Tag Archives: fav

new guitar!

So I decided to build myself a new guitar.

I guess it can be summed up as an attempt to create a hybrid between my two current instruments and the playing styles associated with them, but also to use the opportunity to integrate as much guitar electronics as possible.

So for reference, here’s my solid-body nylon string that I build in the early 90s:

I built this because I wanted to play electric guitar in a band, but also apply my classical guitar education, i.e. finger nails on nylon strings. The latter don’t work with magnetic pickups of course, so piezo transducers had to be used. I first tried to mount them on a normal e-guitar, but didn’t like the tight string spacing. I also prefer the flat fretboard of classical guitars.

Back then, no one built guitars with this design approach and only later did I discover a small guitar company that had been doing this for a while: Paradis.
So without any previous woodworking skills but being the stubborn, determined guy that I am, I embarked on a mission that took me around two years to complete.

I don’t expect the new guitar to be done any faster.

Anyway, here’s my other axe, a 5-string Marathon bass:
(free beer for anyone who recognizes the logo on the sticker)

Like the nylon solid-body it is equipped with piezo pickups. Not that these were strictly necessary, but over the years I’ve come to love their particular sound.

One side-effect of using these piezos was that I “had to” make use of the fact that they provide a signal per string. In particular applying distortion to each channel separately before summing them (I still remember going to the local guitar store and plugging into 6 Fender amps :). These days polyphonic effect processing is of course at the core of my practice, both in my Ganzfeld and IMD duos.

So the new guitar will have these pickups as well.
But what will be new? What do I mean by hybrid?

Well, for one thing it will be a baritone guitar, i.e. between the standard E-tuning of a guitar and the bass an octave lower. I’m aiming for B-flat, not the least because both my duos are with trumpet players.

This tuning will also allow me to use wound strings across the board, as the highest frequency of 233.1 Hz should work fine with an 18 gauge string.
The reason I prefer wound strings these days is that they respond much better to the various experimental playing styles I typically use in my practice, wether it’s scratching the finger nails along the strings or applying various objects like bottle-necks or metal sponges.

However, from the nylon solid-body it will adopt the flat fretboard as well as the wide string spacing.

And with regards to the guitar electronics mentioned above I plan to include:
– preamps tailored for the high-impedance piezos
– analog-to-digital conversion
– fret-scanning
– sustainer
– on-board sound processing
– sensors for sound control
– acoustic transducers

Data violin

For Jon Rose in collaboration with Martin Riches.

This is a MIDI-controlled music robot. While labelled as a violin it is actually a hybrid instrument, with its viola body, but guitar-like frets, and a circular bow as in a hurdy-gurdy.

Martin Riches has been building similar instruments for a long time, but we decided to team up on this one in order to improve upon the control electronics and software design. All solenoids and motors have now continuous control where separate envelopes can be assigned to all elements at a high temporal resolution, allowing for refined articulation.



The Strophonion is a sensor controller devised by Alex Nowitz for manipulating his voice in live-electronic contexts. It was initially developed at STEIM, using their expertise in hardware design as well as their software offerings, in particular LiSa and Junxion.

I got involved starting in 2014, when I helped building the next revision of this controller:


The electronics are largely the same as in the previous version, however we added an option to connect the controllers thru a cable in case the wireless system breaks down. The basestation though is a completeley new design.

Most notable are the 3D-printed shells which were designed and built by chihauccisoilconte. Here’s the new and old designs side by side:


In the following years, Alex and I embarked on a long journey to also update the other half of the instrument design, i.e. the software. The aim was to implement the signal processing in a more open, flexible, and expandable environment, so the complete functionality was transfered to MaxMSP. This process take longer than expected, but in late 2018 Alex was able to present the new version of the Strophonion in a concert as part of his PhD project.