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Publication numberUS3555166 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJan 12, 1971
Filing dateMar 19, 1968
Priority dateMar 19, 1968
Publication numberUS 3555166 A, US 3555166A, US-A-3555166, US3555166 A, US3555166A
InventorsRobert A Gasser
Original AssigneeRobert A Gasser
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Guitar-like electronic musical instrument with plural manuals
US 3555166 A
Abstract  available in
Images(3)
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent Primary Examiner-W. E. Ray Attorney-Townsend and Townsend ABSTRACT: An electronic musical instrument for simulating a stringed instrument, such as a guitar, wherein the main body of the instrument is coupled to an elongated fingerboard member extending outwardly therefrom with the member having a plurality of key-actuated switches thereon with the keys of the switches being arranged in rows corresponding to the manual positions of strings, each key and switch representing a particular position along a string. Tone generator means carried by the body is coupled to the switches to produce the various tones which simulate the plucking of the strings. Means is provided on the body to interlock the switches of several rows to permit various chords to be played by actuating the keys in different rows. An accordion-type keyboard is provided to operate the tone generator means in accompaniment with the actuation of said keys. The member is shiftably mounted on the body so that the instrument can be disassembled.

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F SWITCH 34 47 49 *1 l Eb E G ON SECOND v EEN? COLUMN am SWITCH 8 l l l #2 v INVENTOR. F 1 1 ROBERT A. GASSER.

' BY v ATTORNEYS GUITAR-LIKE ELECTRONIC MUSICAL INSTRUMENT WITH PLURAL MANUALS This invention relates to improvements in musical instruments and, more particularly, to electronic musical instruments for simulating a stringed instrument.

The present invention is directed to improvements in electiOiliC musical instruments of the type having a finger board provided with a number of rows of actuatable switches adjacent to the positions along which the strings are normally disposed. In the present invention, no strings are utilized, the switches being the only actuatable parts on the fingerboard whereby tone generator means carried by the main body of the instrument is actuated by the actuation of the switches to provide various musical tones.

A stringless, guitar-like musical instrument has been disclosed in U. S. Pat. No. 3,340,343 wherein a fingerboard having key actuated switches therein is secured to a main body which houses the tone generators actuated by the switches. The keys on the fingerboards are pivotally' mounted thereon and present projections which are spaced relatively widely apart.

The present invention provides improvements over an instrument of the type described by providing means for permitting such an instrument to be played more easily to reduce the instruction time required to play the instrument and to allow the instrument to be more versatile in producing musical sounds.

One significant improvement in the provision of switch-actuating keys on the fingerboard of the instrument which more readily conform to the configuration of a string and have guide means thereon to facilitate the movement of the fingers from one key to another. To this end, each key'has an outer surface which is generally parallel with the fingerboard so that the keys are, except for small breaks therebetween, substantially continuous along the fingerboard. Also, the keys are movable along a rectilinear path into and out of the fingerboard rather than being pivoted so that the keys will be depressed when they are engaged at any location thereon by the fingers. Moreover, the elongated outer surface of the keys are configured to allow the fingers to move smoothly along the fingerboard from one key to another.

Another important aspect of the invention is the provision of interlock means on the main body of the instrument for permitting simultaneous actuation of the fingerboard switches in several rows. Thus, the tone generating means corresponding to such actuated switches can simultaneously produce a aumber of musical notes to form specific chords.

An aecordian-type keyboard can be provided on themain body of the instrument and coupled to the tone generator means for producing particular musical sounds in accompaniment with the musical notes provided by actuating the fingerboard switches.

The main body of the instrument can also be provided with manually actuated keys coupled to the tone generator means to change the frequencies of certain of the musical tones produced thereby. This feature permits the player to play different musical keys without changing the fingering of the instrument. These shifts in pitch are accomplished electronically and preferably cover the more popular keys. This feature is analogous to the Capo DAstro effect presently used, for instance, by some guitarists.

A further important feature of the invention is the provision of rails adjacent to and along the fingerboard keys of at least one row. The keys protrude above the rails allowing the player to slide his fingers up and down the fingerboard with ease, the

rails acting as guides for the fingers much as the strings do on a standard instrument. This feature contributes greatly to the feel" of the instrument.

Another aspect of the invention is the provision of bars between groups of keys on the fingerboard to simulate the frets on a standard instrument. This feature provides for easier identification of the keys and would assist the. player in stopping a hand movement as well as to improve the feel of the instrument.

A further feature and improvement of the invention is the provision of means by which keys on the fingerboard for playing the same musical note are coupled in parallel to the same tone generator. This feature minimizes the number of tone generators required to play the instrument and thereby reduces its production cost.

Still another feature of the invention is the way in which the fingerboard can be shiftably mounted on the main body of the instrument and releasably held in a fixed operative position thereon. This feature allows the instrument to be disassembled and easily moved or stored when it is not being used.

The primary object of this invention is to provide an improved stringless musical instrument having electronic tone generators actuated by a number of switches on a fingerboard whereby the instrument simulates a standard stringed instrument and can be efficiently played in substantially the same manner as the standard instrument while assuring that the switches are constructed and located to provide feel" of the instrument to minimize instruction time required to play the same.

Another object of this invention is to provide a musical instrument of the type described wherein the main body of the instrument has key means thereon which control the switches on the fingerboard in a manner to permit the switches simulating several strings of the Standard instrument to be played simultaneously to thereby permit different musical chords to be produced.

A further object of this invention is to provide a musical instrument of the type described wherein the fingerboard of the instrument can be shiftably mounted on the main body thereof to permitthe latter to be disassembled so as to facilitate carrying or storing the same.

Another object of this invention is to provide an instrument of the type described which has key means on its main body for actuation to produce musical sounds in accompaniment to the sounds played by the actuation of the fingerboard switches to thereby provide versatility for the instrument.

Other objects of this invention will become apparent as the following specification progresses, reference being had to the accompanying drawings for various illustrations of the invention.

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the musical instrument;

FIG. 1A and 1B show the comparison between the finger.- board of this invention and a fingerboard of a standard guitar;

FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of a number of interlock keys thereof;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged, cross-sectional view of the fingerboardof the instrument;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged fragmentary, top plan view of the fingerboard of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary, side elevational view of the switches on the fingerboard;

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the second embodiment of the fingerboard;

FIG. 7 is a side elevational view of the fingerboard of FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a fragmentary, schematic view of the circuitry for the instrument;

FIG. 9 is a fragmentary, schematic view of the instrument showing one way of disassembling the same;

FIG. 10 is a fragmentary, schematic view of the instrument showing a second form of the way in which it is disassembled; and

FIG. 11 is a fragmentary perspective view of the instrument showing a third way in which it can be disassembled.

The musical instrument which forms the subject of this invention is broadly denoted by the numeral 10 and includes a main body 12 and a fingerboard member 14 secured to and extending outwardly from body 12 in the manner shown in FIG. 1. While the teachings of the invention can be utilized to simulate any stringed instrument, it will hereinafter be described with respect to an instrument for simulating a guitar.

Member 14 is shown in FIG. 1A in comparison with a fingerboard member 14a of a standard guitar having strings 14!) extending longitudinally thereof. The purpose of the comparison is to show the relative positions of the various actuating keys 16 of member for the plurality of switches 18 carried thereby with keys l6 representing the string segments denoted by the numeral 16a (FIG. 1B) of member 140. Such string segments span the distance between respective frets 16b on member 140 and the length of each key 16 is essentially the same length as the corresponding segment 16a. Moreover, there are the same number of transversely aligned sets of keys 16 as the number of sets of string segments 16a. To this end, there are six rows of keys 16 and there are approximately 20 keys in each row. This corresponds to the standard fingerboard of a guitar whose six strings cooperate with approximately 21 frets to define the various sets of strings segments 16a.

Each key 16 has a switch 18 shown schematically in FIG. 8 which is actuated when its key 16 is depressed. To this end, member 14 has, in a preferred embodiment of the invention, slots 20 for each key 16 (FIG. 3), the inner end 22 thereof being coupled to the switch for actuating the same. Any means of coupling the key with its switch can be provided as desired.

As shown in FIGS. 1A and 4, each pair of adjacent keys 16 has a small bar 14 therebetween, bars 24 being secured in any suitable manner to member 14. Bars 24 define frets and better identify the positions of the keys relative to each other to enhance the feel of the instrument.

A pair of longitudinally extending rails 26 are preferably provided on member 14 on opposed sides of each row of keys 16 respectively. Each key 16 extends above the adjacent rails 26, the latter having convex outer surfaces as shown in F IG. 3. The rails allow the fingers to slide along member 14 with the same ease as during the fingering of strings of a standard instrument. Thus, the rails act as guides for the fingers much the same way as do guitar strings. This feature contributes to the feel of the instrument and minimizes the instruction time required to learn how to play instrument 10.

FIG. shows another embodiment of the arrangement of the keys wherein no rails are provided and no frets are used. Also, member 14 may have the construction shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 wherein the keys 16 do not have rails 26 and the keys in each row are spaced apart sufficiently to permit a fret 24a to be disposed between each pair of sets of keys 16, frets 24a being coupled in any suitable manner to member 14. Frets 24a resemble and feel like frets 16b (FIG. 18) to thereby contribute to the feel of the instrument.

In all three embodiments of the key arrangement, each key 16 has an elongated, outer surface 28 which is generally parallel with the upper surface 31 of member 14 with both ends of surface 28 being convex as shown in FIGS. 5 and 7. The keys are shiftable' along a rectilinear path into and out of slots 20 of member 14 in contrast to be rotatably mounted thereon. Thus, the switch associated with each key 16 is effectively actuated regardless of where the key is touched. A suitable means (not shown) is used to bias keys 16 outwardly of member 14 so that they will return to initial positions after being depressed.

Interlock means 30 is mounted on body 12 and is coupled with keys 16. The purpose of means 30 is not only to couple switches 18 to an electronic circuit containing specific tone generators (hereinafter described) but also to permit switches 18 of two or more rows on member 14 to be simultaneously actuated. This feature allows various chords to be played by simulating the fingering of several strings. Thus, there will be six keys 32 accessible to the fingers of one hand when the tingers of the other hand are used to depress keys 16. Keys 32 actuate respective switches 38 (FIG. 8), so that, before any one of the keys 16 can cause a musical note to be played, the corresponding key 32 must first be depressed.

-To form a chord by the use'of switches 18 in different rows, it is desirable that corresponding keys 32 be depressed by a single manual function. To this end, there are five secondary keys 34 which are capable of simultaneously depressing respective keys 32. Thus, the first key will depress the first two keys 32, and so on. Keys 34 also have means for returning them to their normal positions when they are released. Keys 32 and 3d thus provide a right-hand function for the player as the left-hand is used to actuate keys l6,'assuming a righthanded player is using the instrument.-'

A number of tone generators broadly denoted by the numeral 36 are carried by body 12 preferably therewithin, assuming the body to be a hollow housingrlEach tone generator will be adapted to provide a particulafmus'ical sound and is coupled in series with a correspondingswitch it; (lFlG. 3). Each switch 18 is of the single-pole, double-throw type and one side of each switch corresponding to a particular row is coupled in series with the corresponding switch 38, the latter serving to connect switches 18 in a circuit containing a power source. When a switch 18 and the corresponding switch 36 are actuated, the tone generator 36 corresponding to the actuated switch 18 is connected to the power source to produce the tone. Also, switches 18 are arranged as shown in F IG. 8 so that only the output of the tone generator 36 corresponding to the highest tone of a particular row of switches will be actuated. For instance, if both switches 18 corresponding to an F tone and a G tone are idepressed, only the tone generator corresponding to the G tone will be actuated. In FIG. '8, a key M is shown in dashed, lines in a position to cause a pair of switches 38 corresponding to adjacent rows of switches 18 to be simultaneously closed. This is the same as depressing key 34 to simultaneously depress at least a pair of keys 32.

Another important feature of the invention is the way in which switches 18 of different rows can be coupled in parallel to the same tone generator to minimize equipment costs and to conserve space and weight in body 12. As an example, the musical note C is located in the second row at the'flrst position, in the third row at the fifth position, in the fourth row at the tenth position, and in the fifth row at the fifteenth'position. Thus switches 18 corresponding to these positions can be coupled to a single C tone generator 36 to actuate the same. Similar duplications of musical tones can be achieved at different locations on member 14 thus reducing the number of tone generators required.

The keys can be provided with different colors or marked with indicia or the like to quickly locate positions or groups of keys. The different colors or indicia used to distinquish the keys would be located at the positions where a standard guitar has the position markers located. This feature minimizes the instruction time required to learn how to play the instrument.

An accordian-type keyboard 40 is mounted on the front face of body 12 adjacent to interlock means Fit). The keyboard has keys 42 which can be depressed to actuate particular tone generators (not shown), similar to tone generators 36 carried in body 12, to contribute notes or melodies or combinations of both for accompaniment with the musical sounds produced by actuating switches 18 and 38. The keyboard will preferably have its own volume control and stop keys for different effects. The keys would be arranged chromatically and in positions to be readily accessible to the fingers of the hand which actuates keys 32 and 34.

Adjacent to keyboard 10 are pushbuttons 14 coupled to particular tone generators (not shown) which, when actuated one at a time, would provide a chord accompaniment with the sounds produced by depressing keys 412. Enough of these buttons could be provided to enable many guitarists to accompany themselves with chords of different types. Preferably, all six interlock switches corresponding to keys 32 will be locked in the closed position while the player accompanies himself with chords produced by actuating pushbuttons 42.

A third group of keys 46 mounted on body 12 adjacent to interlock means 361 are coupled to certain of the tone generators 36 for shifting the frequencies of the output tones thereof. To this end, each of such tone generators will have suitable frequency varying structure 47 actuated by a respective switch 49 to permit such frequency variations. Each switch 49 is operated by a respective key 46. In this way, a person playing a song or chord can, by merely depressing a key 46, cause the s-eund to be heard in a different musical key without changing the lingering of keys 16.

To permit disassembly of instrument 10, member 14 is shiftably mounted on body 12 for movement into and out of the operative position of FIG. 1. One way of doing this is shown in FIG. 9 wherein a hinge 48 interconnects body 12 and member 14 so that the member can swing into and out of its operative position. A flexible cable 50 extends between the proximal ends of body 12 and member 14 and carries the electrical leads which interconnect switches 18 and tone generators 36. A suitable structure (not shown) is provided to releasably lock member 14 in its operative position.

A second way of mounting member 14 on body 12 is shown in FIG. wherein body 12 has the female portion 52 of a pin and socket unit; whereas, member 14 has the male portion 54 thereof. A pair of loops 56 are movable into align with each other and a pin is placed in the aligned loops to releasably lock member 14 on body 12 when the pins 58 of portion 54 are received within recesses 60 in portion 52. The pins of portion 54 can also serve as part of the electrical connection between switches 18 and tone generators 36. v

A third way of mounting member 14 on body 12 is to provicle a number of pins 62 on an end face 64 of member14 for movement into aligned holes 66 formed in an end wall 68 of body 12. A plate 70 having keyways 72 is shiftably mounted on body 12 and movable transversely of pin 62 so that the plate 70 is received within grooves 74 in pins 62 to releasably lock member 14 to body 12. A suitable male and female electrical connector unit 76 is mounted in two parts on body 12 and member 14 for mutual interconnection when the member is in the operative position of FIG. 1.

In use, instrument 10 is held so that one of the hands operates keys 16 while the other hand operates the various keys on body 12. The electronic circuitry of instrument 10 will include an audio unit having a speaker mounted on body 12 or at a location remote from instrument 10.

The instrument is played by depressing keys 16 to actuate switches 18 in a prescribed manner. However, before the tone generator of each key can be actuated, the corresponding keys 32 must be depressed to actuate switches 38. The various keys 32 can be simultaneously depressed by a key or keys 34 so that the tone generators of the corresponding rows of member 14 can be actuated immediately upon depressing the corresponding key 16. Keyboard 40 can be used in accompaniment with the actuation of keys 16 to produce particular types of musical sounds which accompany the sounds caused by depressing switches 16. This feature provides for increased versatility of instrument 10. Also, pushbuttons 44 can be depressed along the keys of keyboard 40 to further provide for distinctive sounds and tones.

During the actual manipulation of keys 16, keys 46 can also be depressed to change the pitch of musical keys of one or more tone generators to add to the musical effects caused by depressing keys l6.

When it is desired to disassemble instrument 10, member 14 is shifted relative to body 12 and, to this end, member 14 can be connected in any one of the three ways shown in FIGS. 9, it? and 21 to effect this movement. The instrument can then be carried more conveniently since it occupies less space and a suitable carrying case can be provided for the instrument in this condition.

While a preferred embodiment of this invention has been shown and described, it will be apparent that other adaptations and modifications of this device can be made without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention.

I claim:

1. In an electronic musical instrument for simulating a stringed instrument: a main body; an elongated member secured to and extending from the body, the member presenting a fingerboard for the instrument; a number of actuatable switches carried by said member, each switch having an actuating key provided with a generally flat outer surface substantially parallel to said member, the keys being in spaced, respective rows extending longitudinally of the member, at least one of said rows having a pair of parallel rails secured to said member and disposed on opposed sides of the keys of said one row; and means coupled with said keys for mounting the same for reciprocation on said member with the keys in each row being substantially in end-to-end alignment.

2. In a musical instrument as set forth in claim 1, wherein each rail has a convex outer surface substantially spanning the distance between the key and the proximal surface of said member.

3. In a musical instrument for simulating a stringed instrument; a main body; an elongated member secured to an extending laterally from the body; a plurality of tone generators; a first switch carried by the member for each tone generator respectively, the first switches having respective actuating keys disposed in respective rows extending longitudinally of the member and movable toward the member to actuate the switch and thereby the respective tone generator; a number of second switches carried by said body, there being a second switch for the first switches corresponding to each row of keys respectively, said first and second switches being coupled together to permit a tone generator to be energized when the corresponding first and second switches are simultaneously actuated; and interlock means coupled with said second switches for simultaneously actuating at least a pair of the second switches. I

4. In a musical instrument as set forth in claim 3, wherein said second switches and said interlock means include a number of shiftable keys mounted on said body in a position to be accessible to the fingers of one hand as the keys of the switches on said member are accessible to the fingers of the other hand.

5. In a musical instrument as set forth in claim 3, wherein said second switches have respective shiftable actuating keys, said interlock means including a group of movable keys coupled to the keys of said second switches, each key of said group being disposed to simultaneously shift respective keys of said second switches.

6. In a musical instrument as set forth in claim 3, wherein said second switches have respective actuating keys, and wherein is included a third group of keys arranged to simulate an accordian-type keyboard, said third group of keys being disposed on said body at a location adjacent to the keys of said second group of keys; and tone generator structure carried by the body and coupled with the keys ofsaid keyboard.

7. In a musical instrument as set forth in claim 6, wherein is included a plurality of pushbutton devices adjacent to said keyboard and coupled to said tone generator structure, said devices presenting chord buttons for use with said third group of keys.

8. In a musical instrument as set forth in claim 3, wherein each of certain of said tone generators has means for varying the frequency of the output tone thereof, and including a number of key actuated switch devices secured to the body, each switch device being coupled to the frequency varying means of a respective one of said certain tone generators to vary the tone frequency of the same.

9. In a musical instrument for simulating a stringed instrument: a main body; an elongated member having a plurality of actuatable switches secured thereto; tone generator means carried by the body; means mounting the member on said body for movement into and out of an operative position with the member extending outwardly from the body; and means interconnecting the switches and said tone generator means to permit the latter to be energized in response to the actuation of said switches.

10. A musical instrument as set forth in claim 9, wherein said mounting means includes a hinge, said interconnecting means including a flexible cable; and means for releasably locking the member in said operative position.

11. In a musical instrument as set forth in claim 9, wherein the mounting means includes a unit having a pin device and a socket device for receiving the pins of said pin device, one of the devices being connected to the body and the other device being connected to the member.

12. In a musical instrument as set forth in claim ll, wherein the pin device is mounted on one side of the member and the socket device is mounted on the outer face of the body, said pins of the pin device defining parts of said interconnecting means.

13. In a musicai instrument as set forth in claim 11, wherein said pin device includes a number of pins projecting outwardly from one end face of said member, said socket device being secured to an end wall of the body, said interconnecting means including a component having respective parts on said one end of the member and said end wall of the body.

14. A musical instrument for simulating a stringed instrument comprising: a main body; an elongated member having a plurality of first actuatable switches thereon, there being a shiftable actuating key for each first switch respectively, said keys being arranged in respective rows extending longitudinally of said member; means mounting said member on said body for movement into and out of operative position relative thereto with the member extending outwardly from the body; a tone generator means carried by the body and being energizable to produce different musical tones; means coupling said tone generator man means to respective switches on the member for energizing the tone generator means in response to the shifting of respective keys; a number of second key actuated switches mounted on the body and coupled to the first switches of respective rows to permit the tone generator means to be energized only when the corresponding first and second switches are actuated; interlock means coupled with said second switches for simultaneously moving respective keys thereof to thereby actuatethe corresponding second switches; a third group of key actuated switches mounted on the body adjacent to said second switches and coupled to a second set of tone generator means, said third group of switches having keys arranged to present an accordian-type keyboard; a number of pushbutton devices adjacent to said second and third switches and connected to said tone generator means to present chord buttons cooperable with said keyboard, said tone generator means having structure for varying the frequencies of certain musical tones thereof;

manually actuated means carried by the body and coupled to said structure of said tone generator means for selectively varying the frequencies of said certain musical tones; and a pair of parallel rails for at least one of said rows of keys on the member, said rails extending longitudinally of the member on opposite sides of said one row.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification84/600, 84/722, 984/346, 84/601
International ClassificationG10H1/34
Cooperative ClassificationG10H1/342, G10H2230/145
European ClassificationG10H1/34B