6 Really Cool Instruments Every Musician Should be Aware Of / by Andreas Kopriva

Good day everyone and welcome to today's featured list of cool and creative things we track down online. Today, we're mixing things up a bit and showing off 6 pretty cool instruments that, personally, I'd love to play with.  Some are fully digital, technologically boosted takes on instrumentation, while others are the product of ingenious configuration and craftsmanship. 

Check them out, and if you have any other special instruments in mind, let us know in the comments. 

6. Yaybahar by Gorken sen

Called the Yaybahar, this stringed instrument from Turkish musician Gorkem Sen manages to combine a number of playing methods, from plucking and strumming, to more percussive actions, to create sounds which sound eerily similar to those produced from a digital synthesizer. The versatility and organic sound produced is absolutely unique and opens up worlds of opportunities for both composition and performance. 

Personally, I could imagine the soundtracks of poignant dramas and experimental sci-fi films being easily composed exclusively on this. Amazing work. Check out his TedX talk which features a similar instrument here.

5.ALPHASPHERE - Adam PLACE

The AlphasSphere is designed to be a new musical instrument, designed for composition, production, performance and learning for a new generation of musicians. Jason Hou's performance above shows the capabilities of the sphere and it appears to be a solid instrument for experimentation, coming up with new ideas and performance. 

I like how they've diversified their product range with a number of models, ranging from the extremely affordable to the more professional choice. 

The coolest thing about this instrument is that it doesn't really fit into a stereotypical music style. Sure, the example above is more electronic based music, but you can assign pretty much any sound you can think of to those pads. Technically you could map out an entire string orchestra and perform a more 'traditional' composition. 

I think it could be a very cool tool for rapidly prototyping and trying ideas for different project. Returning to the scoring example, having one of these on your desk when trying to score a short or feature would probably lead to some interesting results and could facilitate the entire writing process. 

4.THE SEABOARD

What I like most about the Roli's Seaboard is it's organic morphology. It reminds me of Giger's industrial organic shapes with it's smooth surface, interrupted in a way by beveled ridges. 

It follows the more traditional keyboard configuration of white and black keys making it pretty easy to be adopted by a keyboard/piano player. The smooth surface however enables per key dynamics which otherwise would have been accomplished by using a separate strip or switch on traditional electronic keyboards. This means that, finally, one is able to pull off nuanced, per note vibrato on a keyboard based interface much like you'd get on any stringed instrument. 

As a guitar player, this is pretty awesome for me, as one of the main differentiating factors in performance is that slight nuance that one's personal vibrato gives. I mean, you obviously learn vibrato techniques, but over the years you end up developing your own touch to it, which is almost impossible to faithfully replicate. 

3. THE EIGENHARP - EIGENLABS

I first heard of the Eigenharp probably 3 years ago, when the buzz around this really cool looking, Chapman Stick-meets-Keyboard-with-added-bits instrument started kicking off. The concept behind the Eigenharp started off in a barn on John Lambert's Devon farm around 2001, where a small team of designers and programmers got together to create the most expressive electronic musical instrument. Fast forward a decade or so, and they are in the position to be able to claim leadership in the field of expressive electronic instruments. 

The Eigenharp is an elegantly designed instrument with a huge range of possible playing styles and sounds. The flagship model consists of 133 keys, split into 120 for the main keyboard interface, 12 percussive ones on the lower part and 1 mute button. There's touch strips situated on the back and a mouthpiece at the top which enables a more nuanced emulation of wind instruments. Once again, being an electronic instrument, you can load up a large number of sample libraries to be controlled and performed by the Eigenharp. 

2. MICROTONAL GUITAR - Tolgahan Cogulu

Another acoustic instrument, or more accurately a serious modification to a traditional favorite. Designed by Tolgahan Cogulu in 2008, it was funded as a scientific research project at the Istanbul Technical University and won the first prize at the 2014 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition. 

One way ask, surely you can play microtonal music using a fretless instrument, and that is absolutely correct, however the timbre and general acoustic response is very different to a fretted, classical guitar. Through the introduction of additional, movable frets unto a classical guitar's neck, Tolgahan facilitated microtonal playing while keeping the sound of the classical guitar intact. 

It's a very cool adaptation, despite the amount of frets generated (specifically in the second example) being absolutely daunting!

1. THE FLUID PIANO - Geoffrey Smith

The last entry is another modified acoustic instrument whose aim is to facilitate the playing of various tuning systems, much like the microtonal guitar above. A set of levers enables the player to individually adjust the tonality of each key, even during performance, thus emulating, in a fully acoustic way, what one would normally do using a pitch-shift lever on an electronic keyboard. 

What makes this quite interesting is that, not only can you affect the tuning during performance, you can set the entire piano's tuning to cater to the piece that you'd be performing/composing. Check out this performance for an example of how this could work -

According to the website, this modification is essentially enabled through lower string tension and patented Microtonal Fluid tuning mechanisms

That about wraps it up for today's list of interesting and cool things we found online. Any suggestions for additional instruments are more than welcome. Be sure to check out our Facebook page to receive our posts as we make them. 

Till next time, have a good 'un.