mute button!)

The Augmented Violin project at IRCAM: see Emmanuel Flety’s development blog, IRCAM project page and references

And that’s by no means a complete list, of course.