Guthman Music Competition Top 10

Music Reinvented

Guthman Music Competition Top 10

The next generation of musical instruments were showcased at the 2015 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, held at Georgia Tech Feb. 19-20. Each year, the two-day event brings together musicians from all over the world to showcase their new ideas about instrument design and engineering — and to compete for $10,000 in prizes.

Entries are varied and creative, challenging the way instruments and music making have traditionally worked. Here are some of our favorite inventions from this year’s competition.

VCG instrument


Man playing guitar with tube attached that is in his mouth

Inventors: Greg Hendler, Mark Crowley, Raja Raman (USA)

This year, for the first time ever, the Guthman competition was expanded to include students from Georgia Tech. The VCG, a breath-controlled synth guitar, took home the top prize in the inaugural student design challenge.

Magnetic Percussion Tower instrument

Magnetic Percussion Tower

Man using a rod to make music on two easel-like wood towers that hold small metallic pieces and glass cylinders, and are connected by wires to an amplifier
The Magnetic Percussion Tower

Inventor: Ed Potokar (USA)​

The Magnetic Percussion Tower combines aspects of kinetic sculpture, music box design, drum machine, and interactive art. It’s no wonder that it won the People’s Choice award for “Most Unusual Instrument.”

Nomis instrument


Man with hand inside circle that is part of an instrument with two small towers
The Nomis

Inventor: Jonathan Sparks (USA)

The Nomis produces melodies and loops via light and gestures, and was the winner of the People’s Choice awards for “Best Instrument” and “Best Performance."

Dulsitar instrument


Woman's hands playing a stringed instrument that is held horizontally in the lap
The Dulsitar

Inventor: Judy Piazza (USA)

Piazza, a music therapist and sound healer, developed the Dulsitar instrument in order to play “heart-opening music.” Influenced by the sitar, the instrument incorporates a dulcimer fretboard with added frets, and an unfretted bass string.

turner winch instrument

Turner Winch

Man playing a large instrument that has strings and a winch on one end; the man uses a bow to draw across the instrument
The Turner Winch

Inventor: David Turner Matthews (USA)

The Turner Winch is a graduated set of three string instruments. Each string is attached to a floating bridge and a worm gear winch. The winch allows the musician to play with both hands while keeping the tension steady.

holophone instrument

The Holophone

Man wearing headphones and using computer equipment, including a monitor, to create music
The Holophone

Inventor: Daniel Iglesia (USA)

The Holophone converts touch and vocal input into three-dimensional shapes that are projected onto a nearby surface. The shapes are best viewed with 3D glasses.

O Bow instrument


Man holding a bow above a small cylinder of metal to make music
The O-Bow

Inventor: Dylan Menzies (United Kingdom)

A real string instrument requires careful control and coordination of bow velocity, down-force, bow position, finger position, and vibrato — all of which can take years to master. The O-Bow requires only the control of velocity to produce remarkably expressive orchestral music.

sculpton instrument


Man using a small hand-held grip and the motion of his body to make music
The SculpTon

Inventor: Alberto Boem (Italy)

To play the SculpTon, the musician uses gestures and an artificial human voice. The resulting music is often ambiguous, funny, and occasionally disturbing.

d box instrument

The D-Box

Man wearing headphones pressing a button on a small wooden box
The D-Box

Inventors: Andrew McPherson and Victor Zappi (United Kingdom)

Performers have long developed unusual uses for instruments. Described as a “hackable digital instrument,” the D-Box is purposely designed to allow the musician to rewire and customize it in new and unexpected ways.

GEPS instrument


Man conducting music with his body

Inventors: Cedric Spindler and Frederic Robinson (Switzerland)

Wearing the type of data glove used in virtual reality, the musician plays the GePS through body movement and hand signals. The data is sent to a computer via bluetooth and interpreted into music.


Video: Troy Robinson, Adam Karcz
Writer: Jennifer Tomasino
Photographer:  Fitrah Hamid
Graphics:  Erica Endicott