The Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

The Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

The Guthman Musical Instrument Competition is one of the only competitions of its kind: an event dedicated to identifying the newest and greatest ideas in music. Every year, we invite musical inventors from around the world to share their creations and ideas about the future of music.

The 2021 competition is a fully online event. Instrument makers from all over the world submitted their work. Viewers learned about the finalists and voted on their favorites, while judges chose the slate of winners. The competition culminates with an interactive virtual fair and video profiles of this year's winners in March 2021.

First Place: Segulharpa

The Segulharpa, created by Ulfur Hansson, is new and unique among electro-acoustic instruments. This large circular walnut instrument holds 25 steel strings, which are "bowed" by powerful magnetic fields. Touch sensors are embedded into the grain of the wood, and as the player touches the surface, wonderfully complex interactions are created inside. 

Second Place: Synescope

The Synescope is an instrument that converts visual art -- colors, images, lightness, and darkness -- into sounds. It looks like a record player that plays record-shaped works of art. Inventor Brian Alexander experiences synesthesia, which inspired him to build the Synescope.

Third Place: Electromagnetic Piano

This is an attachment to an acoustic piano that uses magnets to resonate piano strings and can be applied to all the strings on a piano, just a few strings on a piano, or even to multiple pianos. It allows a musician to sustain notes indefinitely as well as trigger notes by using interfaces other than the keyboard.

People's Choice: The Lego Microtonal Guitar

This year's most popular new instrument received more than 60,000 votes. Unlike all playable Lego guitars in the world, Lego Microtonal Guitar is the first Lego guitar with a fretboard made out of Legos. It is the brainchild of a father-son team from Istanbul, Turkey, who are devotees of microtonal traditions in world music.

A photo of the Segulharpa, first place winner in the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition.

Listen to Five of the World’s Newest, Wildest Instruments

The New York Times highlights five of the 2021 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition finalists in an article that focuses on invention and musical motivation. Get music critic Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim's take on our competitors' inventions.

Start Your Music Technology Journey

At the Georgia Tech School of Music, our students combine technical skill with exceptional music talent to truly change the way the world experiences music. Learn more about our bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs in music technology, our pre-college summer studio, and our innovative research labs.

Get the Inside Scoop on Music Technology

Learn about our Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, the inventors we feature every year, and the music technology research and degree programs at the Georgia Tech School of Music. We will inspire your creativity and expand your perspectives on music!


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