Instrument 1: A violin, keyboard, guitar and cello in one digital instrument

A crazy gadget that looks like a toy fretboard peripheral for a video game is actually a highly versatile instrument that can be played in many ways.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read


When is a guitar not a guitar? When it can be laid flat and played as a keyboard! No, we're not talking about the keytar, although the keytar is pretty sweet; it's a brand new instrument that's designed to act like almost any instrument you can think of.

Called Instrument 1, it's a little reminiscent of the minimalist Gittler guitar, consisting of a board that resembles the fretboard of an electric guitar, with six pressure- and velocity-sensitive ridges instead of strings, with a volume and mode knob, as well as bridge buttons, on one end, and speakers on both. A built-in accelerometer allows the device to be aware of its orientation.

Instrument 1 designer Artiphon claims that the device can be whatever instrument you want it to be -- although it comes equipped with presets, you can design and program new instruments via the Artiphon companion app, which you can also use to write and record your music. And it can be held and played like any instrument.

"A guitar is designed to be strummed; piano keys are pressed; drum pads are tapped; violins are bowed. But what if a single instrument could be played with any of these techniques? That's exactly what we're creating -- one instrument that lets you be the whole band," the team wrote on Kickstarter, where it is seeking funding.


To this end, the instrument will compatible with hundreds of music-making apps, the company claims, including Apple's Garageband -- anything that is MIDI-compatible, across PC, Mac and mobile devices, connecting via Lightning connector or USB.

The fretboard is customisable to your needs. You can turn off the frets, turn the strings into buttons or pads, tune the instrument to whatever scale you desire, even assign different instruments to different strings. The velocity sensor allows you to strum, tap, hammer, pluck, vibrato and bow the strings, sounding the notes accordingly.

"We believe anyone can make music, and that most people really want to. Like snapping an Instagram, now you don't have to already be a professional to start making music and enjoy every note," Artiphon wrote. "We're building an instrument that empowers people to play music apps beyond the touchscreen, and we want to inspire people to explore music-making in their everyday lives."

The Instrument 1 is currently being offered as a reward with a Kickstarter pledge of $349 (about AU$450 or £230) for the black or white version, which ships globally, or $899 for the Nashville edition, which comes with a hardwood back and ships only within the US. At the time of writing, Instrument 1 has already hit over $440,000 for a funding goal of $75,000.

You can find out more and pledge your support on the Instrument 1 Kickstarter project page.