As multitouch becomes more widely available, there’s an opportunity to re-imagine all sorts of interfaces. And yes, that includes the guitar.

I’m way behind on mentioning it, but thanks to all the readers who spotted the fascinating Misa digital guitar. Strings and frets are each replaced with digital touch controls, and the soundboard touchscreen is set up to control notes, velocity, pitch, and filters. In fact, it makes the guitar more like a keyboard, and less like a guitar. But as with all digital instruments, abstracting the gesture from the actual sound means that you can arbitrarily redefine what the instrument really does.

Engadget wrote up the Misa last month

Misa Digital of Sydney has a bare-bones site and waiting list / queries via email.

Don’t want to wait around on a list for the fully-integrated version? Thinking about how you could just strap an iPod touch or iPhone to an instrument and use that instead? You’re in luck. In fact, if you’ve got an Apple mobile and Ableton Live, you can start right now.

Photo courtesy Jim Purbrick; image by Steve Marshall (Stevie BM).

Jim Purbrick first experimented with iPhone performance at an open OSCestra. Unlike the Misa, his guitar remains a real guitar. The addition of an iPhone (or an iPod touch, if you’d rather) is simply a way to augment the instrument. In the grand tradition of the one man band, touch control with the open-source control application Mrmr allows him to manipulate Ableton Live tracks.

The solution is an open source Python hack that connects his mobile device to Ableton Live through Live’s LiveAPI. And incidentally, this solution requires far less effort – and yields more immediate integration – than running a Max for Live device. (I have to point that out, because while I’m impressed by Max’s extraordinary capabilities inside Live, there are practical ways in which direct OSC integration is better for controlling Live itself.)

And good news, Windows users – this all works on your OS, too. In fact, the only problem is the lack of an interface builder for Mrmr on Windows, which is something I think we’ll soon solve. (JavaFX would be a nice choice, as you’d have a cross-platform Java interface that looks nice but runs anywhere, without the pain of developing in Swing. That last sentence will be meaningful only to Java developers; everyone else, pretend I just temporarily started speaking in tongues.)

Details and full instructions for the hack:

An Open Source, Guitar Mounted, Multi Touch, Wireless, OSC Interface for Ableton Live [The Creation Engine No. 2 (Jim’s blog)]


For further inspiration, here’s both the Misa and Jim’s own (real) guitar augmented by touch, in action: