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Tag Archives: Instruments

Like It Or Not, Elmo Will Be Back This Christmas, And Now With Instruments

Let's Rock Elmo (Image courtesy Hasbro)
By Andrew Liszewski

Those of you with kids are probably getting tired of trying to hunt down the latest iteration of Sesame Street’s Elmo every December. But I’m happy to report that things will be different this Christmas. Not only will you be hunting down the new ‘Let’s Rock Elmo’ toy, but also the various instruments he’s now able to interact with. Which are of course sold separately.

Out of the box Elmo’s able to rock out with his included tambourine, microphone and drums, which he’ll automatically recognize when placed in his hands. Once he’s mastered those he can move onto a guitar and even a keyboard. And since he’s so talented Elmo even has a unique song for every instrument he’s given, which you can guarantee will be stuck in your head after the first day. Kids can of course play along too using his instruments, that is if you manage to find him when he goes on sale in the Fall for $69.99.

And as an added bit of corporate trivia: Rock On Elmo is apparently the first Elmo toy to be available under the Hasbro brand who recently won the Sesame Street license from their rival Mattel, who’s represented the property for the past 15 years.

[ NYC Single Mom – Hasbro Previews New Toys for 2011 ]

Turn Your iPhone Into An Air Guitar

Air Guitar Move for iPhone (Image courtesy Colin and Ronald)
By Andrew Liszewski

In the past we’ve tried to avoid posting concept products because quite frankly, they were a tease. They were a figment of some industrial designer’s imagination, and the chances of any of them ever coming to market were slim to none. But thanks to online fundraising sites like Kickstarter, many concept products now have a fighting chance of becoming a reality.

And the latest Kickstarter project to pique our curiosity is the Air Guitar Move. It’s a combination app + hardware, in this case a motion sensing guitar pick, that lets you strum away in the air producing actual sounds with your impressive air guitar routine. Its creators, Ronald Mannak and Colin Karpfinger, have already brought other best-selling music toys and iPhone accessories to the market, but for their latest venture they’re hoping to raise $25,000 in the next 25 days.

In addition to a free play mode which lets wannabe rockstars do their thing (even using their iPhone in their other hand as a fretboard) the accompanying app will also include a Guitar Hero-like rhythm game. In fact, the Air Guitar Move hardware is being built in the same factory where GH was built, supervised by the same engineering team. So it’s certainly one of the few Kickstarter projects that really seem to have their act together. And something tells me if they don’t raise sufficient funds this way, they won’t have much difficulty finding other backers.

[ Kickstarter – Air Guitar Move for iPhone ] VIA [ Mobile Magazine ]

PianoMaestro Teaching Aid Works On Any Piano

PianoMaestro (Images courtesy ARAHI PianoMaestro)
By Andrew Liszewski

If you’re learning the piano on a budget, companies like Casio have been selling electronic keyboards with follow-along light up keys for a while now. The only downside is that when you want to move on to something ‘grander’ you no longer have that help. But that’s exactly what makes the PianoMaestro system unique. It’s a software/hardware combo that uses a long strip of LEDs that can be placed on any digital or acoustic piano, from a Casio to a Steinway & Sons.

Once you’ve got it properly aligned so that the LEDs sit atop their corresponding keys on the piano, you plug it into your PC and load up the accompanying software which turns standard MIDI files into onscreen musical notation. The software is catered towards beginners so while a piece is being played back you can not only see what keys on the piano you’re supposed to play, but you can also limit it to just one hand’s part, and slow it down until you become more comfortable and proficient at playing it. At just $169 everywhere outside Australia (where it’s just $139) it’s far cheaper than years of piano lessons from a teacher. Though it seems to be lacking the one important thing you get from someone standing over your shoulder: discipline.

[ PianoMaestro ] VIA [ Gizmag ]

TunerMatic Automatic Guitar Tuner

TunerMatic Automatic Guitar Tuner (Images courtesy TunerMatic)
By Andrew Liszewski

I have no musical skills whatsoever, but I’m going to assume that the ability to tune an instrument, like a guitar, by ear is a handy skill for a musician to have. But that’s not to say that those who can’t shouldn’t be playing one. Not at all. For them gadgets like this TunerMatic exist that not only ensure their instrument is being tuned accurately, but that the process is hard to screw up.

Most guitar tuners require you to adjust the tuning peg yourself while monitoring the note being played on its display, but the TunerMatic has a built-in motor and cranking mechanism that turns the peg for you. You just pluck a string and watch as it automatically adjusts the peg to bring your guitar in tune. It’s available for $49.95 and works on electric or acoustic guitars with a built-in pickup. But using it with acoustic guitars that are lacking one requires a microphone adapter that’s an extra $12.95.

[ TunerMatic ] VIA [ The Gadgeteer ]

Pix & Stix Designed To Make Garage Band On Your iPad Feel A Little More Real

Pix & Stix (Image courtesy Pixandstix.com)
By Andrew Liszewski

Because of the way the touch sensitivity on the iPad’s screen works, you can’t just thrash away on Garage Band’s drums with a regular set of sticks and expect it to work. And the fact that it’s made of glass is probably something to take into consideration too. So a Melbourne, Australia based company has created a special set of drumsticks with electroconducive rubber tips that can not only be detected by the iPad’s display, but also prevent it from being shattered. Two very important features.

And while they were creating the ‘Stix’ they also went ahead and created the ‘Pix’ which is of course a special guitar pick that features the same electroconducive rubber tip allowing you to strum away on-screen. Both are available right now for $14.95 Australian dollars which works out to about $16 US. However, it’s another one of those products where they have to reach a certain level of funding commitment before it goes into production. If the funding goal isn’t reached, full refunds will be given and the Pix & Stix will forever remain just a novel idea.

[ Pix & Stix ] VIA [ The Red Ferret Journal ]

Mopho DJ – Two Turntables And A Microphone… And Also A Couple Of iPhones

Mopho DJ (Image courtesy Nicholas J. Bryan)
By Andrew Liszewski

A computing and music researcher at Stanford University has created a new way to scratch digital files using a traditional turntable, without the need for timecode encoded vinyl. Instead, Nicholas J. Bryan’s Mopho DJ uses the accelerometer and gyroscope inside a couple of iPhones, or iPod Touches to be exact, to detect and wirelessly transmit the movements of the turntable to an accompanying piece of software running on a MacBook. And like other laptop-based solutions, the software is then responsible for playing back the audio file faster, slower or even scratched.

From the looks of the video included below the setup seems to have minimal latency, though it’s hard to tell without actually playing with it myself. And while the iPod Touches he’s using are sitting atop a clear plastic disc with a rubber pad to keep them in place while the wheels of steel are spinning, I’d be inclined to find a more reliable way to strap them down securely when the party really gets started.

[ Nicholas J. Bryan – Mopho DJ ] VIA [ New Scientist ]

Piano Stairs Put Subway Buskers Out Of Business

Piano Stairs (Image courtesy China Daily)
By Andrew Liszewski

Call me pessimistic, but I’m not sure if I’d find the sound of a giant BIG-esque piano particularly soothing while waiting for the subway. But that’s exactly what the people of Nanjing in the Jiangsu province of China now have to deal with. Each step of the giant piano staircase produces a different note, so presumably if you worked anywhere nearby you’d just be hearing the scales being played all day long. And I do appreciate that it encourages people to take the stairs, but not to be left out I think that escalator running along side it should sound like a giant slide whistle.

[ China Daily – Tickling the ivories one set at a time ] VIA [ Inventor Spot ]

RES (Recycling Entertainment System) Turns Old NES Controllers Into A Multi-user Instrument

RES (Recycling Entertainment System) (Images courtesy Benjamin Gaulon)
By Andrew Liszewski

Part instrument, part eco-friendly way of reusing old electronics and part hippy-inspired commentary on waste, Benjamin Gaulon’s RES or ‘Recycling Entertainment System’ uses repurposed NES controllers as the inputs for a multi-user music experience. The controllers are all connected to a central hub which in turn is connected to a computer running software that triggers various music samples based on incoming MIDI signals. So in essence each controller is its own virtual instrument, turning the famous Konami code into something worthy of Beethoven.

The Res uses six Nintendo Entertainment System’s controllers [containing MC 14021 BCP chips] that are connected to a main chip [Atmel Mega 16 programmed in Basic] which reads and converts the signal from the controllers to midi. The midi output from the Res is connected to a computer that runs the Resware, a Max/Msp midi based software. Each controller is playing with a different sound bank, so players can mix like Dj’s and play as a group, like a band.

[1] Bass
[2] Drum
[3] Percussions
[4] Percussions
[5] Voices, Music Loops, Scratch…
[6] Synthesizer

[ RES – Recycling Entertainment System ] VIA [ The Kartel ]

Pic Band Keeps Your Guitar Pick Tethered

Pic Band (Image courtesy Wingnotes De Guitaura)
By Andrew Liszewski

A discarded or lost guitar pick from a concert makes for a great souvenir, but if inventor JT Hollin, Jr.’s creation catches on, there may never be an MIA guitar pick again. The Pic Band is akin to the wrist strap that stops your digital camera from plummeting to the ground should you drop it, but instead of preserving a $100+ piece of electronics, it holds on to a $0.05 piece of plastic.

Now I’m sure it works as promised, and is probably a handy solution if you’re in the middle of a performance and don’t have easy access to replacements. But it unfortunately doesn’t work with regular picks, and besides the $8 you’ll need to buy the wrist strap and tether, it’s an extra $7 for a 6-pack of Pic Band compatible picks. In theory it means you won’t lose picks as often, but it still seems kind of expensive to me.

[ Pic Band ] VIA [ Gizmag ]