Genesis of a New Musical Instrument

The Open String began from a desire to drum on strings. Electronic drums offered too little expressiveness, given their reliance on the MIDI protocol’s 127 levels of sample triggering. An amplified string was the touch sensitive medium I knew of, therefore I sought to build something that would let me drum but with strings.


Many pitched percussion string instruments have existed prior. I studied the nature of these instruments as well as fundamental aspects of all stringed instruments during the design phase of the Open String.

Prior Art

Left to right: Santur, Cymbalum, Yangqin


Bass Strings


Feet of Wire


Modes of Play

Made of Ash Wood with Tubular Aluminum Cross Members.

Sounds like a Slap Bass, Deep and Punchy. It Resonates for Nearly Two Minutes.

A Successful Sonic Experiment

The Open String has been used in various live performances over the years. It’s been used in both the fully automated mode in which the solenoids follow a MIDI track and strike the strings according to pre-composed backing lines. It has also been used by students at various universities to create new sonic textures by exploring the possibilities of direct interaction with highly resonate and amplified strings.

A Diagrammatic Overview

Below is a interactive infographic that reveals more detail about the device.

Hover over the + signs to read about each element.

Dodecaphonic Sound, Each String Gets A Discrete Channel
Magnetically Attached Pickup Rail is Removable for Transport
Rotary Solenoids Strike the Strings
Arduino Based Controller Board Provides MIDI Input
Ebony Bridges Made of Old Piano Keys
Ash Lumber Provides Excellent Strength to Weight Ratio
Super Long Scale Extra Heavy Bass Strings for Huge Sound
Detachable Solenoid Rail for More Open Human Play or Transport
Tubular Cross Members Detach, Allowing the Whole Unit to Breakdown for Transport

Materials and Parts

Ground Bars for Tailpieces
GraphTech Self-Lubricating Nut
Sperzel Locking Tuners
Stainless Steel Rod
Ash Wood
Ebony Bridges

3D Printing was Used Extensively.

The Parts Were Designed in Rhino.