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Gear, Music Production

NAMM 2011: Weird and Amazing Things from the World of Musical Instruments

NAMM 2011: Weird and Amazing Things from the World of Musical Instruments

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Yes, while most of our team was away in Alexandria having a blast covering MAGFest 9, I was stuck in bright and sunny California, and decided to waste away at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show 2011. Held in Anaheim, CA for as long as anyone can remember, the show brings together manufacturers of everything from pipe organs to MIDI cable connectors. It’s all here, and I explored miles upon miles of floor space to see if there was anything new and exciting on the horizon. And there was.

Touchpad guitars? Neon guitar strings? A miniature piano? It was all there, and you can see these and more after the jump!

While the majority of the floor is dedicated to guitars, drums, and classical instruments, it seems that the organizers of the event selected one hall to house all of the musical “oddities.” I fortunately started in this hall, and got some photos of many of the strange things on display. Let’s start with some weird ass guitars:

This is the harp guitar. I think that’s all I really need to say about that…

This is the touch pad guitar. I’m not really sure what all is involved with playing this instrument, but the performer here was simply moving his fingers along the touch pad and creating some really beautiful new age music. Perhaps there’s more skill involved (maybe finger placement on the frets changes the pitch?), but it was neat to listen to, even if the instrument looks ridiculous.

These are “strumsticks,” neat 1-stringed little instruments that make guitar playing look easy. Their big marketing message was “fun,” and they did look fun to play given that they’re not all that complex. Kind of like playing Guitar Hero!

These are a little more serious. Carbon fiber guitars. They have pretty unique acoustics, and they look pretty damn cool. They’ll also cost you a pretty penny.

But don’t forget your neon guitar strings! They actually fade in and out, which was a trip to see from a distance.

Just what is this? Looks like a homemade clay pipe. My favorite thing about this photo is the woman there demonstrating how to blow into the instrument.

This looks like a regular piano, right? Well, it’s only 2 feet or so long. It’s a part of KORG’s mini series, which has a wide array of ultra small and super cute gadgets.

This is some software for the iPad that displays and catalogs sheet music. Can you imagine the orchestras of the future with these on their music stands instead the traditional printed page?

Well, from here on out, we’re getting into serious territory. There was some really awesome stuff at the show, so check this out:

This is the Rhizome “groove machine.” It’s a self-contained piece of equipment with a built-in computer, and all of the controls are handled with the knobs and buttons on the face of the machine. No mouse. But what’s cool are the four horizontal digital displays, giving you a visual of what exactly you’re doing. The company behind this device, feeltune, is based out of France, and the enthusiastic president of the company, Nicolas Piau, was on hand to give us a demonstration of what the machine can do. I was incredibly impressed by the speed in which he recorded and modified the various tracks he laid down, and once you master it, you’ll be banging out some nifty tracks in no time too. You’ll have to get used to using knobs to control just about every parameter in your music making endeavors. This was one of my favorite things at the show, although it will set you back $3,500-$4,000 USD depending on the model you want.

This baby is the OMG-1, or Omnimoog-1. It’s a custom instrument built by Eric Persing at Spectrasonics as the grand prize for an upcoming contest that the company will reveal on March 15, 2011 to raise money for the Bob Moog Foundation. Persing unveiled the instrument at NAMM 2011, showing off the custom maple wood housing that contains an Apple Mac Mini, slots for two iPads and two iPod Touches for hand control, a built-in Moog Little Fatty with an extra octave below, and of course Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere software and Omni TR iPad application. This was a site to behold, and we even got a wonderful Jean-Michel Jarre-esque performance by Persing. If you want to know how you can win this custom-built beauty, watch the Spectrasonics website on March 15 for contest details.

That’s most of what I found interesting at NAMM. Let us know what you think of the above instruments. Will you be picking up a harp guitar in the near future?

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