Beyond Music & Art – Creating A DIY MIDI Instrument

In this video, Timbre Farm profiles Nick Demopoulos, a Brooklyn-based guitarist that DIY’s custom electronic instruments.

In the video, Demopoulos discusses the evolution of his Smomid (String Modeling MIdi Device) – a custom guitar MIDI instrument. He also talks about the maker movement and the drive for making a custom instrument.

Video Summary:

It was summer 2013, at the Paper Box in Brooklyn, New York City. My friends had just finished their gig at a low key weekday music event called Pumped Up, and we stepped out for some fresh air. By the time we got back inside, the next act was up. We were greeted by flashing lights, bleeps, bloops and a sound that resembled the “Pungi”, a flute like instrument used by Indian snake charmers. The light and sound show instantly sucked us in. Here was this guy on stage, playing music unlike anything you’ve ever heard, coming from light emitting instruments you’ve never seen before. My musician friend, in awe, yelled “Fuuuuck dude, this is crazy. This guy is from outer space. He is the future”. It truly did feel like an interstellar experience.

And that was the first time I came across the Smomid.

Smomid is a project by Brooklyn based musician and instrument builder, Nick Demopoulos.

What started as a creative way to solve a simple problem, soon turned into a passion project and completely shifted the trajectory of Nick’s career. The project only utilizes completely original instruments he has personally designed and built from scratch. The name Smomid is derived from an acronym of his primary instrument, : “String Modeling Midi Device.” – midi controller designed for the guitarist’s brain. Building the instruments he uses today was not any easy feat, it required combining musical, electronics, and programming knowledge. Coming from a musical background, he decided to take additional classes to learn skills in electronics and programming in order to achieve his goals.

Smomid music often features glitchy and scattered beats, sampling, abstract textures, ambient spaces, and improvisation. Smomid music draws on many varied influences and creates bizarre juxtapositions with deft sonic versatility, with samples of heavy beats, Gregorian Monks chanting and Taiko drum sounds all coexisting comfortably. All the instruments emit light through high powered LEDs, and some illuminate visual animations and secret messages through several LED display embedded in the instruments.

As a guitarist Nick has worked with legendary jazz drummer Chico Hamilton and recorded on the albums The Inquiring Mind, Revelation and Euphoric. He also released recordings with Exegesis, a group that mixes jazz and electronic music. In 2008, on behalf of the U.S. State Department, Exegesis worked as cultural diplomats, performing in Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E and Kuwait. Other artists he has performed and/or recorded with include Vernon Reid, Camille Brown, George Bohannon and Jimmy Owens. There are two full length albums of music created with Smomid and Pyramidi instruments, Rhythms of Light (2015) and A Smoment in Time (2017). With his Smomid Nick has performed at Lincoln Center, and been featured on the Discovery Science Network,

6 thoughts on “Beyond Music & Art – Creating A DIY MIDI Instrument

      1. ok, he doesn´t want to sell it. great. congrats. my question would be: why didn´t he buy an already existing product that can do basically the same, like the above-mentioned starrlabs guitar?

        1. Why travel when you can just look at some photos of the destination? Why make music when someone else already made it? Do you even make music? Do you make anything, or do you just hope someone else will so you can buy it? Why are you here?

          1. Your comment reminds me of that great moment in Seinfeld :

            George : “Why would I spend seven dollars to see a movie that I could watch at home?”

            Kramer : “Well, why go to a fine restaurant when you could just stick something in the microwave… Why go to the park and fly a kite when you could just pop a pill?”

            The delivery is also great https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd1nZAwaqcs

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