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Follow the instinct if you can; enjoy it if you must.

Perceptual Guidance
Musical Instrument

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"I can totally understand it. It's just like different people want different car, but one has to learn how to drive first." This is a comment from one user who played "MIDAS" and used a metaphor to share his thought. 

Becoming a proficient musician is generally a long process. This obstacle hinders normal people from enjoying playing music. So far technology has not changed the instrument interface enough for intuitive play.

If we look back to the whole musical instrument history, since the very first known instrument (flute shape) 40,000 years ago, a huge leap had been made in the music industry after the synthesizer was invented in the last century '60s. Electronic instruments can now perform more sophisticated functions to suit complicated performances. Players not only play with the melody and rhythm but also have access to control the details of the effects.


However, learning how to play music still requires plenty of energy, inhibiting the possibility of being proficient. In the music learning market, people who like music spend huge amounts of money and time buying instruments and taking courses. Because of the complexity and relative inefficiency, these investments are unlikely to yield much return for the majority of musician wannabes. The problem is that these existing instruments have many triggers on the operation interfaces that create barriers so that before users interact with these triggers, they are unable to realize and remember those tones or even those chords. I recognize this kind of interface as the "dark box."

Mind loop of playing complex instruments shows how perception works when playing "dark box" musical instruments.

(Alan De SmetEnglish Wikipedia, 10 Jun. 2007 )

The Gestalt Principle (Kohler, 1969) suggests that humans are easily confused once visual feedback information becomes complicated. We need hints to help us recognize the right answer in illusion.

Considering this predicament and rethinking the purpose of playing music caused me to identify

a design philosophy for piloting this project. A psychology study called "The Gestalt Principle" might be the clue to finding the answer.


Although the visual example that Gestalt Principle has cited, this principle can be applied to any perceptual domain (hearing, smell, touch, and taste.) These are all based on profound experiences, developing since we were born. It seems this principle could be used to neutralize the "dark box." My research also proves it is probably right. Interviewees resonated high consistency with the same color and touching samples, no matter what instrument they were playing.


Most of the playing interfaces follow linear logic. The sequence of a single note is arranged from low frequency to high, but, really, the composition of the music doesn’t go with it. Music includes a series of chords, and in each music chapter, the arrangement of these chords is closer to a circle than a line. On current instruments, the player needs to locate the chord’s positions on the linear interface and keep remembering them through practicing, whereas it does not have to be like that. Technology has provided more advanced methods to make the interface variable, so the combination of notes can be re-arranged based on the composing requirement.


Thus here are my proposals: what if the new design could provide perceptual familiarity, and what if it has dynamic functions, which means it is possible to echo one’s intuitive experience while releasing the complexity in the playing process? I call this design philosophy "Perceptual Guidance." Firstly, it should engage in communicating through both haptics and gesture in a hand-held size. Secondly, I introduce the chord guidance system, which has already been successfully used in a few smart device applications (ex. Garageband,) to the product interface.

The design provides the possibility of changing the surface texture in the front touching zone. Players are able to interchange covering surfaces following personal preference. The rich choices of touching materials enhance the gameplay of “MIDAS.”

"MIDAS" interface integrates these features into a unique body. On the front side, one hand manipulates chords; another hand plays a range of scales. According to music theory, each song has multiple keys but only uses 8 chords in one key. Because of that, there are 8 soft touching sensors where users can play the chords combination directly. 1 octave of soft touching notes is arranged on the right in order to create the melody or make the chord richer. The idea behind this combination is as technology streamlines intuitive playing, players are freed from the burden of remembering unnecessary information, in the meanwhile, can get access to all the notes if they wish.


On the back side, the thumb takes control of switching arpeggios and chords, tempo, key, pairing, power, etc. Once the arpeggio mode is activated, there are 4 different patterns that can be generated by pressing those 4 choicers. If the arpeggio mode is deactivated, those 4 choicers are changed to realize the function that transmits chords from bass to treble. Two direction buttons have multiple functions based on the configurations, which can be the tempo adjustment or the key shift. The power button also has the wireless pairing function when it is long-pressed.

"MIDAS" is a stand-alone musical instrument. The built-in memory system saves every information including chords combination, instrument tone, tempo, octave, etc. from the smart device's application, and then it transfers the signal to the output devices through the wireless connection. It is also creating a new sustainable platform. Players can share and download their chord combinations and arpeggio patterns through the "M Store" in the application.

Output terminal

Smart device interface

The "Perceptual Guidance Musical Instrument" (patent pending) is supposed to allow players to release their memory system and invest their energy in creation so the target group can be at any level of proficiency as long as they want to play. This is exactly how the actual user feels on the product announcement day. "MIDAS" will be the industry's first musical instrument fully designed for perception.

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