Embodied interaction with guitars: instruments, embodied practices and ecologies

Martinez Avila, Juan Pablo (2023) Embodied interaction with guitars: instruments, embodied practices and ecologies. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In this thesis I investigate the embodied performance preparation practices of guitarists to design and develop tools to support them. To do so, I employ a series of human-centred design methodologies such as design ethnography, participatory design, and soma design. The initial ethnographic study I conducted involved observing guitarists preparing to perform individually and with their bands in their habitual places of practice. I also interviewed these musicians on their preparation activities. Findings of this study allowed me to chart an ecology of tools and resources employed in the process, as well as pinpoint a series of design opportunities for augmenting guitars, namely supporting (1) encumbered interactions, (2) contextual interactions, and (3) connected interactions.

Going forward with the design process I focused on remediating encumbered interactions that emerge during performance preparation with multimedia devices, particularly during instrumental transcription. I then prepared and ran a series of hands-on co-design workshops with guitarists to discuss five media controller prototypes, namely, instrument-mounted controls, pedal-based controls, voice-based controls, gesture-based controls, and “music-based” controls. This study highlighted the value that guitarists give to their guitars and to their existing practice spaces, tools, and resources by critically reflecting on how these interaction modalities would support or disturb their existing embodied preparation practices with the instrument.

In parallel with this study, I had the opportunity to participate in a soma design workshop (and then prepare my own) in which I harnessed my first-person perspective of guitar playing to guide the design process. By exploring a series of embodied ideation and somatic methods, as well as materials and sensors across several points of contact between our bodies and the guitar, we collaboratively ideated a series of design concepts for guitar across both workshops, such as a series of breathing guitars, stretchy straps, and soft pedals. I then continued to develop and refine the Stretchy Strap concept into a guitar strap augmented with electronic textile stretch sensors to harness it as an embodied media controller to remediate encumbered interaction during musical transcription with guitar when using secondary multimedia resources.

The device was subsequently evaluated by guitarists at a home practicing space, providing insights on nuanced aspects of its embodied use, such as how certain media control actions like play and pause are better supported by the bodily gestures enacted with the strap, whilst other actions, like rewinding the play back or setting in and out points for a loop are better supported by existing peripherals like keyboards and mice, as these activities do not necessarily happen in the flow of the embodied practice of musical transcription.

Reflecting on the overall design process, a series of considerations are extracted for designing embodied interactions with guitars, namely, (1) considering the instrument and its potential for augmentation, i.e., considering the shape of the guitar, its material and its cultural identity, (2) considering the embodied practices with the instrument, i.e., the body and the subjective felt experience of the guitarist during their skilled embodied practices with the instrument and how these determine its expert use according to a particular instrumental tradition and/or musical practice, and (3) considering the practice ecology of the guitarist, i.e., the tools, resources, and spaces they use according to their practice.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Greenhalgh, Chris
Benford, Steve
Hazzard, Adrian
Keywords: Augmented Instruments, Digital Musical Instruments, NIME, New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Guitars
Subjects: M Music and Literature on music > MT Musical instruction and study
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Computer Science
Item ID: 72119
Depositing User: Martinez Avila, Juan
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2024 09:52
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2024 09:52
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/72119

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