Interview: [Vladimir Demin] The Creator Of The Player Guitar

We have been amazed by [Vladimir Demin]’s work twice now. Originally, with his automatic Bayan, and more recently with his amazing automatic guitar. What you didn’t get to see was how pleasant ant fun [Valdimir] was in his email correspondence with us. You will get a chance though, because [Vladimir] agreed to answer some questions for us in an impromptu email interview. Join us after the break to get to know this fascinating gentleman a little bit better.

[Vladimir] was very apologetic about his language skills in this interview. It goes without saying, english is not his first language. That being the case, we think he’s doing pretty well. We debated about wether or not to paraphrase to clean up his english and spelling. I felt that I would remove too much of his personality. Here are his responses, un-edited.

1. What kind of machining equipment do you use? (cnc, traditional, hand tools?)

I using simple hand tools, and most of all to use a drill.
All did only by my hand.
By example,I have to drill holes more than 3,000!  with high accuracy,or tolerances.
below,in this video, I sometimes show my equipment.

By the way, I recommend for your readers look the video.
It is famous old Russian song.I (or guitar?) have made  very good sound like original.

2. What is your education? Did you go to school to learn this or teach yourself?

I have higher education, my main job is to design  electronic circuits
with a microprocessor, and then design and develop different software for them.
And music-robots is my outside interest like hobby .

3. Where are you located? Does your location have any effect on your projects?

Now I live in Moscow, and before lived in the Irkutsk-region(eastern Siberia,famous lake Baikal).
I think ,location it does not matter. More important don’t forget You brain(head) at any place.

4. After you’re done with a project like the auto-guitar, do you still use it for your own enjoyment or does it become more of a show-and-tell piece on display somewhere?

The project I did for my family enjoyment, my sons many times asked me to do this.(I have three sons.)
Despite my age is 62 years old,I am young inside and curious, as a small child.
Solenoids are ordered in China on my individual requirements,so I spent too match money.
And I use a lot  of my free(rest) time.(I have job for salary in office.)
So my curiosity is very expensive.
I was advised to seek order from manufacturer Guitar or from same restaurant, etc. to do the guitar-robot
for promotional purposes.But I am not sure,even if I am much improve the quality of the device.
(As for “much improve”, I am sure).
The product no use for make money- I think.In spite of all,I am happy-very impotant for health.
As for ‘selfplaying bayan’,I made one for  my sons educational goals.
They(sons) go to school of Bayan’s Music begin from 1987 year  .
So I’m not competing with Japan(this comment made my older son)

5. Have you ever thought of assembling a whole band or building an ‘organ’ with a group of instruments?

 No, I think it’s better to make several(few) devices but also high quality.

Quality is more important than quantity.It isn’t?

6. What was your first completed project?

I do not remember.May be is a small explosion near my home at the age of 10 years.

7. What would you like to build if you had unlimited resources?

OOO! Hard to answer,just opened my eyes wide and say WOW!!!!
Once  my youngest son as he asked me,
“Dad what would you do,if you to be very rich?”
I replied,” sang a song for the people. ”
-but people do not like(hate) your singing, no one to listen to you
I-  “crowd of people will be happy to listen my singing
because I have paid them a lot of money”

8. What do you plan to build next?

When me ask that question, I usually make the joke- next to build is violin with solenoids.
Surprisingly, some people believe me .
But seriously, I am going to make a new high-quality accordion and do a duet with the guitar.
and do a duet 2 guitars.
But the first , to delete the noise of strumming mechanism and improve the quality of the guitar.
Maybe I’m in the future applicability of Gibson guitar company with automatic tuning.

9. Can we have some more pictures of the mechanics of the guitar or bayan?  We’d love to see any projects you’ve got going on, finished or unfinished. Our readers are very technical people. We love to hear the music, but we would also love to see the details!

For  pictures,please,see attached files.
I now describe some details .
This guitar-robot (in my opinion) includes 4 or 5  know-how.
The main Know-How is the interface that I had developed in 1988 for real (not digital)
instrument. I did not know Midi in 1988.Now I say-Midi totally inappropriate for real music device(like my robot).
Also my interface allows  very easily, accurately, quickly enter notes of melody without error.
Guitar  is controlled by  digital part of the   handset designed earlier for radio  trunking system.
The handset was designed by me.
It(handset) manages the memory of solenoids, which are mounted on the guitar.
It includes  microCPU ADSP2187,  flash memory, DAC and ADC.
You can listen the future melody for the guitar from small speaker inside the handset
without guitar.Very usefull.

The device  for strum  strings has four phases of operation time.( management by software)
-switch on a solenoid-string tension(same delay)
-switch on a solenoid strum(same delay)
-switch off solenoid-string tension(same delay)
-switch off solenoid strum(don’t care delay)

for a short time, not more than 7 msec ,current guitar power supply can consume up to 30 amperes at a voltage of 12 volts.
Despite the high current(because short time), battery capacity of 5 amp/ hour rather continuous play 2-4 hours.
It depends on the type of music.

Too much talking.Ok!You can edit, cut the text, as you like.
I think the first  need to retranslate my text from ‘Russian English’ to ‘Cambridge English’.
If you decision to post the interw., then my question for yous readers-
“If a robot playing music much better then Human,
which one You prefer to listen?.”
(a big secret!    As for me,I prefer human,only if this one is a beautiful woman)

best wishes = Vladimir Demin.

P.S. The intrew. is more difficalt for me,then design device.

23 thoughts on “Interview: [Vladimir Demin] The Creator Of The Player Guitar

  1. This guy is absolutely charming as well as impressive. Thank god you didn’t change his interview to Cambridge English. You were right to say that it would have lost a little something in the process.

  2. Heh, best usage of edrussia IRL spam ever!
    Thanks for the interview, HaD!
    И спасибо Владимиру за обалденную мелодию на крайне красиво сделанной гитаре!

    1. Спасибо!Вы меня крайне растрогали,потрясли
      и удивили Вашим русским языком.
      Поясняю-Когда я за границей,то мой родной язык-
      это английский.Но зачем американцу знать русский?
      Не нужно.Даже продвинутые(образованные) животные
      знают два языка-Английский и Свой родной.
      Более того моя японская гитара знала только два
      языка(конечно японский и английский),так что мне
      с величайшим трудом удалось обучить ее исполнить
      русскую песню.Шутка,не обижайтесь.
      Но местами-правда.

      1. @Vladimir Demin: Ну… как бы это помягче сказать, я сам из Москвы, просто HaD давно читаю, один из моих любимых ресурсов, откуда черпаю информацию)

    2. Never mind!
      В таких случаях говорят-“я первый раз ошибся,
      когда думал,что ошибся”.Спасибо,земляк!
      (а я про животных)

  3. This guy is truly amazing. And he really seems to be a passionate engineer before anything else, who has found his profession – although it’s not his job.

    To answer his question:
    It depends how you define “good” music and if it really is just listening.
    My experience is that perfect, constantly uniform timing sounds mechanical and worse than the in comparison slightly flawed playing you get from humans. Build me a robot that beats good human musicians by far enough to be really notable in a double blinded test and I’ll prefer it.

  4. Great interview! This man is very charming indeed! Definitely agree with the decision not to translate!

    To answer his question: a robot playing music, especially in such a mechanically wonderful way like his guitar, is incredibly interesting to me. Seeing it play speaks to the creativity of the person who built it, which fascinates me.
    When it comes to listening to music, there is no beating a human musician though. Not only because of the slight imperfections that humans make which makes the music sound more real, but most importantly because of the ability of humans to create music which has emotion in it, and the ability to improvise.
    A quote from George Carlin about blues (but which is true of any music) seems fitting, “It’s not enough to know which notes you need to play. You gotta know why they need to be played.”

    1. That about the emotion is definitely true. But nowadays, with the wonders of artificial intelligence, you can generate music procedurally. I was about to put up a comment here about that; loading a procedural music generator into the controller could be quite a feat, but it’s feasible, and I think it would be pretty kickbutt.

    2. You are right, but I do not want to replace the human to a machine.
      I want to facilitate the work of human.(combine together)
      because when a person plays the organ, he himself does not blow the trumpet
      body of the air from his lungs, it makes the machine, is not it.
      and the guitar is physically very difficult instrument to a human
      especially for its soft hand-finger.
      I’ll give the musician only easy-soft- button
      -play the next cycle(smalest part of melody)
      -play more faster or mor slower
      -play more louder or more softer.
      (may be add same more)
      this is enough.

  5. Absolutely great! If you are reading this Vladimir

    Спасибо за ваш обмен роботов музыки
    Это моя надежда, что это правильно

  6. And to answer the question: Whild there are multiple ways one can interpret a robot being “better” at playing music than a human, to me playing it better would still include some of the tiny imperfections that are introduced by human players. And going by that definition I would probably enjoy the robot’s performance a bit more. And in todays world, there are a lot of “artists” that could easily be outperformed Vladimir’s builds. This is mostly due to the fact that it gets more and more normal to use computers to generate music. The big difference between the regular approach of making music with a computer and this one is, that Vladimir uses real instruments and controls them using a computer.
    As well, good music, as I would define it, does not only consist of something to hear, but also of some visuals. And that is where this build truly shines.

    On another note: As Fred said, it would be really interesting to watch this instrument in conjunction with some kind of “software composer” like medalmusic/realcomposer.

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