NIME – Concept and Building

Boys love toys.

I remember when I say this to Nancy, she giggled like a teenager.

And when I was stuck on my NIME project ideas, it’s Nancy who tells me:

Don’t do what you think you must do, do what you enjoy.

What do I enjoy? I enjoy playing toys.

And playing my guitars.

I can shred random notes, riffs, and chords for hours continuously on my guitar, and I enjoy the process so much.

I think I can make something I’m willing to play.

The dying guitar industry

Undoubtedly, the guitar industry is in its sunset.

Young lads listen to electronic music nowadays, and having the skills of playing the guitar is not cool anymore.

I tried to embrace those new toolsets, like DAWs and virtual instruments. They are just other instruments for me, but it’s so hard, since my music theory and skills are based on a guitar fretboard, while DAWs and MIDI are working on the piano roll.

Can I make a MIDI instrument featuring guitar fretboard?

Expressiveness.

A MIDI guitar is not a new story, I’ve seen ADs of those things for a long time.

You can modify your guitar to make it generate MIDI notes, or you can buy a MIDI controller that plays just like a guitar.

Jamstick

When I see the advertisement for Jamstick on Instagram, I checked the comment. And people’s feedback is:
“Lame.”

I agree with that. Playing guitar is not cool anymore, playing a black plastic stick can only get worse.

And I bet it’s unpleasant to play. If you ever played the guitar with a pitch shifter, you will know that the a-synchronization feeling which the sound wave doesn’t match the vibration of your instrument.

So expressiveness you were saying?

Oh, right, expressiveness. I watched some electric music show, and I don’t know what the DJs are doing on the stage. I know music production, and I understand what they have done, but I’ve no idea what are they doing at that specific moment because their gesture is obsolete from the music.

In one interview, a DJ says that when he tweaks a knob, he has to exaggerate his gesture so that the audience can get it.

So, an instrument that generates something based on a body gesture is what I want.

Toy

I was a gear nerd, which means I had tons of guitar pedals and amps.

I even bought an OP-1, which is a cool tiny synthesizer.

One gear that has caught my attention but I’ve never considered buying it —- Roli Block.

I just don’t get it, if your input is just a touchpad, and your output is digital, why don’t you just make a mobile app doing the same thing.

With this question I asked some friend who plays electric music, they said, because it has LEDs.

Ok, I get it now. And no one can stop me putting LEDs in my new toy!

By the way, LEDs can offer expressiveness.

Prototyping

[todo]

[1. Resistor prototype]

[2. capacity sensor prototype]

More than a guitar.

There is no deliberate concept here. I was trying to install anything I think is cool to my new toy.
A radio module, so I can go completely wireless.

It has 4 Neo-pixels to display a visual metronome, and the beat is coming from the daw.

A time of flight ranging sensor, VL53L0X, allowing me to do this.

Plus: A 3-axis accelerometer, so I can play it by wielding it. A LED keypad, so that it can work as a control center. A tilt sensor, so I can play it by shaking it.

And most importantly, A garage project looking, so it’s not lame!

The sounding.

This toy can hook up to any virtual instrument, so basically, it’s not limited, you can play any sound with this. In the first rehearsal, I sure did to use the keypad as a midi controller to change the tone of it and to loop myself. I did a drum track, a synth bass track, and a cello track.

The show

The NIME show was its debut.

Things worth mentioning:

for the show, I don’t wanna to build everything on the stage, it’s too slow, and you can only change one track at a time, hence the lacking of dramatic change.

I love when playing in a band, with a cue, every instrument goes to the next session together, bring a significant impact on the audience.
So I decide to pre-compose the song and make a backing track to play with.
It turns out to be an excellent sounding project in the show.

And also, I love metal music, so my aesthetic is heavy, groovy and loud. After the show, the venue owner finds me on the backstage saying he is also a metal fan. I was so happy that there are still so many people loving this kind of music.

Since it’s a toy, I also played something funny. There was a session which is an imitation of Nyan Cat. Sadly nobody has recognized it.

PS: In the show, I turned off the radio and go to the wire because when I was sound checking, I found that the electromagnetic interference on the venue is extreme.

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