National Association of Music Merchants NAMM show of Anaheim featured a plenty of traditional instruments, but as usual, there was also lot of cool music tech. From pro DJ hardware to gadgets that could upgrade the instruments we already own to innovative music education tools & apps, NAMM did show that now, more than ever, the worlds of music & tech are intersecting in the interesting ways.
Aside checking out the newest pro-level gear in areas such as DJing, speakers, and headphones, there were 2 categories that caught people’s attention at NAMM. They were products tackling music education & gadgets that were third-party add-ons for instruments & hardware people do already own.
On the other side relating education, Blipblox was a more interesting item on the floor. A synth designed for 3 to eight-year-old kids, the Blipblox has arrow paths on the top connecting all the buttons to show synth’s signal chain. The idea is to get kids interested in synthesis basics early on. But, there is no iconography on the Blipblox to hint at what the buttons do, so it is hard to say how much kids would really learn as opposed to just mashing buttons. If kids want to learn more, they can read the manual coming with it, but it seems to defeat the product’s purpose.
The Dato Duo is also a synth for kids that is more successful in its design, showing, for instance, a giraffe with a short & long neck for the knob that can adjust a note’s length. The Blipblox can benefit from symbols, & although it has shortcomings, it is nice to see additional companies.
The ONE Piano Hi-Lite was also another education tool which was quite clever. A long strip with sensors on bottom, the Hi-Lite is placed on the top of our existing piano’s keyboard and later connected with an app for iPad or iPhone. It later works Guitar Hero-style to teach us how to learn theory & play songs, with keys lighting up along the strip.
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The Hi-Lite also fell within an other category popular at NAMM: hacky add-ons for the gear you have already. While several companies were debuting latest models of synths, turntables, others were showing clever ways they figured out to augment the instruments and hardware you have got at home. OneManBand’s guitar attachment could convert signals from the guitar into MIDI through simply pressing strings (it doesn’t require plucking), produces an on-the-fly backing band that is based on your playing, and many more.
French company MWM showed a prototype for ‘Phase,’. It works with DVS-style DJ software -like Serato DJ- to eliminate the requirement for a tonearm & stylus when playing off control vinyl. It works with remotes affixed to the vinyl that then communicate rotation information by radio signals to a receiver that’s connected to your laptop.
Aerodrums company allows you to drum without a drum set. This company has just introduced a VR component. Aerodrums works with traditional drum sticks having reflective balls at the tip & reflective panels attached to your feet. A camera captures any movements made, allowing you drum without a physical kit. The new upgrade takes this same format but now permits for more immersive drumming with help of a VR headset.
Most of the products fell in the price range of a couple hundred dollars as the The ONE Piano Hi-Lite is only for $229 & the Phase should retail for around $300. These slight investments can have bigger payoffs for musicians.