Blurring the lines between a piano and a guitar, the Seaboard ($2,000) is a new musical instrument that offers the form factor of the former and many of the traits of the latter. Thanks to a soft, three-dimensional surface that's laid out as a standard row of keys, the Seaboard gives you full control of pitch, volume, and timbre simply by touching the keys. SoundDial software lets you control the instrument's sound, giving you a unique opportunity — since only 88 are being produced at first, you won't have to worry about the band down the street playing the same thing.
We're not going to lie — we were pretty flabbergasted that there hadn't already been a top-loading guitar case. Yet here we are, staring at the Mono Vertigo Guitar Case ($205), which claims to be the world's first. Aside from the aforementioned loading breakthrough, the Vertigo also features a redesigned Headlock system that automatically clamps your headstock in place, protecting it from side-to-side impact and backward drops, and a custom molded rubber outsole/EVA insole on the bottom, dubbed The Boot, that protects against vertical drops. All you need to do is load your axe, strap it on your back, and go.
Anyone who's ever resorted to playing their axe with a quarter knows what a great tone can result — as well as how fast doing so will wear out your strings. Now these Coin Guitar Picks ($10-$30) are here to offer the best of both worlds. Made from actual quarters, dollars, and pennies, these unique picks offer the metallic makeup that provides the tone, as well as a liquid smooth beveled edge to keep your strings intact. Rock on, George.
Combine the joy of making music with the nostalgia of a classic arcade machine with Pianocade ($250-$325). This powerful synthesizer is designed to sound, look, and feel like a vintage arcade game, offering a 128-note range, 5-pin and USB MIDI connectors, and either one or two octaves worth of buttons. Feel like customizing your own? You can buy the electronics by themselves for $100.
The number of awesome audio apps seems to grow by the day — yet getting your real-world gear to interface with your devices still requires messy dongles. Or at least it did. The Fender Squier USB Stratocaster Guitar ($200) sports a built-in mini-USB connector that lets you hook directly into your iDevice, Mac, or PC, as well as an onboard headphone jack with volume control. Of course, it's still a Strat, so you can also plug it into any amp and rock out the old fashioned way — the choice is yours.
Lacking in musical talent? Not to worry — you can still be in the band by looking the part with the Offerman Wood Shop Kazoo ($49). Maybe or maybe not hand-crafted by Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation fame from poplar and walnut and designed to fit easily inside your pocket/belt/bag, it's as serious as you can get... while holding a kazoo in your hand.
Tired of trying to learn guitar via videogame? The Fretlight Guitar ($TBA) is an honest-to-goodness instrument that will have you playing in no time. Thanks to a system of lights inside the fretboard itself, the Fretlight lets you see the correct finger positions instantly, without needing to glance back-and-forth from a book to the guitar — just hook it up to your PC or Mac, select a song, and go. Available in a variety of colors and styles, it'll have you ruining otherwise decent parties in no time.
If you've ever dreamed of owning a custom guitar but haven't had the dough for the real thing, these Unfinished Electric Guitar Kits ($125-$300) should be right up your alley. They're based on classic guitar designs like the Les Paul, Stratocaster, and Flying V, and include the body, neck, fingerboard with frets, pickups, tuning parts, bridge, pick guard, and hardware to build a right-handed guitar — all you need are some common tools, glue, finishing supplies, and time.
Half musical instrument, half aquatic-themed sculpture, the Whaletone Piano ($TBA) is completely gorgeous. Designed by Robert Majkut, its two-tone black and white body is meant to resemble a whale rising above the waves, and while your focus will initially be the shiny lacquered finish, inside you'll find features like a velvet interior, an electrically controlled lid, a flagship model of Roland stage piano with a built-in list of 500 sounds, a four-channel amplifier, built-in speakers, and an Ivory Feel keyboard. Built only upon request, it's the perfect thing to put inside your water-themed eco-mansion. [Scouted by Rich]
Yes, it looks a little like a science fair project, but make no mistake: the Noise Hero ($90) is no toy. This 4093-based electronic noise maker uses three oscillators, five knobs, eight switches, and one push button to output everything from light, Mario-esque beeps and bloops to grinding, NIN-style growls. As for the low-rent looks? They just add to the charm.
Making music with music isn't exactly a new idea, but doing so in such a direct manner surely is. These Recycled Record Guitar Picks ($5/6-pack) are hand cut from old vinyl records, with the edges sanded down to a comfortable smoothness. They're supposed to supply a crisper sound than traditional nylon picks, but we're sure they'll bring a touch of vintage coolness to your next jam session.
Overly ornamental vintage amps these aren't. P3 Amplifiers ($300-$5,200) creates great-sounding guitar amplifiers and speaker enclosures by incorporating everything learned over 60 years of tube circuit evolution, using the finest components available, hand wiring every unit, and placing them in military grade aluminum enclosures that make nearly every component fixable and/or easily replaceable, thus ensuring that the amp is around as long as you are.