Musical instruments can be categoried in two big families:
Chord instruments such as guitar and piano that allow you to compose, arrange and accompany.
And ‘one-note-expressive’ instruments such as the saxophone, the violin and the voice where you have continously control over the volume, the pitch and timbre during the duration of the note and where you can slide from note to note.
Where would you place the Kelstone?
Most people will place the Kelstone in the first family: chord instruments.
The Kelstone is part of the ‘one-note-expressive’ instrument family!
This is because the hand lies on top of the string and does not go around a neck like on other stringed instruments.
It gives the hands a lot of new possibilities for the fine motoric skill, allowing extreme and very subtle movements.
This new fine motoric skill is essential and extremely innovative on the Kelstone,
rather than the fact that you have 9 strings at your disposal or can play 2 separate musical parts or
have a range of more than 5 octaves.
In that sense, the Kelstone has 1 string, 9 times!
You look at a string literally from a different angle!
Only secondarily does the Kelstone belong to the first family.
Playing chords on the Kelstone is not that hard but does take some practise while approaching the Kelstone as a ‘one note-expressive’ instrument allows you to play from the first minute.
In the same way the electric guitar is also part of the ‘one-note expressive’ instrument family thanks to the feedback/distortion pedal (length of the note), volume pedal and tremelo bar.
Very interesting what Roger Linn wrote in his article ‘What’s wrong with acoustic instruments’ and how he concludes with ‘So what is needed in a new musical instrument?’:
‘In my view, if the goal for a new instrument is to perform highly expressive music based on 12-tones per octave, then I think the following are good design requirements:
- The human interface should be optimized for ease of playing, not limited by the need for acoustic sound generation. For this reason, the sound should be generated by synthesis.
- It should be polyphonic.
- It should be highly expressive, able to control each note’s loudness, pitch and timbre continously over time. It should be able to perform convincing performances of expressive traditional acoustic instruments.
- The note layout should be isomorphic— for any given chord or scale, the fingering is the same for all 12 musical keys.
- Efficiently use of hand/finger gestures. Like a piano keyboard, only one finger should be required to produce a single note.
- Easy to play in tune, yet subtle pitch nuances are possible. You should be able to easily play notes in tune while also playing vibrato, bend and other pitch nuances.’
The Kelstone has all the requirements that Mr Lynn stated apart from generating the sound by synthesis.
I don’t think that there is anything wrong with acoustic instruments, on the contrary. Acoustic instruments have more harmonics and humans are designed for very complex sounds in nature (as a matter of fact we are working on an acoustic Kelstone).
Basically there are three things that are important to realise:
- The Kelstone is in the first place a one-note expressive instrument like the saxophone, violin and voice. Chords come later after a lot of practise.
- What is very interesting on the Kelstone is that the finger that makes the action to generate a note is not necessarily on top of that note.
This is strange in the beginning but does stimulate the brain to get a new view on how to make music.
- Muting of the strings is primordial.
Presenting the Kelstone
Kelstone: NAMM 2012 Product Showcase