Musical Wii

A controller from a games console has been transformed into two new musical instruments by a student at York University.

Max Leonard, who has just completed his Masters degree in Electronic Engineering with Music Technology Systems, studied the way musicians create different sounds when playing conventional instruments and reproduced the same effect electronically by combining the control device for the Nintendo Wii and a computer using specially written software.

The result is two new electronic instruments where pitch and tone are dictated by subtle hand movements.

The first is a tuned percussion-style instrument while the second is played in a similar way to a bowed instrument, such as a cello, where the left hand is used to steer the pitch of the instrument and the right hand injects the level of energy.

Leonard said: ‘I wanted to create an electronic instrument that gave the musician the same sense of expression as a traditional instrument, rather than simply pressing a button to generate a particular musical effect.’

He hopes to develop the concept further by creating a user-friendly programme that allows people to invent their own musical instrument via a simple menu system.

A video of Leonard explaining his cello-style instrument can be found here:

A demonstration of the percussion instrument is available here:

Leonard is due to take up a research-and-development post with the BBC in September 2009.