Can You Pick Which Of These 20 Strange Instruments Will Be The Best In The World?


20 new instruments have been chosen as semi-finalists in this year’s Guthman Musical Instrument Competition.

The international competition is an annual event, held at the Georgia Institute of Technology, that seeks to find the world’s best new ideas in musical instrument design, engineering and musicianship.

The semi-finalists include strange new electronic instruments, MIDI controllers and acoustic instruments. But, while the technologies vary, all the instruments share the goal of providing new ways to make music.

Here are the 20 instruments chosen as semi-finalists in the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition:

The 20 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition Semi-Finalists For 2015

Judy Piazza’s Dulsitar, above, combines elements of the dulcimar and sitar, which she uses in her devotional performances, along with overtone singing.

The Dualo Du-Touch is a new synthesizer and controller that looks a bit like a futuristic accordion.

The Yaybahar is an electric-free, totally acoustic instrument designed by Gorkem Sen.

The vibrations from the strings are transmitted via the coiled springs to the frame drums. These vibrations are turned into sound by the membranes which echo back and forth on the coiled springs. This results in an unique listening experience with an hypnotic surround sound.

The D-Box is a new digital instrument intended to be repurposed and rewired by the performer in unusual ways. It is designed to be initially simple and constrained, but to allow the performer hack and subvert these constraints using circuit bending techniques.

The ndial combines automated sampling and sequencing with manual controls to navigate sound worlds in unpredictable ways.

The system selects samples at random from a live or prerecorded source and maps them to a hardware interface—an 8-step sequencer that goes around instead of along.

31 thoughts on “Can You Pick Which Of These 20 Strange Instruments Will Be The Best In The World?

    1. Very interesting idea. Do you guys know if there is something similar to this in M4L for example? Shouldnt be too complex to recreate in software, play with a random buffer of a sample in a step sequencer setting.

  1. Most of the these nominees are only usable or even interesting to a few people. But I’d give the prize to Judy Pizza’s Dulsitar; for craftsmanship, and musicality (potential).

    What the hell kind of 1970’s space command center are those people sitting in?! So cool !

    1. YAYBAHAR! no electricity needed for this firepit camping trip music festival

      yaybahar could EASILY be the hottest new mandatory item to have in a dwelling or have to take on trips and any event really.

  2. I think the definition of ‘musical instrument’ needs to exclude anything that can’t actually make music. 🙂 As to my top choice, despite my love for the electronics I’m going with the Dulsitar. For a controller, though, the O-Bow is pretty darn clever — if you can get the technique down. I think the Dualo Du-Touch has a lot of potential and I quite liked the Cantor Digitalis. 🙂

    1. Who gets to be the ‘music police’ that decides what is or isn’t music?

      A lot of the music I listen to (dark ambient, classical electronic music, Berlin School) probably wouldn’t be recognized as ‘music’ by mainstream listeners!

  3. I’m both thrilled at the creativity on display here, and dismayed at the silly idea of competition between these ideas. Hey musicians, competition is for sports!
    Music is for collaboration.. the ideal would be a jam between all these instruments, showing their strengths in the context of co-creation.
    My utterly subjective impression is that the Yaybahar speaks to me most as a totally original acoustic design, and in the electronic world the o-bow looks really impressive just on that short clip.. it would be even better integrated into a whole instrument.. seems ideal for Artiphon’s Instrument 1 actually.

  4. If I was allowed to vote I would vote for Tine organ or Yaybahar. O-Bow and Dulsitar also look interesting, but in my opinion most on this top 20 actually are rather performance midi controllers controlling computing devices, which generate sound signals via probably already known digital algorithms and not that much musical instruments emitting physical sound waves – that’s all about terminology – what we call a musical instrument (software/hardware), of course

  5. Many interesting ideas here, but the only ones that I thought were a) original and b) produced real music were Nomis, the Dulsitar, and the Tine Organ. The o-bow looked neat, but it seemed more like *part* of an instrument. The multi-person “choir” might have potential. The Turner Winch looked like it had limited potential for musical usefulness – but it looked like one helluva lot of fun, too.

  6. The yaybahar is great! An entirely NEW sonic world is opened WITHOUT the use of electricity.
    Pure genius if you ask me. When shal we know the outcome of the competition?
    THANKS and greetings from Italy

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