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Feature: Acoustics – Infinite Improvisation

guitar smallThis article was originally published in the Summer 2009 issue of Prism Magazine.

Top instrumentalists often own a collection of guitars, in part because no two sound exactly alike. As the grain of every piece of wood is unique, so, too, are the acoustics of each instrument. Now, Massachusetts Institute of Technology master’s student Amit Zoran has created the Chameleon Guitar. Its wooden midsection — the soundboard — is removable, so that soundboards made from different woods or materials can be inserted. The result is a single guitar that can produce an infinite variety of sounds. One of Zoran’s soundboards was fashioned from the plank of a 150-year-old bridge; another, made from plastic, can be filled with different liquids. The Chameleon Guitar also has an inboard computer. It takes the sound from the pickups and sends it to a resonating chamber that it can virtually manipulate — artificially modifying its size and shape — which further reworks the guitar’s sound. After getting his master’s, Zoran expects to continue refining his instrument for his Ph.D. thesis and ultimately, to commercialize it. Odds are, he’s not singing the blues.

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