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The Eigenharp lets you rock Mos Eisley-style

The new electronic instrument sounds like a keyboard but is held like a guitar or saxophone. Its versatility promises to make it popular on stage.


It looks like something the Star Wars Cantina band might have forgotten while gigging on Earth, but the Eigenharp might just become something unforgettable for electronic musicians.

Developed by British start-up Eigenlabs, the gorgeously designed, unusual device combines the dynamic physicality of a guitar or saxophone with the versatility of a modern digital synthesizer and sequencer.

The $6,400 professional-grade Eigenharp Alpha, seen here, is a 4-foot-long cylinder of circuitry studded with rows of rectangular keys, two strip controllers, a breath pipe, and pedal controllers. It also seems to have several rows of sexy LED lights. It weighs nearly 6 pounds.

Billed as "the most expressive electronic musical instrument ever made," the Alpha has 132 playing keys that allow the user to change pressure, pitch, filter settings and a host of other parameters, all while playing live, as seen in this demo.

Sounds and drum loops can be imported from other instruments through the Eigenharp base station. The system requires a Mac computer to operate, though Windows software support is expected in January 2010.

The simpler, 18-key Eigenharp Pico is designed for beginners and is currently priced at about $570.

The Eigenharp was conceived by musician John Lambert in the 1990s. He tired of the time-consuming preparation needed for concerts with electronic instruments, and wanted something that could be deployed in only a few minutes like a guitar.

A decade later, the Eigenharp was born. But how does it sound? Check out these two 'Harp players jamming to the James Bond theme in the video below. Eigenlabs will show it off at the 2010 Winter NAMM show in Anaheim next month.

At the least, the Eigenharp may bring a new physical, dynamic presence to musicians performing electronic music live. If only Eigenlabs would include Bith alien masks in the box.