We all had friends who were into tech-based games and few those who always wanted to be rock stars and celebrities. Probably, this generation has minds that want it all together – technologically advanced rock stars with their hi-tech musical instruments!
Technology has always played a major role in the evolution of any instrument. The earliest inventors only had to worry about how to make sound and then how to most efficiently amplify it. Now, technology has led to so many different musical possibilities that it can be hard to figure out what’s “next” and what’s just a gimmick.
Here we have some of the most interesting tech musical instruments — most of which are so new or niche that they’ve barely cracked the market.
1) The Zeusaphone
This is kinda old wine in a new bottle… err…ok, we make it simple. This “instrument” relies on an old piece of technology, the tesla coil, to create music in the exact same way that lightning creates thunder. There are no amps or conventional speakers, just giant electric bolts creating unique pitches. While conventional speakers create vibrations in a diaphragm or membrane to create sound waves, the “zeusaphone” directly creates pressure and temperature changes in the air that results in sound waves emanating from the electric bolt. By modulating the spark output, the pitch of the tone can be accurately controlled. This instrument is beautiful to watch and extremely loud.
The Reactable is a mash-up of tangible and digital interfaces to create a weird yet unique music instrument. The concept mashes tangible and digital interfaces to create one of the most futuristic instruments available today.The table is a digital interface that interacts with blocks placed on its surface. The blocks can represent musical samples, synthesizers, effects, and more and manipulating the blocks (by moving or twisting them) changes different attributes of the sound. The blocks can also have different effects when used in conjunction with other blocks. It also becomes a collaborative instrument as up to four players can participate in shaping its sound. This instrument is almost as beautiful to watch as it is to hear with true attention to detail in every aspect of it. It is created by the company ReacTj.
3) The Eigenharp
The Eigenharp is truly an impressive instrument. It combines the functionality of a sequencer, a synthesizer, and a beat machine into an instrument that plays like a combination of a guitar and a bassoon. With its 120 keys that are pressure and direction sensitive, two pressure strips, and three inputs (keyboard, mouthpiece, and tap-pad), the musical possibilities are endless. It allows musicians to imitate any instrument while creating loops and drum beats on the fly. It is an entire orchestra in one instrument. A UK-based company invested about 8 years and $16 million USD to develop Eigenharp, a state-of-the-art musical instrument.
4) The Laser Harp
The Laser Harp is a pure digital interface that interprets the human player’s movements and creates sounds sound, much like a digital synthesizer. The difference is that the interface is a series of laser beams fanning outwards from a laser emitter. With the use of special photodiode gloves worn by the musician, they can interrupt different laser beams at different places to create different sounds, even vibrato and slides. The synthesizer than interprets that information into any potential sound that is programmed into it. In short, insanely fun.
5) The Holophone
Science-fiction has predicted an instrument that contains a visual hologram aspect along with the musical elements. Well, the first generation of such an instrument is upon us! The holophone uses a digital interface for the user to create music while simultaneously producing a three-dimensional visual that interacts with the music. The visual is projected on a wall and is seen in its full 3D form with special glasses. This could be the first step into an entirely new world of visual-audio producing instruments. This is quite impressive, we say.
The Swarmatron, developed by brothers Brian and Leon Dewan, is a purely analogue instrument recently used by industrial musician Trent Reznor for his musical effort “How To Destroy Angels.” The Swarmatron uses an analog aesthetic that differentiates itself from its similar-sounding electronic counterparts. Two pitch ribbons and multiple knobs which are the controllers to separate or cluster eight layers of sound. Its primitive mechanism produces a genuine ambient texture not often found in electronic instruments.
The BeatBearing is a fully tangible interface that caters towards making electronic music. Users can compose different rhythms by picking up bearings and placing them into different slots, making for a more engaging and intuitive music-making experience. Designed by musical instrument designer Peter Bennett, he plans to share his idea not through signing a contract with a musical instrument-manufacturer, but by using DIY-site MakeZine to distribute a tutorial for others to make themselves.
The CrudBox, invented and used by the folks at CrudLabs, creates an interface for an embedded Arduino board. Arduino is a very successful open-source micro-controller project aimed to be affordable and democratic. The housing is the controlling interface that harnesses the potential of Arduino’s open source programming – users can configure the output sound through simply programming on an inexpensive board. CrudLabs aims to explore the juxtaposition between electronic and mechanical sound qualities with this 16-step sequencer.
The Tenori-On was invented by Japanese interactive media artist, Toshio Iwai, to create a device that merges the experience of playing music and drawing pictures. The futuristic musical instrument features a 16×16 matrix LED grid surrounded by an aluminum frame. Users can play sounds and create loops by pressing down the LEDs for a certain duration. The Tenori-On can also join in on synchronized sessions with others with the device, making it a collaborative song-writing experience. Music legend Jim O’Rourke has composed music with the device.
10) Continuum Keyboard
Haken Audio has developed a musical instrument that produces sounds by tracking the x, y, z, coordinates for fingers. With the Continuum Keyboard, musicians can slide their fingers up and down to digitally “pluck” the instrument. Depending on the performer’s playing technique, the device can even accurately resemble the sound of an acoustic instrument. The Continuum Keyboard can also track 16 fingers simultaneously.