Making New Musical Rules at Music Gear Expo


An integrated MIDI and computer at the music gear expo at SXSW.
  • Josh Gross
  • An integrated MIDI and computer at the music gear expo at SXSW.

Musicians make sounds come from instruments. But before they can do that, someone has to make the instrument, a process that often influences the music more than the musician. The instrument defines the sounds that can be harnessed to make music, and innovations in instrument-making techniques drive innovations in music itself.

Plenty of new technologies were on display at the SXSW music gear expo, though most were in the realm of digital effects pedals and improved electronics.

A few of the more interesting items on display included a foldable synthesizer better suited for touring and a micro-sized integrated MIDI and sequencer unit that was like a laptop computer if you replaced a lettered keyboard with a piano keyboard.

The most interesting instrument was the Jasperbridge percussive guitar. It is the invention of a man named Tom Shaper and is an electric guitar designed to be played not with a pick or fingers, but with a drum stick.

I asked Shaper why someone should be interested in his creation, and he said that it's still a wide-open field. At the moment, he is the world's greatest Jasperbridge player, a crown ripe to be claimed.