In a remarkable fusion of engineering and music, Olav Martin Kvern, an engineer, has developed a guitar-picking robot that aims to assist players in their fingerpicking techniques. This innovative creation allows guitarists to focus on the fretboard while the robot handles the intricate task of picking the strings.
After years of development, the result is a remarkable guitar-picking robot that allows players to focus on fretboard work while creating rhythmically accurate and dynamically aware tones.
Kvern’s journey began when he witnessed the exceptional fingerstyle playing of the late Klauss Lendzian and marveled at his machine-like precision. This inspired Kvern to construct a literal machine to aid his guitar playing. As a guitarist, Kvern aimed to create a tool to help him play patterns that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. His objective was not to have a machine play a song at the press of a button but rather to develop an extended instrument that he could interact with.
The process of building the guitar-picking robot was meticulous and demanding. Kvern calculated the minimum force required for a guitar pick to generate appropriate vibrations and selected suitable servo motors that were cost-effective, durable, and compact enough to fit inside a guitar. It took Kvern 20 attempts spread over 16 years to perfect the design.
The robot liberates players from the responsibility of picking, allowing them to concentrate solely on the fretboard. This allows for creating atmospheric textures and intricate chord-and-melody progressions using both hands. Additionally, it frees up a hand for various other tasks, such as adjusting pedal parameters, triggering effects, or changing picking patterns.
In the demonstration video, Kvern’s creation can be seen attached to a modified Squier Telecaster with a Cycfi hex pickup, showcasing its capabilities. However, Kvern emphasizes that the robot is not intended as a shortcut and that developing a solid foundational technique is still essential.
Although the guitar-picking robot cannot surpass the technical abilities of some human guitarists, its purpose is to provide an avenue for more people to express themselves through music. With its rhythmic accuracy and dynamic tone generation, this technological marvel offers a new dimension to guitar playing, providing support without replacing the player’s skill and creativity.
Kvern believes that innovations like home recording studios, MIDI, and guitar-picking robots enable a broader range of people to engage in musical expression, making these developments beneficial for the musical community.