Chameleon Guitar: Physical Heart in a Digital Instrument

Zoran, A. "Chameleon Guitar: Physical Heart in a Digital Instrument"


Today__s tools and instruments, whether musical or graphical, fall into two very distinct classes, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Traditional physical instruments offer a richness and uniqueness of qualities that result from the unique properties of the physical materials used to make them. The hand-crafted qualities are also very important for these tools. In contrast, electronic and computer-based instruments lack this richness and uniqueness; they produce very predictable and generic results, but offer the advantage of flexibility, as they can be many instruments in one. I propose a new approach to designing and building instruments which attempts to combine the best of both, and I call this approach "hybrid instruments", since the resulting instruments exist simultaneously in both the physical and digital environments. The approach is characterized by a sampling of the instrument's physical matter and its properties and is complemented by a physically simulated, virtual shape or other digital signal manipulations. This thesis describes the key concepts of the approach and presents an actual example of such a hybrid instrument: the Chameleon Guitar. The guitar project contains several aspects: separation of the guitar interface from its acoustic content; division of the acoustic content into a physical part and a digital processing part; and maximization of the user__s freedom in each of the domains. I provide a historical and technical overview; discuss related works, motivation and concepts, and present the design of the Chameleon Guitar. In addition the project evaluation by musicians and instrument-makers is described, together with future work and conclusions. I hope to demonstrate that this approach to building digital instruments maintains some of the rich qualities and variation found in real instruments (the result of natural materials combined with craft) with the flexibility and open-endedness of virtual instruments.

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