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Robotics Music Entertainment

A Guitar Robot That Can Really Shred 88

botPatrol writes "As reported today by Create Digital Music and the Wired blog, PAM (Polytangent Automatic (multi-)Monochord) is a robot who has discovered a love for vintage Metallica riffs, and can churn them out non-stop at superhuman speeds without ever requiring anger management therapy or treatment for drug abuse." (Read more, below.)
"Her younger sister MARIE, a road-ready robotic ensemble of wind and string instruments, promises to be even more of a musical badass. STEIM (STudio for Electro Instrumental Music), a leading international research center for the development of new musical instruments, will play host to MARIE this spring, and has posted a story on the revolutionary nature of this new musical robot. PAM and MARIE creators Expressive Machines Musical Instruments (EMMI) are calling on metal- and tech-heads alike to push their Kickstarter fund raising campaign over the top in its final few days, to fund the MARIE prototype and "help thwart the imminent robot vs. human wars by demonstrating how fun, cool, and sonically interesting it can be when humans and robots combine their powers for good.""
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A Guitar Robot That Can Really Shred

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  • And... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheL0ser ( 1955440 ) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @06:44PM (#34715808)
    Lawsuit from Metallica coming in 3...2...1...
    • by tudorl ( 841940 )
      Heheh ,,, good luck figuring out how to start a trial on a machine :D
    • Re:And... (Score:4, Funny)

      by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:06PM (#34716060)

      Robot... BAD!

      • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        Robot... is bad. I watched the video here ... and... it blows. Seriously. It fucking blows.

        Sounded nothing like Metallica to me, and it did not even sound like a person playing metal. I listened for a full minute and it just became painful to listen to. If that robot is attempting to play a guitar and reproduce something that a human made, sorry, it failed.

        Is it just me? Are there musicians out there that can tell me it was making some kind of music? Some sort of artistic industrial sound that I am ju

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It was sort-of playing Cliff Burton's bass solo: "Anesthesia - Pulling Teeth" from the "Kill 'Em All" album. I say sort of in that it started off sort of right, but with many of wrong notes. It then proceeded to have nothing at all to do with the original song.

          Despite it being fairly easy to get most of Cliff's sound (neck pickup, tone knob set all the way to one end, and using a fuzzbox for distortion), they failed there too. We'll ignore the missing whammy and wah.

          Oh, and it naturally lacked any sort o

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Grind core metal guitarist here. Yup, it's a bit lame. It's got the mechanics of being able to finger the right notes, but is lacking in a few major places. For a start, the guitar. I can't see an 'actual' guitar here, you know, one made from a nice single piece of lovely sounding quality wood. It would also sound a lot better if the miked up a JCM900 4x12 cab

          The guitar sounds like it's been run through a cheap distortion pedal directly into the line in on a hifi. The problem is that you can't get a good cr

      • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

        Don't you think that your opinion is a bit biased? After all, there are those allegations that you pushed a kid down the stairs...

      • by antdude ( 79039 )

        "Bad Robot []!" --kids/children

    • I didn't actually hear any "Metallica" music. Sure, it was definitely Metallica-like, but you can't sue for "playing music sorta-kinda similar to the stuff we play".

      About the only reference to Metallica was in the song's title: in the recorded version of "Anesthesia - Pulling Teeth" (from the "Kill 'em All" album), Cliff Burton said the words "bass solo, take one"; this is homaged by the song's title, "PAM Solo, Take One". There is literally nothing remotely lawsuit-capable in this.

      Hell, even if PAM was t
    • by equex ( 747231 )
      None of that was actually any Metallica riffs. TFA also said 'Metallica-style riffs'.
  • all it needs now is a massive EGO module and it will be just like a real shredder guitarist ;)
    • Hettfield ain't so tough. If the robot wanted to be like that bed-wetting emo-kid James Hettfield, it could beg for mercy* and then leak oil all over itself after playing Mama Said.

      * The most pathetic Metallica concert was in '99 at the Coors(now Cricket) amphitheater near San Diego. Hettfield was forgetting rather obvious lyrics to his songs, and the crowd was chucking plastic beer bottles at him, actually sticking Hettfield in the face as he was singing(er, trying to sing) Wherever I may roam. He then
    • Bender: "With my mighty robot powers, I can get sick of things much quicker than you humans."
  • by GaryOlson ( 737642 ) <> on Thursday December 30, 2010 @06:57PM (#34715940) Journal
    ....Metallica's music was always rather repetitive and robotic.
    Show me a robot which can play classical violin without becoming arrogant and whiny; that would be an achievement.
    • Agreed. Wheres the Clapton, Hendrix, or SRV-bots?
    • by pejyel ( 1275304 )

      Show me a robot which can play classical violin without becoming arrogant and whiny; that would be an achievement.

      Here you go, done already 3 years ago.
      Toyota violin-playing robot, 2007 []
      Does that prove that classical music authors were rather repetitive and robotic?

  • Superhuman speed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zedrick ( 764028 ) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:06PM (#34716058)
    The videos doesn't show any superhuman speed. I (a half-decent guitarist) can play metallica songs faster, and a lot better/cleaner (the robot doesn't seem to be able to mute the stings for example).

    Wake me up when the build a robot that can compete with Yngwie Malmsteen.
    • I am likewise disappointed. The music sounds like crap. The only point of reproducing music mechanically, rather then electronically, is for the novelty, but I don't see this guitar player impressing anyone.

      School project level.

    • Re:Superhuman speed? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:38PM (#34716404) Journal

      Even worse - it's missing more than half the sound qualities of true guitar playing:
        string thickness
        string/fret choice for note
        string bends
        finger slide noises
        pluck style (pick, hammer-on, pull-off, etc)
        pluck position on string
        muting / hf filter
        high-order harmonic generation / lf filter
        'whammy' bar
        string-to-string interaction
        pickup choice, switching
        pedalboard activity

      Synth guitar emulations can guess on a lot of these and inject sound changes, but really, nothing compares to a well-skilled guitarist playing a purposefully created good solo.

      • by Rary ( 566291 ) *

        The thing is playing a one-string guitar. It does attempt to do some virtual palm-muting, but does so poorly, as there is no substitute for a fleshy palm when muting. It does do hammer-ons and pull-offs— in fact, that's most of what it does, since it's playing riffs entirely on one string.

        In short, it's a neat gimmick, but not particularly useful or revolutionary.

      • Also, no vibrato, which is the thing that when tastefully done separates the musicians playing music from the flesh robots playing notes. Well, in my opinion at least.
        • It lacks attenuation. An master of his instrument and music will induce small variations in order to better blend sequences notes and harmonies together. This robot isn't even trying to do that. A robot will never do that on it's own, at best it will be able to listen to an instrument in a certain style, recursively deduce some of the rules that a master uses and implement them.
      • by jafac ( 1449 )

        dang, it's not bad for a version 1.0.

        I don't think the creators are overlooking advanced or esoteric technique. One day, not too long from now (and this is long overdue) the machines are going to be playing shit that will make our eyes bug out.
        And then make us yawn, and bitch and moan for upgrades.

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "the robot doesn't seem to be able to mute the stings for example"

      Did you even watch the beginning of the video where the palm mute pad goes up and down, demonstrating palm muting?

      Now granted this isn't even close to being impressive. I can one-hand thunderstruck at about 3x the speed of Angus, cleanly, that still isn't anything.

      Yngwie? Nah. Yngwie is good, but there are tons of kids nowdays that can rip him a new one. I know of a blind Japanese kid that would kick his ass left and right.

      • by Zedrick ( 764028 )
        > Did you even watch the beginning of the video where the palm mute pad goes up and down, demonstrating palm muting?

        No, missed it. If it's there, it's not working.

        > Yngwie? Nah. Yngwie is good, but there are tons of kids nowdays that can rip him a new one. I know of a blind Japanese kid that would kick his ass left and right.

        Infidel. And you misspelled "God".
        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          The Jap kid played Yngwie's music. Did what he did WITHOUT LOOKING.

          That puts Yngwie into the amateur level, as he still has to look at the fretboard to perform his songs.

          Sorry, Paul Gilbert is way better than Yngwie. Hell Michaelangelo Galilei is better.

          And as I don't believe in gods, Yngwie is just a mere pissant of a human just like you and me.

  • Oh, come on. The point of doing this can only be geek joy. To say that it is a good idea to replace a musician with this is stupid. It's not about technical prowess in the end. The robot is metal (or at least comprised of it, in part). Yet it does not rock.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The point isn't to replace human performers. Look into this more and you'll find that the robots sometimes perform/interact with human musicians and dancers. The point is to explore new territory. Robots do things humans can't and vice versa. BTW, if you aren't for geek joy, why are you commenting on Slashdot?
    • Target for beer bottles? yep. I don't play (but wish I did), but I have a lot of friends who do. Blues, mostly. One of my local 'blues buddies' has a Grammy or two; a WC Handy Award; and was in the Blues Brothers 2000 movie (no shit!) Having met--and known--and spent a lot of time listening--in person--to guys that played in bands w/ Howling Wolf, Magic Sam, and Muddy Waters ...I would trade you all the 'metal' that ever been produced (and rap too, for that matter) for one night sitting around listening t
  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:20PM (#34716188)

    This thing sounds more synthetic than a lot of synthesizers.

    Hitting the notes is only part of the guitar playing equation. Technique is just as important. Even implementing basic string muting would make a huge difference here.

    Still cool though :)

    • by BobMcD ( 601576 )

      This thing sounds more synthetic than a lot of synthesizers.

      This is what I came to say - but to me 'more synthetic' could be replaced with 'worse'. For something that can 'really shred', I still think even a first-year student could out play it. And that's bizarre to me. It hits every note, I'd guess, but it sounds like crap. Why? Can we see from the video what's wrong with the technique?

      Even implementing basic string muting would make a huge difference here.

      Going to google this, but - 'wha?'

      • Going to google this, but - 'wha?'

        Your parent is referring to "palm muting," which gives metal chords that distinctive "crunching" or "chugging" sound. It's done by resting the palm of the picking hand over the strings right where the bridge is(so that the strings resonate some instead of being totally muted dead). It may also be used for soloing, good examples being solos in which the palm pressure is gradually released so that the effect is of the solo fading seamlessly from staccato to legato.

        I really don't know why the robot cannot p

        • by Rary ( 566291 ) *

          I really don't know why the robot cannot palm-mute, it wouldn't have been that difficult to add a palm-muting mechanism.

          It does do some palm-muting (sort of). Just behind the "pick hand" there is a little thingy that attempts to mute the strings. The problem is that it's not fleshy, like a palm, and therefore does a really piss poor job of muting the strings the way a palm would. It also probably only has two settings, muted and not muted, whereas with a real palm you can go from heavily muted, for a really crunchy sound, to just slightly muted.

          It would also help if it could play a guitar with more than one string. Or if it

      • Ditto on sounding like a first year metal head. Very interesting, but easy to tell by sound only that it wasn't a virtuoso, or even a journeyman guitarist. Impressive at a technical level, no doubt, but not so much on a sonic level.

        Part of what it is missing is natural variation. It's playing is perfectly fine in terms of mathematics, hit note at 0.0 bar, sustain 1.27 seconds, etc. but music is much more complex than that. In terms of humans, what makes a "very good" musician and a "great" musician isn'

        • by hitmark ( 640295 )

          What will be interesting is to, 10 years down the road when this have gotten some revisions done, set up the musical equivalent of a turing test.

          • I will be shocked if that doesn't happen. First a computer beats a champion in chess, but can he play flamenco style well enough to fool a panel of expert guitarists? Eventually, perhaps. 10 years? Hard to say. I still don't think musicians need to worry. DJ's did more to take jobs from working bands than anything else. O

            ver the last 20-30 years, it seems people would rather hear an exact copy of a song they know than a good interpretation. No where near the amount of venues with live bands that the

  • by Anonymous Coward

    welcome our heavy-metal-playing, made-of-heavy-metal robot overlords :-)

    • by drb226 ( 1938360 )

      welcome our heavy-metal-playing, made-of-heavy-metal robot overlords :-) beat me to the obligatory slashdot overlord-welcoming.

  • by ohiovr ( 1859814 )
    They could at least have tuned the thing! Gawd damn! My ears my ears :(
  • Not news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by submain ( 856941 ) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:42PM (#34716434)
    This is not news. Pat Metheny has been doing this for the last two years, except with a full band of robots. I have been to his concert and I can attest it works very well. Here is an example: []
    • by Rary ( 566291 ) *

      Wow. That's some crazy cool stuff he's doing. Thanks for the link!

    • Yeah, I know about that. Pat also came to visit Logos foundation in Ghent, Belgium last june. That place also has more than 40 robots in an orchestra and exists a lot longer than Pat's orchestra. He liked it a lot. Thing is, Pat has a lot of programmers in his service for this project, and their goal is to make the music sound like he wants it to sound. Nothing wrong with that of course. But it's hardly fair that this project isn't new because someone else has made music with robots already.

      First of all,

  • by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @07:49PM (#34716532) Homepage
    It's a band comprised of one guy and several robots, started because he tired of the shortcomings of human bandmates. However, the robots give him just as much (if not more) trouble.

    He has a guitarist that has two necks on his guitar, one for bass and one for lead. Here they are. []
  • Is not impressed.
  • Cacophony!

    I hope that's not what rock music sounded like to my father... Holy Jesus! What a racket that thing makes! Perfect for a burglar alarm though... Could even scare off stray dogs

  • Just think about how awesome it would sound if they tuned it.

  • I am not trying to flame or anything, but this would be much cooler if it sounded good (subjective, I know). It sounds kind of like they just cranked everything... kind of muddy and hard to distinguish notes. Give it a nice wood body and neck. Cool, but could be better.

  • I think some people are missing the point here.

    Robot instruments are not to replace humans, but to provide an alternative approach to music. Sure, people can do lots of stuff robots won't be able to do in the near future, but robots are also capable of doing things people would find impossible. You can make a robot react to movement sensors, light, touchpads etc. It can use information from databases or the internet. Let me see a human who can do that in real time.

    Humans use a technique to play an instr

  • You can make sounds on a computer without making a robot? It's cool as a technical project, but what's the value in having it actually playing in a band when you can just have a recording of whatever sound you want?

    Think I'll whoosh myself...

  • Wake me up when they make something like this: []

    • Craig: Was there ever a moment, when you guys first came up with the genius plan to become a Peruvian flute band, that any of you said "Hey, you know? This plan might backfire." ... No. That never occurred to you. Because you guys are jerks. You never learn from your mistakes. And that's why everyone at school thinks you're assholes.
      Kyle: That's not true! Kids at school like us. Don't they?
      Stan: Yeah dude. The kids at school totally like us. Craig's just being a dick because we're having a tough time right

  • It's a player piano (and not a particularly good one) - we've had those for over a century now.

  • Meh... call me when it's made from legos.

  • Although it looks interesting, please get back to reposting when that robot can play Steve Vai's Tender Surrender []...

  • Is she made out of polythene?

  • I actually thought it sounded pretty cool. Sure, it sounds nothing like actual guitar playing, but it would really well in some sort of a noisy industrial rock act. :)
    • by cybin ( 141668 )

      It is very impressive for a number of reasons, but I would challenge the naysayers on this thread... if you think it's so lousy and stupid, you build one.

      Industrial automation came into maturity during the last century -- research is research. The current generation of musical robots and automated musical instruments is a fraction of what they WILL BE, because of research like this. They offer new avenues for musical expression and are giving creators new tools to work with -- which is a TOTALLY worthwhil

  • Yes a robot might be able to play music perfectly but the performance will always miss something. The missing element is playing with "feeling". This element is hard to define but music aficionados will always be able to tell if it is missing. Maybe, in time, robots will play with true feeling but we are a nowhere close to that goal. Viewers of Star Trek will know what I mean. Data could play music perfectly and he could even simulate the style of great performers but there was nothing of himself in th

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