Half Keyboard, Half Guitar, Totally Radical, the Tabstrummer!

While tablature-based music probably annoys “properly” trained musicians to no end, it has given many musicians and musical-hobbyists their first introduction to the world of guitar. The [Tabstrummer] takes this to a whole new level, allowing chords to be programmed into this instrument and played back. Once pre-programmed chord is set, the “conductor-strings” are strummed to allow the chord to play.

This device is based around an Atmel microcontroller and features a MIDI output as well as an audio-out jack. Besides the interesting electrical hardware, the housing seems to be quite well-built featuring what appears to be an acrylic or polycarbonate body. Although not quite the same thing, possibly some influence was gained from the [Keytar]. It’s heyday may be past, but not forgotten.

Check out the video below for a Christmas-themed jam played on the [Tabstrummer] or check out their video page for several more songs. This “hack” is being considered as a commercial product, so the inventors would love to hear your feedback!

Comments

  1. Petran says:

    it’s very neat however I can’t understand what is its intended use. I don’t think that people who actually learn or play music would be keen on strumming fake strings and pressing buttons 1,1,1,2,2,1,3,1 etc. On the other hand if you need the chords as accompaniment, music software is the way to go.
    Going off on a tangent, today there is plenty of technology available for hacking musical instruments ad infinitum. However, they point we forger is that people actually enjoy playing music when they handle a real instrument making its own sound (yeah and I know about midi and synthesizers but it’s different in that case, because their feeling is identical to the piano)

    • mjrippe says:

      I think this is aimed at the Guitar Hero generation…

    • E says:

      Its cool as hell. Just because it doesnt do your laundry, make you breakfast, and suck your dick doesnt mean that its useless. Ive made blinking leds with a 555 and still been proud of it, even if it is completely useless. There is no advancement with that kind of thinking, its so ignorant, people dont get anywhere saying “oh thats a dumb idea, better stick with my old shit instead of making something cool.”

    • Miros2424 says:

      It is meant particularly to be an accompaniment instrument although each ‘string’ can be ‘plucked’ individually.
      Beside what is the difference between pressing 1,1,1,2,2,3… and pressing C,D,Em,G7… but only long fingers and good finger memory?
      Its like a karaoke for your fingers :)

  2. KeeCoyote says:

    Okay. It makes real music so it is a real instrument.

  3. Hey! I love those kind of keyboard switches! Can you tell us where you bought them?

    • Miros2424 says:

      I don’t know if I can trow any names but I found them on aliexpress, also digikey and ebay might have them. When you look for them try following keywords; tact, switch, pcb, square, cap, 12mm, push, button, any combination of those will bring you lots of images on google. Those keys are one of the most expensive part of the tabstrummer.

    • Tim says:

      Any luck finding them? I’d love to know where to get these too..

  4. SDawg says:

    Sound like he was playing “Goo Goo Muck” by the Cramps..

  5. pi says:

    It’s shaped like a guitar, but when I see it, I think, “autoharp.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoharp

    Nice job, by the way. I like it.

    • Miros2424 says:

      I don’t know if I can trow any names but I found them on aliexpress, also digikey and ebay might have them. When you look for them try following keywords; tact, switch, pcb, square, cap, 12mm, push, button, any combination of those will bring you lots of images on google. Those keys are one of the most expensive part of the tabstrummer.

  6. Also, to any possible haters out there, I can say this: I share a studio with a number of regularly-practicing musicians (electronic and rock), and they are always, always looking for new sounds and new instruments and new ways to express themselves. They may not stay committed to anything forever (notice how few instruments last from generation to generation), but they constantly seek new ideas and will give almost anything a shot.

    I believe this compulsion is because a good instrument does waaay more than its demo ever possibly can. A good instrument extends the body of the player/performer and therefore feels like an expanded space or area which they can fill with their own ideas, feelings, motions and sounds. I have been making instruments for years and typically I’ll hand something new to a player and they’ll hush my introduction and just get into the thing, exploring all of the nuances, finding the limits long before they try to play familiar melodies.

    I love that process and I encourage all instrument builders to get your stuff out there, let people try it, listen to their feedback and keep building, building, building. It can be scary how many revisions it takes to get something right – that’s true for almost everything – but especially so in musical instruments!

  7. echodelta says:

    The left hand of an accordian comes to mind. For a real odd one check out the Omnichord.

  8. fridgebuzzz says:

    This is remarkably similar to my MK1 prototype developed in 2009.

    http://www.fridgebuzzz.com/synth/MK1.html

    • Miros2424 says:

      It is similar in a different way and I’ll admit that I had some inspiration from your guitar cause I’ve seen it and liked it very much but it wasn’t able to do what I wanted so I came up with the tabstrummer.

  9. Hi Mom says:

    I hate the clicking sound of the buttons…

    • Miros2424 says:

      Me too, I’ll try to come up with something click-less. The advantage with those pushbuttons is that you can hold your finger on the button without activating it contrary to a capacitive screen or a wobbly rubber button.

  10. crashsuit says:

    This thing looks awesome. I’d love to get one.

  11. Gonzik says:

    Really cool project. It says you are considering making this a commercial product. Any idea what the price range will be? Also do you plan to offer these as a kit to assemble or fully built devices?

    Cheers,
    Gonzik

    • Miros2424 says:

      We consider to sell it as a kit, probably no soldering necessary, fully assembled PCBs with SMD components and laser cut acrylic. Depending on acrylic and other options the price could be between 100-200$.
      The latest DEMO video;

  12. Dan Fruzzetti says:

    Honestly, tablature doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is people with no musical training or experience calling themselves “experts” because they know how to press ‘play.’

  13. James says:

    I think to make it more educational and relevant to music theory, you could base the keys on accordion button box keys, and you wouldn’t have to reprogram everything, but learn which chords are 5th’s, 7th’s, minors, majors, suspended etc. in the music you’re trying to play.

    I think pressing a button to go up and down in pitch is cumbersome, and needs to be faster and intuitive, like sliding a potentiometer up and down for example, or having the key written on the buttons e.g. Cb A#. The chord type could be on the strumming hand, and the pitch could be on the “fretting” hand to make it easier. I would like to know how the touch sensitive circuit tracks (strings) work – are they conducting from one hand to the other (noticed “touch the ground plane under” written on the neck)?

    It is very interesting, and no doubt people who can’t play instruments would find it more accessible as long as programming is made relatively easy.

    • Miros2424 says:

      I played the 96 button accordion myself and it is not what I wanted to implement. The easy to program memory buttons will give you the possibility of having any chord arrengement thus giving you an wonderful palette of musical harmonies.
      Pressing buttons to go up or down in scale was just to show a feature that allows you to transpose on the fly without reprogramming.
      The touch sensitive circuit is composed of 3 NAND gate CMOS chips that I found to be the most responsive, but it requires you to touch the ground with your other hand.

      • James says:

        Thanks for the reply. I do like how you can program any chord, but would like it if there was an easier way to change pitch that’s all. I think it would be nice if you could change the attack on the notes somehow. Also, can you program other types of guitar sounds like vibrato, pitch bends, harmonics, etc? They can be done in tabs, so can it read them?

        Personally, I sometimes find it hard to get the right chord on the keyboard or guitar, so something where you can manually program a bunch of chords using tabs or chord names might be useful.

  14. miros2424 says:

    To James: I understand your point that there’s more in guitar tabs that could eventually be added like vibrato, pitch bends…It will recquire more buttons and knobs. I’m keeping it simple for this one. Remember that my point is that technique should not be in the way of your musical expression.

  15. Alex Mercer says:

    Something like this would definitely help someone like me who has always wanted to play the guitar, but can’t due to loss of feeling and muscle control in certain fingers. Other groups of handicapped people could also find amusing ways to use this device should it come into commercial production. Personally, I think it could become a major hit with certain age groups, providing the price is affordable enough.

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