Pleasing the crowd: Music makers that hit the right note
Throwing some of your hard-earned dosh at projects on crowdfunding platforms is a bit of a gamble. Even successful campaigns can fail to deliver, leaving backers empty handed and, often, quite furious. Sometimes though, an idea jumps off the campaign page and makes it into production. Here are a few music-making project success stories.
Digitizing an acoustic guitar
Berlin-based musician Robin Sukroso has been attaching MIDI controllers of one sort or another to an acoustic guitar for a number of years, but 2015 saw the launch of a slick adhesive-backed device that wrapped around the instrument's sound hole and put thousands of sounds within reach of the acoustic picker.
The battery-powered Acpad is wirelessly connected to a computer running music production software and the various buttons and sliders used to trigger sounds or control parameters during play. The device doesn't register any sounds from the guitar itself, so users will need an electro-acoustic instrument or some kind of pickup to feed the string action into an amp or recording setup.
Doubtless helped by extraordinary examples of playing prowess from Sukroso himself, the project rocketed past its Kickstarter funding goal in super quick fashion, notching up nearly €300,000 in support at campaign close.
As of December last year, all campaign backers were shipped their Acpads, and the built-to-order slim guitar add-on is now available for €499 (about US$530).
All-in-one music powerhouse
We first got wind of Artiphon's intriguing Instrument 1 way back in 2012, Mike Butera's pro-level connected music workhorse that was designed to take app-based music production into brand new territories. The battery-powered, hardwood-bodied prototype featured a touch-sensitive fingerboard, a pickup-shaped MIDI strum zone, its own speakers and a dock for an iPhone. At a suggested retail price of $799 though, it was never really headed for the hands of everyday music makers.
In early 2015, Artiphon launched a Kickstarter to fund the production of a cheaper plastic version of the Instrument 1. Main design changes included a longer fingerboard area, a modified strum zone and, instead of docking a smartphone running music creation apps, the device connected to an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC via USB or Lightning ports.
The funding campaign attracted over $1.3 million and shipments to all backers were completed earlier this month. The Instrument 1 is now available for purchase in black or white for $399.
Built for collaboration
The Dato Duo is an instrument designed for creating music in pairs. On one side of the angled box sits a simple synthesizer for sonic creation, while the other side is home to an 8-step circular sequencer. The device was created to be so simple that kids of all ages couldn't make a wrong move – one creating the melody and the other generating the beats and synth sounds.
The Kickstarter campaign attracted over 300 pledges and, though still busy getting ready to ship units to backers in April, the Dutch startup is now taking pre-ordersfor May delivery at a cost of €329 ($350) per unit.
Panning for e-music gold
Another Kickstarter that's yet to ship to backers but is currently up for pre-order is the Oval digital handpan from Barcelona, Spain's Ovalsound. The battery-operated MIDI controller can connect wirelessly to a mobile device running a companion app that gives access to a hundreds of sounds, filters and effects.
The stone-like upper surface of the Oval is home to seven sensor-packed pads and a central ding. Multi-color LED pad indicators cater for follow-me learning or metronome functionality.
At the time of writing, the iOS app for iPad is available for free download, and the development team is now working on an iPhone version, while also the process of inviting sign-up for a public beta of the Android flavor. Meanwhile, assembly of the first 50 Oval units has begun and will be shipped to Early Bird backers "quite soon."
The hardware is also up on the company's online shop with a price tag of €1,250, although there is a pre-order discount available that reduces that to €979 (just over $1,000).
Fusing analog and digital
The Fusion Guitar is quite an impressive beast, as we saw for ourselves when we visited the Melbourne offices of its creator, Dave Auld, for a demo. It's an electric guitar that uses the digital effects might of an iPhone running music production apps and outputs the resulting tones through its own array of speakers.
Designed for play-anywhere, portable convenience, the battery-powered six-string popped up on Indiegogo in October 2015 and rocked nearly half a million dollars from supporters. Though batch production has begun, new regulations relating to the sourcing and supply of rosewood has led to a few delays. Once the paperwork problems have been resolved, the team expects to satisfy pledges and open its doors for business.