Artiphon Instrument 1: Guitar, keyboard, drums and bass, in one place | CNN Business
Highlights of the story
Artiphon Instrument 1 can be played as a guitar, harp, violin, drum machine or keyboard
The instrument is based on the computational power of an iPhone, housed under its fingerboard
“I wanted to make something that people of all skill levels could play,” says the creator
is it a guitar is it a piano No, it’s a crazy combination of both powered by the iPhone. Plus, it has a built-in bass, violin, and drum machine to boot. The Artiphon Instrument 1 looks something like a medieval lute, but with a smartphone attached to its belly.
The new instrument, released for pre-order this month, combines a keyboard, fingerboard, built-in plectrum and accelerometer-powered wawa effect. Called Artiphon Instrument 1, it is the invention of Mike Butera, Ph.D. in sound studies, from Virginia Tech.
Instrument 1 harnesses the computing power of a modern smartphone to produce and record sound. A downloadable app on your phone lets you select different modes, helping you quickly switch between instruments.
Butera says the invention of the Artifó came to him at a dinner party in his native Nashville that descended into a late-night iPhone-based jam session.
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“It was kind of comical,” says Butera, “the singers were looking at the phone in their laps, their fingers and hands contorted around a device that was just begging to be dropped, trying to hit the right notes in the songs which we could have instantly played on a regular keyboard or guitar.
“It was then that I had the idea of a multi-instrument that would adapt to everyone’s playing technique and musical style. This wasn’t a guitar or a violin or a keyboard, but it could have been any of those.”
Butera says he finds contemporary digital instruments such as keyboards, drum machines and laptops boring, so he invented his own device. “I wanted to make something that people of all skill levels could play, a device as musically agnostic as the piano, but as expressive as a violin.”
Instrument 1 is made of bamboo and hardwoods and is produced by carpenters in Nashville. The speaker grills are made from polished aluminum and the entire device is assembled locally.
Butera says it was important to him that the instrument be of high quality in its construction and materials: “I want to make instruments with innovative technologies that people want to keep and pass on rather than throw away when they become obsolete,” he says .
Presented at the Consumer Electronics Show and the National Music Dealers Association, Butera hopes that Instrument 1 will be embraced by working musicians. “I would like to put Instrument 1 in the hands of Brian Eno, as he has broken so many barriers in electronic music throughout his career,” says Butera. “And The Black Keys, because they’re beyond obsessive about tone… but I’m probably more excited about the genius from Japan who’s going to put a killer video on YouTube and blow our minds.”
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The invention of new musical instruments has always come from technological leaps. The modern piano was a byproduct of mechanical development in the 18th century, and the electric guitar evolved from amplification experiments carried out by big bands in the early 20th century.
The release of the Artiphon Instrument 1 coincides with the 30th anniversary of MIDI, a 1983 innovation that many musicians consider the birth of electronic music.
Paul White, editor-in-chief of Sound on Sound magazine, says the 1 instrument “looks like a high-end version of the You Rock Guitar idea, where the fingerboard is replaced by tactile switches… though as guitarist, physical strings feel much more natural than virtual strings. How much acceptance remains to be seen, but I’m always encouraged to see new instrument ideas hit the market, and it certainly seems to be well designed.”
The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition was established in 2008 to showcase and recognize the invention of new musical instruments. Commenting on the Artiphon Instrument 1, Gil Weinberg, contest organizer and director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, said, “In general, I’m a big believer in using the capabilities of smartphones to power a new hardware The “brain” of these devices is already in your pocket, so why not use it?
“Specifically with the Artiphon, I think they did a really good job of providing a wide variety of gestural inputs that can allow for more musical expression than interacting with the iPhone GUI. My only concern is that these new input modalities are still far from providing the expression that acoustic instruments can provide. But as long as users know what to expect, this can definitely be fun to play.”
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So how does it sound? According to Butera, the instrument “can sound like anything you want.” So if you’re looking for a harp that plays like a violin and looks like a space-age guitar, Artiphon’s new Instrument 1 might just be the instrument for you.