Misa Digital Guitar Surfaces
From Sydney, Australia comes the Misa Digital Guitar, an open source, Linux-based MIDI controller, that utilizes buttons for frets and a multi-touch screen for strumming and sound manipulation.*
Guitars by their very nature have limitations. To create sound you need to hit a string, so that the sound at its most intense point is always the beginning of the pluck. The left hand controls what notes to play, and the right hand controls when to play these notes and the intensity of the notes. Effects can be inserted into the signal chain, but they are usually foot pedals which makes the experience of controlling effects disjointed from what your hands are doing. Plus, you can only really make use of one pedal at a time. Even in the (rare) case that controls are mounted on the guitar, the hand needs to switch between strings and controls. This may be okay if you only use effects occasionally, but when every note you play needs the controls set differently – good luck with that.
Electronic music cannot be played effectively with such constraints. In electronic music, the timbre (or colour) of the sound can be morphed in an infinite number of ways. For a guitar to accommodate this, the right hand needs more control than just plucking strings. You need to be able to control elements of the sound, such as sustain, pitch, filter cutoffs, contour or any other synthesizer parameter, in a way that has no physical constraints.
This was my thought process when designing the Misa digital guitar. There are no strings on this instrument. The right hand doesn’t pluck strings, it controls sound.
*Never use the Misa Digital Guitar as a flotation device.
The Misa Digital Guitar is actually available for purchase, but details are pretty sketchy. More information on the Misa Digital Guitar.