A 65-yr-old man who has been playing guitar for 40 years built a ‘Guitar Robot’ for helping him to play his guitar, which could possibly help people without limbs to play guitar one day, he believes.
Normally we often fed up on things that we have been practicing or doing it a lot, but still couldn’t master it. But this 65-years-old man is exceptional. Admiring to play guitar from his childhood, this engineer named Olav Martin Kvern, couldn’t twist his hands sensibly to play certain guitar moves like fingerpicking, so he built a robot that would do that for him.
“I’ve been playing guitar, off and on, for over 40 years. At this point, I’m a semi-competent flatpicking guitarist. But I’ve always been interested in the sound of fingerpicking. I’m 65 years old. Do I have 40 more years to learn fingerpicking?,” he starts.
Being a writer and software developer in profession, Kvern says that his hands and wrists are getting worn out and his sense of rhythm is poor.
For helping to play patterns on the guitar that would be difficult or impossible for him to play, he thought of building a prosthesis kind-of robot that would help him do that, “as I wear glasses to improve my nearsightedness”, he adds.
Kvern was clear that he intended to create a simple robot that would help him play his guitar, not the one that plays you any song wholly by itself, at switch of a button. The robot automates the right-hand part of playing the guitar. This means you can fret with both hands and find new chord possibilities – fingerings that would have been very difficult otherwise (“tapping” notwithstanding).
It also means the right hand can take on a more “directorial” function: changing patterns, adjusting effect parameters, picking strings in addition to what the robot is doing, and so on.
“Playing patterns with the guitar robot is especially fun with alternate tunings, such as DADGAD,” he says.
Kvern utilized Adobe InDesign, OpenSCAD for 3D part design, 3D printing to make necessary parts, laser cutting and soldering iron for developing the robot. He further details everything he exploited for the robot guitar to work, tools and software.
And indeed, Kvern had been working for over 16 years for sketching out the right guitar-robot. That’s lot of perseverance!
Future of Guitar Robots?
“I’ve thought about building guitar robots for guitarists who have lost a limb, or otherwise lost the use of their picking hand. We could attach sensors to their arm that could then generate signals which could be mapped to MIDI notes to send to the robot. The nervous system still knows how to play guitar.
There are also possibilities for playing remote instruments — the MIDI output from one guitar could drive the guitar robot on another guitar. (I’ve done that.) Or collaboration — two players with guitars equipped with MIDI output and guitar robots could “swap” picking patterns.
The robotic part extends what a guitar can do, and extends what a human can do with a guitar,” he finishes while reporting to Makezine.
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