Below are pictures of a rather unusual object that attaches to any acoustic guitar having a standard sound hole. It transforms the guitar into a system capable of Acoustic Synthesis™.  It’s the result of a personal R&D project I’ve been working on since 2009.

This work, which I conducted with my own resources and with important background support from Moog Music, has evolved into the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer™.


This is my latest and most advanced vibration control technology. In November of 2012, Moog took the unusual step of announcing it publicly. They code-named it the LEV-96 concept product and enlisted the help of some great artists to test it out. Like a concept-car, LEV-96 is an experimental concept product. As a guitarist I love playing my prototype, so I’m not so surprised that several of  the guitarists who have had the opportunity to try this have said they want to own one. Normally with a concept product that’s not possible – see anyone driving BMW’s latest concept car anywhere? I am grateful to Moog Music that they have encouraged me to turn it into an “inventor’s cut” product and to offer a limited number of Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizers to musicians who want to both experience and help define a truly radical step forward in music technology!

This is a product from my company Vo Inventions LLC, not from Moog Music Inc., and is being offered on a pre-order basis much as you would order in advance a custom instrument from a luthier. I’m very pleased and excited by this opportunity to go forward on my own. It gives me a chance to do more experimental work of this kind in the future – to attempt whatever I must as I follow this Acoustic Synthesis muse.

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With the Acoustic Synthesis™ instruments shown above, there is no loudspeaker, no signal processor making the output sound different. You hear a basic acoustic guitar for the first time producing its true full sonic potential – as revealed by otherwise silent electronic motion control channels operating in the background.

Like the original Moog guitar this new technology physically changes the way the strings of an acoustic guitar vibrate – but this goes much further. The changes can be subtle, just making the guitar sound much fuller and richer. They can be radical, creating sounds you will not believe come from an acoustic instrument. Individual harmonics within each note can be articulated into a unique time-sequence of timbres or limitless harmonic arpeggios. Acoustic tremolo is possible! Detailed additive synthesis is possible – designed sounds produced by physical means! When you sit and play this instrument you want to believe there is a hidden loudspeaker, but there isn’t. The sound emanates from this acoustic guitar in the same way as always. No demo video can get this across – you have to play this thing to see and feel what it is doing.

The pictures above are incrementally evolving versions of the LEV-96 concept product you can see being played in some of the video links at the side bar.  The numeral 96 refers to the number of individual harmonic control channels.  Each channel is capable of controlling the behavior of one harmonic partial of a string’s timbre. 16 such channels are instantiated per string. 6 x 16=96.

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With Acoustic Synthesis™ any acoustic musical instrument – any object that makes a sound – can be enhanced to bring out its hidden acoustic voice. Think also of  potential new instruments – playable objects of acoustic art.

So far I’ve worked mostly with vibrating strings. The musical instrument string is arguably the most ubiquitous means of making music. It’s also the most difficult to vibrate coherently using electronic control. One idea I had back in 1979 turned out to be a great solution. I was amazed to find it was still unknown and patentable 20 years later.

Starting with Bob Moog’s pioneering work we have gradually over the decades accepted and become familiar with using synthesizers to create an endless variety of sounds electronically. I’m saying we are now beginning to extend this idea into the physical realm. We can make the virtual become real. We can artistically create new sounds by bringing out modes of vibration that have up to now remained hidden within the material objects we call musical instruments. Through Acoustic Synthesis™ the same sonic exploration is possible for other acoustic instruments and even creative objects of acoustic art that no one has imagined – not just yet anyway.

Analog Synthesis. Digital Synthesis. Acoustic Synthesis™: it isn’t empty hype, this really is a distinctly different and new method of voicing instruments, designing new sounds, and making music.

Help me build awareness and incite unbridled experimentation in this exciting new field where the science of motion control meets music. This is serious and fun stimulation for your brain and heart, it’s causing musicians to play more and making people smile.  I am hooked on it for sure.