He ain't heavy, he's my guitar ...
May 8, 2009 6:34 AM   Subscribe

"The StringStation introduces a fresh and inventive playing surface allowing one musician to play in real time on an instrument that offers thunderous bass, compelling rhythm, 3-D orchestration and melody. It uses new ways to approach groups of strings that find amazing intertwined performance techniques. It opens and lays out new paths to evolve tactile music composition skills." It's the baby of engineer/inventor Jim Bartz, who is on a mission to bring his invention into the musical mainstream. Start your exploration of what the StringStation can do with this video of Bartz playing his prototype model (actual performance comes in at 2:25).

If you're in the Northwest you have a chance to catch him at some upcoming gigs in the Seattle area.

"The current working model is assembled from a customized triple neck 8-string slide guitar, a 10-string Chapman Stick and a modified 6-string electric guitar. It plays well as a proof-of concept model but has few of the advanced features of the eventual design." Bartz has a proposal for funding (.pdf) to assemble a team to create the actual instrument itself.
posted by woodblock100 (28 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
But you know, I sure hope his ability to organize a team of engineers is better than his ability to organize a website ...
posted by woodblock100 at 6:35 AM on May 8, 2009

You know, didn't Rick Nielsen already do this with Cheap Trick like 30 years ago?
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:42 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the website definitely uses new ways to approach groups of links to produce amazing intertwined timecubic wtf.
posted by rokusan at 6:43 AM on May 8, 2009

It looks like a great idea. From the video it looked like he was fretting strings with both hands rather than striking them. So I guess either something else is striking the strings or the system is working with some kind of really long sustain. Its a sort of church organ for strings?
posted by rongorongo at 6:44 AM on May 8, 2009

That thing looks completely badass! Speedy West would probably play the shit out of it. It's be fun just to dick around on it if only for the thunderous bass lines. I can't check any of the sample now but I can't wait!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:48 AM on May 8, 2009

the video lost me at 'cajoling the sounds into existence'

@rongorongo it appears to utilise something akin to the Fernandes Sustainer, i.e., a pick-up wired in reverse and amplified so it acts as an input, regenerating any frequencies it receives.

The placement of the pickups at harmonically-significant points along the scale would no doubt figure heavily in the feedback system. Either that or it is just for the sacred geometry of it all...
posted by mhjb at 6:57 AM on May 8, 2009

While it looks incredible technically, this is just the sort of device that aging progsters will use to inflict their tedious noodling on yet another generation.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:01 AM on May 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

> Its a sort of church organ for strings?

The demo model is built in part out of a Chapman Stick, which works by tapping on the the strings and holding them for sustain.

StringStation allows a guitar player to get a huge range of sounds and tones while accompanying himself on stage, a Chapman Stick Supreme of Love 2000. But it means one guy's rooted to the spot and staring down at a table in front of an audience. It's not a big win, if the point is to allow the performer to play all the parts live. A solo guitarist depending on effects and sequencers might be "cheating", but being able to move around and engage with the audience would be a better show.
posted by ardgedee at 7:08 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

breathless mentions of whateverthehell 3D music is aside, i want!
posted by Mach5 at 7:10 AM on May 8, 2009

posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:11 AM on May 8, 2009

I couldn't stand to listen to him talk.
Neat idea which seems like an impractical Rube Goldberg-esque midi interface.
posted by sundri at 7:11 AM on May 8, 2009

How come the background music for the video was so lame?
posted by sneebler at 7:19 AM on May 8, 2009

The type of music he was making with the prototype is the sort of thing I'll go out of my way to avoid.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:35 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

it seems like a playable, interesting instrument, but one could do the same thing with a couple of keyboard synthesizers or midi controllers - and as someone who has a keyboard, bass and guitar and records at home, i really don't see me wanting one
posted by pyramid termite at 7:44 AM on May 8, 2009

Very clever and innovative... but I'd rather hear a telecaster in capable hands, thanks.
posted by pianoboy at 7:45 AM on May 8, 2009

I like my stringed instruments simple, analog, and not covered in the stench of technobabble.
posted by Paid In Full at 7:48 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

My first impression is he's probably infringing on Chapman's copyrights and patents.

My second impression is that gluing a 6-string and a lap steel together has been done.

My third impression is that based on what he wants to achieve sonically and artistically, he'd be better off learning to play keyboard.

My final impression: 40 strings? There's only so much you can do with two hands.
posted by lordrunningclam at 8:03 AM on May 8, 2009

It takes an awful lot of technology to make music I don't like. I'm glad this guy is finding his bliss, but please, find it far away from me.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:15 AM on May 8, 2009

The Yamaha Tenori-on is totally different, but way cooler.
posted by anthill at 8:16 AM on May 8, 2009

Prototype Delany-esque sensory syrynx?
posted by sciurus at 8:46 AM on May 8, 2009

All that effort to make cheesy new-agey crap?
posted by signal at 8:48 AM on May 8, 2009

$230,000 to design and fabricate?
posted by eatyourlunch at 9:02 AM on May 8, 2009

Didn't Carl Sagan use that thing to control his spaceship in "Cosmos"?
posted by happyroach at 9:14 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why is it that some of the most interesting musical interface ideas are always invented by dudes who listen to Kitaro?
posted by gcbv at 10:52 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

The type of music he was making with the prototype is the sort of thing I'll go out of my way to avoid.

Indeed. Why didn't he just freak out on it? That would have been better.
posted by ob at 11:05 AM on May 8, 2009

Ah, Seattle. I love you so.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:24 AM on May 8, 2009

That think lights up the gear-lust centers of my brain, but I think this is one of those toys that's suitable for exactly person, and he's already got one.
posted by lekvar at 1:04 PM on May 8, 2009

Oh god, can you imagine tuning this thing, ugh. And the music doesn't sound like anything I haven't heard before. This guy sounds like any number of new age jazz-lite stuff I've heard before (and didn't like). I'm much more interested in hearing multiple musicians play together, rather hear one person try to cover all the bases.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:16 PM on May 8, 2009

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