How “connected” instruments could benefit the whole MI industry, not just end users

From the invention of the electric guitar in the 1930s to Yamaha’s iTunes-scanning piano, the way technology has propelled the development of musical instruments over the years is astounding.

Every time you think the humble guitar has reached its design peak, someone comes along and sticks an iPhone dock on it, a la Fusion Guitar.

In a recent interview with Musically, Mind Music Labs’ CEO Michele Benincaso spoke about his Sensus Smart Guitar (pictured), revealing that he believes that in 10 – 15 years’ time, every new musical instrument manufactured will be able to connect to every other instrument on the market.

The Sweden-based start-up raised $220k in seed funding for the Sensus, which features a full embedded system producing ultra low-latency audio performance, and Benincaso revealed that the firm has developed this system so it can be integrated into any instrument.

One benefit that Mind Music Labs believes a smarter guitar would bring musicians is a more personal and precise way of learning.

“When it comes to digital learning, you don’t have much data,” Benincaso told Musically.

“People love monitoring and sifting through their own data.”

“Apps like Yousician and Uberchord – which I think are doing great work – use the microphone of the phone to get the audio coming from the guitar, it’s true, but the app doesn’t know where I am putting my fingers, and if I am holding the guitar right or wrong.

“It will open up a completely new world when it comes to education. The instrument will be able to send over wirelessly not only the audio, but all the data that an app like Yousician needs to give the user feedback and a much more complete experience.”

People love monitoring and sifting through their own data, just look around your office and count how many people are sporting a fitness tracker.

As well as benefitting those using apps in their own homes, there is potential here for classroom use. In the same way that some schools are using tablets in class so that they can monitor each students work, music lessons could become a lot more productive if the teacher was able to look at the real-time analytics of each student bashing away on a keyboard.

“Retailers will have to make sure they know their stuff when it comes to haptic feedback, the cloud and software updates.”

Of course, if we do start seeing this kind of technology become commonplace in the industry, retailers will have to make sure they know their stuff when it comes to haptic feedback, the cloud and software updates.

No doubt there’ll be a few syncing issues here and there, and if you’ve sold the guitar to a musician, they’ll probably have more confidence in you to fix it rather than a computer shop.

This might sound a bit daunting, but can only be a good thing for MI retailers. If you embrace brand new technology as early as possible, you’re more likely to become the go-to place when everything’s still shiny and new.

One more benefit that I can think of surrounding all of this potential technology is the interest from non-traditional instrument makers and the collaboration between different industries as a result.

“Every success provides more instruments to sell, and more industry jobs as manufacturers grow.”

As more and more traditional-style instruments feature tech components, inventors and innovators from other fields are needed to make some of these crazy ideas a reality. We’re seeing a lot of new start-ups on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo creating instruments for the first time, with many coming from a scientific/technology background.

As the industry widens, even just a little bit, we’re getting a lot of strange instruments, but in amongst them, there is bound to be some gems. And every success provides more instruments to sell, and more industry jobs as manufacturers grow.

Personally, I’m keeping my eye on the Sensus Smart Guitar, along with some other innovative new tech I’ve seen over recent years, such as the 3Dvarius electric violin and the Populele.

The MI industry welcomed Aldi’s foray into the market with its very cheap beginner guitar and keyboard ranges, with the attitude that the more coverage and encouragement there is for musical instruments the better, with room in the market for all price points.

I imagine ‘connected’ or ‘smart’ instruments will receive a similar reaction from retailers and distributors, providing another interesting dimension to the market.


About Laura Barnes 427 Articles
Founder/Publisher of UK musical instrument industry publication MI Focus.