Artiphon Instrument 1: Guitar, keyboard, drums and bass, in one place

Story highlights

  • Artiphon Instrument 1 can be played as a guitar, harp, violin, drum machine or keyboard
  • The instrument draws on the computational power of an iPhone, housed beneath its fretboard
  • "I wanted to make something that people at all skill levels could play," says creator
Is it a guitar? Is it a piano? Nope, it is a crazy iPhone-powered combination of both. Plus it has a built in bass, violin and drum machine to boot. The Artiphon Instrument 1 looks something like a medieval lute, but with a smart phone jammed into its belly.
The new instrument, released for pre-order this month, combines a keyboard, fret board, built-in plectrum and accelerometer-powered wawa effect. Named the Artiphon Instrument 1, it is the invention of Mike Butera, a Ph.D. in sound studies, from Virginia Tech.
The Instrument 1 draws on the computational power of a modern smart phone to make and record sound. A downloadable app on the phone allows you to select different modes, helping you to change swiftly between instruments.
Butera says the invention of the Artiphon came to him at a dinner party in his native Nashville that descended into a late-night iPhone-based jam session.
"It was a bit comical," Butera says, "the singers staring down in their lap at the phone, fingers and hands contorted around a device that just begged to be dropped, trying to tap the right notes to songs we could have instantly played on a normal keyboard or guitar.
The Artiphon Instrument 1 can be played in a number of different positions, including as a guitar
"It was then that I had the idea of a multi-instrument that would adapt to each person's playing technique and musical style. This wasn't a guitar or a violin or a keyboard but it could be any of them."
Butera says that he finds contemporary digital instruments such as keyboards, drum machines and laptops boring, so he invented his own device. "I wanted to make something that people at all skill levels could play, a device as agnostic to musical style as the piano but as expressive as a violin."
The Instrument 1 is made out of bamboo and hardwoods, and is produced by Nashville-based woodworkers. The speaker grilles are made of polished aluminum and the entire device is assembled locally.
Butera says it was important to him that the instrument should be