Ten Instruments That Will Change How You Think About Music

In honor of the 25th annual Guthman Musical Instrument Competition that took place this past March, we've put together a list of some of the most memorable instruments that have been part of the event over the years.

The ElectroSpit

2020 First Place Winner | Bosko (Oakland, California)

ElectroSpit’s ESX-1 simplifies the classic talkbox -- a cumbersome effects device that transforms sound through a musician's mouth -- into a device worn on the user's neck and a companion mobile app.

“The Electrospit blew our minds. The technology, ease of use, and practical application in music creation made it a stand out for sure!” — Milk+Sizz, Multi-Platinum, Grammy and Latin Grammy Winners and performers on the 2020, 2022, and 2023 Guthman concerts

The Segulharpa

2021 First Place Winner | Úlfur Hansson (Iceland)

The Segulharpa is a unique instrument capable of creating beautiful tones using electromagnetism. Within the wooden frame, 25 hidden strings are "bowed" by powerful magnetic fields creating complex interactions inside.

“The Segulharpa is one of the most unique instruments I have ever seen. It blends acoustic and electronic worlds together through an acoustics lens, which is a promising space in musical instrument design.” — Mir Jeffres, Bachelor of Science in Music Technology student

The Lego Microtonal Guitar

2021 People's Choice | Atlas and Tolgahan Çoğulu, Ruşen Can Acet (Turkey)

The Lego Microtonal Guitar allows for microtonal tunings used in non-western musical traditions by adjusting custom designed movable Lego frets.

“Using a very popular child's toy to enable someone to create sophisticated music is an odd, but very effective symmetry.  The simplistic design, ease of use, and accessibility really resonated with me. ” — Chris Moore, Director of Undergraduate Programs and Director of Athletic Bands, Georgia Tech School of Music

The Yaybahar

2016 Second Place Winner | Gorkem Sen (Turkey)

The Yaybahar is an acoustic instrument consisting of a resonating membrane, changeable fretboards, capo neck system, and controllable spring vibration pedal system.

“There is still a wide space for innovation in novel purely acoustic instruments. The Yabahar is a beautiful piece of art that looks like a strange hybrid between wind, string, and percussion instruments from around the world.” — Gil Weinberg, Director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology and Guthman Competition co-founder

The Glide

2019 First Place Winner | Keith Groover (Spartanburg, South Carolina)

The Glide is a melodic instrument for learning music. Accelerometers change the volume, tone, pitch, and attack of notes, while buttons select the initial pitch and transposition.

“The Glide is very flexible. It can be played by one person, and he’s just moving his arms and hands to play it — amazing. I like the musical sound and the quietness of the instrument. It was just soothing. It's so different from anything else I’ve seen over the years at the competition." - Margaret Guthman, competition namesake

The Skoog

2020 Finalist | Benjamin Schogler (Edinburgh, Scotland)

The Skoog is a tactile instrument with a universal design that enables fun, accessible, expressive music-making for children — including those with disabilities.

“I am always looking for technology that makes music more accessible to all students. The Skoog reminded me of a toy that would look familiar and have a low barrier of entry for students of all musical and technical abilities.” — Sabrina Grossman, Georgia Tech CEISMC Program Director in Science Education and organizer of K-12 workshops during the competition

The Glissotar

2022 First Place Winner | Dániel Váczi and Tóbiás Terebessy (Hungary)

Instead of tone holes, the Glissotar uses a stretched magnetic ribbon to produce continuous pitch. It is based on a Hungarian single-reed instrument with a conical wooden body called the tarogato. 

“The ribbon allows for more gestural techniques like sliding and slapping which create interesting new sounds and visuals. It introduces the idea of extended techniques and less traditional tonalities within an instrument that feels familiar to new audiences.” — Jocelyn Kavanagh, Master of Science in Music Technology student

The Stahlcello

2018 People's Choice | Jan Heinke (Dresden, Germany)

The Stahlcello consists of 52 chromatically tuned rods made of iron and steel that are bowed by the performer. It is built on a resonating steel plate that creates a unique sonic world.

“Its focus around overtones makes this instrument a wonderful connection between resonant physics and music. In addition, the size and play style lends itself to a visually aesthetic instrument that allows a user to create music in a performative manner.” — Amit Rogel, Music Technology Ph.D. student

Teenage Engineering OP-1

2014 Second Place Winner | Teenage Engineering from Stockholm, Sweden

The OP-1 is a portable synthesizer that helps creative musicians make music on the go.

"The OP-1 reimagined the synthesizer from the ground up, from its interface and size to the ways you make music with it. It helped inspire musicians to make new kinds of music and convinced the industry to rethink the way synthesizers are made." --Jason Freeman, professor and chair, Georgia Tech School of Music


2011 Finalist | Jacob Sello (Hamburg, Germany)

HexenKessel (witch’s cauldron) combines a classic timpani with projection and multi-touch technology. The drumhead acts as an interface for multimedia performance featuring both light and sound.

"HexenKessel was incredibly clever as it rethought the functionality, potential, and expressivity of the timpani – an instrument that had been 'fixed' conceptually for over two thousand years. The technologies used to expand the instrument had enormous practical application in a wide variety of other contexts." -- Frank Clark, professor of music, Georgia Tech School of Music, and Guthman Competition co-founder

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