Engineer takes 16 years to build robot that can help musicians play guitar

You won't believe your eyes or ears.
Loukia Papadopoulos
An image of the guitar with the robot.

Olav Kvern/ YouTube  

Engineer Olav Martin Kvern has built a robot that picks electric guitar strings making playing the instrument easier and more accessible. This noble endeavor took 16 years to accomplish.

This is according to a report published on Makezine where he describes himself how he went about creating the novel robot.

“The idea came to me while I was listening to a great Seattle fingerpicking guitarist, the late Klaus Lendzian, at a favorite local restaurant. I’d been hearing him play at various venues around town since the 1980s,” wrote the engineer.

“As I watched him play, I thought, “He’s really good. Lyrical, a great sense of timing. Wow, I wish I could play like that. What makes it all work is his right hand, his picking hand. It’s like a machine.” 

“A machine, I thought, at that moment. I can build a machine.”

Kvern sought to engineer a gizmo that would help him “play patterns on the guitar that would be difficult or impossible for me to play.”

Kevern was very clear that he only wanted help playing the guitar, not a machine that would do it all for him.

A guitar prosthesis

“I need help playing guitar,” wrote Kvern. I’m building a prosthesis to help me do that, just as I wear glasses to improve my nearsightedness.

“I wanted something I could interact with, an extended instrument. Not just something that would play a given song at the press of a button.”

He goes on to outline and describe all the tools and software he used for his invention. The end result is a machine that can help people play better albeit with some limitations.

“I’ll state right now: some human guitarists can play faster and better than my guitar robot,” he admitted. “But is technical virtuosity a requirement for making music? I can think of plenty of technical virtuosos whose music is, to say the least, not interesting to me. 

“When we focus on the technical and mechanical aspects of making music, we make it inaccessible to most people. If something like a home recording studio, or MIDI, or even a guitar picking robot can make it possible for more people to express themselves via music, then I think these developments are a good thing," he concluded on Makezine.

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