Designing for new generation electronic musical instruments: Strategies to improve interaction, user experience and live performance

Öke, Ethem Hürsu
Since the turn of the 21st century, ground-breaking advancements in technology have led to the emergence of a completely new ‘species’ of electronic musical instrument. These instruments, which are heavily driven or dependant on technology, have been accompanied by an interdisciplinary movement in the field of musical instrument research and design, interconnecting music-making to disciplines including, but not limited to, industrial design, interaction design, user experience (UX) design, computer science, software engineering, electronic/computer engineering, mechanical engineering and materials engineering. Although all of these disciplines have staked a claim to the profession of electronic ‘instrument-making’, much of the output comprises prototypical research, technical innovation and invention rather than instruments that are clearly aimed at, designed for, or adopted by professional musicians. Notably absent from the field is user-centred research, aiming to uncover professional musicians’ needs, preferred interactions and desirable user experiences with electronic musical instruments. Furthermore, there exists a lack of theory concerning how electronic musical instruments should be designed so that the needs and expectations of professional musicians in live performance situations can be fulfilled. This thesis seeks to address the lack of fundamental user understanding as well as bring forward guidelines and strategies for user-centred electronic musical instrument design. Following a review of the state of the art, a substantial field study based on a hybrid of repertory grid technique (RGT) and cross impact analysis (CIA) is reported. The study involved professional musicians offering expert commentary on the design, interaction and experiences of purposefully disparate electronic musical instrument exemplars. The principles of personal construct theory (PCT) formed the basis of data collection and processing, with the interconnection and prioritization of musicians’ constructs revealed qualitatively and quantitatively through CIA. The principal outcome of the thesis is a set of strategies for designers to consider – especially in the conceptual front-end of new product development – to achieve appreciated interaction and desirable user experiences from electronic musical instruments in the context of live performance.


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Citation Formats
E. H. Öke, “Designing for new generation electronic musical instruments: Strategies to improve interaction, user experience and live performance,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2020.