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  1.  (8799.1)
    I've always loved the music instrument. I started on the trumpet, have played guitar for 20+ years now and have fiddled with all sorts of other instruments. Whenever an instrument comes within reach that I have never played with it won't be long before I have tinkered with it.

    In this age of synthesizers, sampling and turntables what is the future of the standalone instrument? The piano and guitar can easily be interpreted as the epitomes of musical instruments, but have you been playing with something that's not in the mainstream? Something that makes a noise that moves your soul?

    Tell us about it!
  2.  (8799.2)
    Bah, I'm a very mainstream instrument kind of guy. Guitarist of ten years, mandolin player of about four. I'd love to play around with a cello, bouzouki and Mellotron though.

    I've had a go with various synths and drum machines, but they'll never match up to my "standalone" instruments. I see way too much possibility in guitars for me to ever put them down. I say the future of standalone instruments is very bright, and no amount of electronics will ever displace them. I'd say they live in harmony now, and always will. While laptops can be very powerful musical instruments nowadays, we'll never be able to part with "organic" instruments. They're not just for music, they're also a part of our history and respective heritages.

    As a final note, I can't wait for offtandiscord to tell us all about his Aeolian Violin and Windjo and mind-powered symphony machine that doubles as a doomsday device.
  3.  (8799.3)
    Until you can make a synthesiser that you can pass round in the latter stages of a party and ruin Van Morrison songs, there'll always be a place for the humble guitar.
  4.  (8799.4)

    I've felt that I've been playing a dead instrument for years now. Not that I want it to die nor has it stopped me from investing a lot of time and ringing a lot of pleasure from it, mind you. It's just twisting new things out of it is getting harder and harder. Not to mention there's a ton of information on line about it.

    A new instrument with a new sound; Now that's what I'm looking for.
  5.  (8799.5)
    My guitarist gave me a fully functioning Juno 60 for my birthday. Has the potential to overtake my guitar
    as my go to instrument but it'll be awhile. It's certainly left me wondering why alot of 80's synth pop
    sounded shit, because it sounds amazing.

    I think there are still innovative mods left to be done with guitars, from the wiring and electronics
    down to the construction materials. Pedal mods have gotten extremely popular in the last 5
    years, and I've done a few minor ones myself to really great results. I've been pondering how
    to wire a keyboard mod-wheel into a guitar pickup for awhile, but I'm not super sharp on
    manufacturing my own chip boards and such, and I don't like having alot of electronics onboard
    the guitar.

    The thing is, with few exceptions the engines of synthesis that the 90's brought us haven't even
    been used to their fullest extent yet. People seem to spend alot of money on equipment that
    reproduces another sound rather than creating a new one. It would be entirely feasible to
    cram an orchestra into a digital drumkit, assign the sections to each drum, set it to arpeggiate
    the sequence of notes you want, and bam. Never seen it done yet though.
    • CommentTimeAug 23rd 2010 edited
    People are moved by different sounds. No matter what new instruments people come up with, no matter how moving others find their sounds, if I don't like those sounds, these instruments will be useless to me. Composers and musicians have been seeking the pure sound forever but what did each of them mean by pure sound? Is there such a thing as an archetypal, platonic ur-sound? Is it the sound of an infinite string? An infinite oscillator? An infinite drum? Imagine, with Lester Bangs and Kraftwerk, that the technology existed that would allow us to translate faithfully the thought of a sound into its acoustic equivalent, exactly the way we thought and imagined it. Would that be the ultimate? Would it be preferable to actually playing an instrument? Would it be preferable to try and reproduce the faithfully reproduced imagined sound with available instruments? Would we miss instruments if we were able to do something like that? Would we miss playing with other people? Jamming?

    Compare that to the advent of the synthesiser. Compare it to the advent of soft synths and music software that has replaced virtually any need for a composer and/or producer to rely on other people. Consider Zappa and his synclavier, Vangelis and his CS-80, Tangerine and their Moogs, Fred Frith and Derek Bailey and their guitars, Coltrane and his sax, Henry Cowell and his prepared pianos, Milford Graves and his drums, any musique concrete composer, including the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The sounds keep coming, unexpectedly, inadvertedly, serendipitously, by design and sustained effort, endlessly.
    • CommentTimeAug 23rd 2010

    I've got a Juno 6, which is a lovely synth. Absolutely love it. I completely agree, the potential of synthesis has not been fully explored yet. Long way to go yet.
  6.  (8799.8)
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    guitar guitar guitar, all else is apostasy
  7.  (8799.9)

    Trust me, I'll never give up on the guitar. ;)


    Actually I'm moved more by drums as a guitarist than anything. I hear a drum beat and it inspires me to play all sorts of different things. I've thought of trying to produce a different kind of physical drumset, even to something as simple as cardboard...

    • CommentTimeAug 23rd 2010 edited
    Imagine... that the technology existed that would allow us to translate faithfully the thought of a sound into its acoustic equivalent, exactly the way we thought and imagined it.

    Given the time and the proper know-how, a good FM synth will get you just about any sound you could imagine. It's horribly complex, and the main thing is getting the sound out of your head and into the synth. If you can eliminate the middle-man of the left brain portion of "getting the sound right" and focus on "getting the sound," you'll be a very rich fellow indeed. At that point, though, something must become the instrument, or at the very least the transducer converting from "thought" to "sound". Some machine to read brain waves, or what have you. Call it the Brainsynth, I don't know.

    As for the jamming point, the appeal of jamming is getting other people's influence. Collaborative art. So no, you wouldn't miss that with such a system. It's just that your cost to entry--being able to physically play something--would be removed. Anyone could do it. Which therefore leads to more jamming. Theoretically, anyway.

    It would only be a matter of time until the lead Brainsynth player tried to drown everyone else in the group out with his Brainsynth wankery.
  8.  (8799.11)
    I'm a bass man , 6 string electric and 5 string fretless semi acoustic , the thing is you can make some truly weird sounds with effects and trying different styles of playing (boss me-50b)
    say , using waw pedal+ octave shift down + square wave filter - then change the midrange . playing slide blues sounds insane.

    Even not-so-inventive stuff -I use the bass to simulate a heart beat in the build up to a song -
    (palm mute the strings while thumping the body of the guitar)

    I think we will keep finding ways to innovate with the instruments we have , less used scales , tempos , time signatures etc .

    I've been buying some old synths and general noise making electronics in charity shops and e-bay and with a bit of tinkering I hope to be
    performing with them soon enough

    I cant wait to hear the music I will be telling my clone-children to turn down.
  9.  (8799.12)
    Synths have a future, but they’re hardly the only future for a lot of reasons. First, people are always pushing the limit of what existing instruments can do and be. Electric versions of the violin, cello, and bass are still in their infancy. Now that people have mastered seven-string guitars people are moving to eight-string models. New materials will push these instruments even further as people experiment more with aluminum and carbon-fiber bodies. And as the quality of manufacturing instruments in the developing world gets better the prices keep getting lower, making instruments available to far more players.

    And the internet has completely changed the way people learn to play music. You don’t have to be limited to the local music teachers any more. There are thousands of video courses available online for learning just about any instrument and style of music, allowing teachers to work with students anywhere in the world.

    Both of those are going to combine in a sharing of musical styles and instruments across cultures. In a decade a Texan will be able to buy a low-cost, high-quality electric Sitar made in Indonesia, take lessons from a teacher in India, and collaborate with a musician in Copenhagen. Synths will fit into all of this somehow, but they’re not going to dominate any more than they already do.
  10.  (8799.13)
    I just noticed that I left the 'h' out of synthesis. Awesome. :P

    I'm not concerned about the future if synthesis. It's here to stay. I'm more interested in new traditional one-voice instruments. Guitar and piano have endured mostly for their versatility in playing complete arrangements that include rhythm, percussion and range of scale. the keyboard is a logical input device for synth and I've watched as companies have struggled to make a guitar a midi device, a goal that I think is futile because although working midi guitars exist, they lack any of the subtlety and nuance that allows me to do everything from harmonics to distinguished slurring.

    Maybe I'm fooling myself that there is a new, exciting standalone instrument I'm not aware of to employ musically. The simple analog nature of the acoustic guitar was what made me start this thread. It's an instrument that epitomizes analog and the versatility of a box, a few strings and frets, allowing for nothing more than human interaction to make amazing sounds.


    I have guitars set up in coil-tap, phase switching, cut-off switches, etc. I've played with different capacitors in the tone knob, but this Tone-X knob from Chandler guitars looks really interesting. I've also wanted to set up a rheostat in place of the toggle switch to mix between neck and bridge pickups, but haven't found a good way to wire it up yet...

    Edit: Oh yes, almost forgot. For the synth lovers...

    • CommentAuthorErisah
    • CommentTimeAug 23rd 2010
    Personally I love woodwind. I am yet to hear a convincing synth of say, a clarinet or a saxophone that didn't generally lose most of the intonation and expression that any beginner could inject into their playing. So for me, flutes, clarinets, sax, brass etc will always be instruments worth hearing in their original forms, because while the straight robotic noise might work for techno, it really doesn't for anything more musically complex, or with any feel beyond "it's got a good beat".
    The day a computer can produce the expression for a convincing jazz clarinet solo will be the day I convert. Until then, original is best.
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeAug 24th 2010

    Sho, an amazing Japanese instrument based on the Chinese sheng.
    • CommentAuthorErisah
    • CommentTimeAug 24th 2010
    It's like panpipes and a harmonica had a baby. And then the baby grew up to be a mcguffin for some mystic quest, and then met a sexy oboe-pipe organ hybrid, who was trapped in the castle guarded by a dragon. Panonica defeated the dragon by bedazzling it with sweet tunes, and then it and Oborgan fell deep in cliche, and decided to ride off into the sunset, meanwhile bypassing a group of suspiciously flawless-looking people carrying swords and wearing more velvet and lace than a gay goth float at mardi gra. But Panonica and Oborgan figured that these people weren't important. They were in cliche, they were heading for the sunset, and they were both well aware that that meant they were in for a happily ever after. Those were the rules, after all.

    So then they made beautiful music together, and then one day along came little Sho. Who went back in time and saved the universe. But that's another story.
  11.  (8799.17)
    @ newspaperdrone - I'm working on it ;)

    Synthetic instruments are becoming a lot more realistic, some of 'em have Gigabytes worth of information just for one instrument. The Drumkit from Hell, for instance, rarely plays the same exact snare sound. It has a database of hundreds of very slightly different snare sounds to pick from to try and recreate the human element of variation when hitting a snare. They're applying it to tons of other instruments too, a good friend has a violin synth that has I think about 3 Gig of violin sounds...

    I don't think anything will overtake proper instruments when it comes to musicians who want to play real music, but I think people are branching out a lot more now and finding instruments from other cultures to play or mixing different sounds or techniques of playing into what they're used to.

    and there's tons of new instruments that are mixing MIDI controllers and synths into organic playing techniques. The Moog guitar is an amazing piece of kit that adds new elements to a regular guitar, I've seen MIDI controlled didgeridoo's, flourescent light bulbs being played, Ranjit Bhatnagar over at Moonmilk has been doing amazing things with instruments and very basic electrical controls. Not that getting instruments to play themselves is anything new, he's just been applying it to new things.

    I shy away from building any electronic instruments, if I wanted to make a synth i'd rather find a way to make an acoustic version of what a synth would sound like.

    the links on the left of my blog have a few good links to places that deal with new/weird instruments
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeAug 24th 2010
    That's awesome Erisah. We need more fairytales about anthropomorphizations of musical instruments!
    • CommentTimeAug 24th 2010
    For me, the interesting thing now is not so much new instruments, but finding new ways to hear what is out there already, and then new ways of interacting with them.

    I think it will be hard to come up with truly new non-electronic instruments. Variations on old, for certain, but truly new? Doubtful. But what there is now is an ever greater palette of tools with which to take on the sounds that are everywhere anyhow. From harmonic shifting and rebalancing; powerful transposing, shifting and warping tools to things like psychoacoustic sampling like the guys at Spectrasonics are doing - I think that is the future.

    The other thing then is finding new ways of handling those tools. Interface design is where things will really get interesting and where there is a lot of room for innovation. Things like the Eigenharp or Reactable are just steps moving towards new ideas of how sound can be interfaced with. How can we best handle sound? We used to require strings or pipes, now we can make any sound we want, and twist and distort them in any way. The creative part is now making that process intuitive and easy, but also understandable and creative, rather than random and confusing.

    However, having said all that, in terms of sound, instruments and creativity, I think Diego Stocco is the man.
  12.  (8799.20)
    Diego is amazing, I wish i had the time and equipment he had to be able to make bigger and better things!