Z-Machines Guitarist Employs 78 Fingers for the Perfect Riff

Practice makes perfect, unless you are a robot, in which case it depends on the engineers who built and programmed you how great your performance on a stage is.

The greatest thing about robot bands is that there’s no limit for limbs and fingers. On one hand, that’s good since a greater range of tones and musical notes can be performed with less effort. On the other hand, the resulting music may be a bit overly-complex, on the bring of sounding like gibberish. Still, backed by a proper songwriter, a robot band could actually perform good music that evokes certain feelings in whoever listens to it.

The Z-Machines robot band is not particularly new, as roboticists from the University of Tokyo developed them last year. However, the engineers realized that their music writing skills leave a lot to be desired, so they launched a competition for songwriters who could make Z-Machines jam in a discernible way.

Tom Jenkinson (better known under the stage name Squarepusher), remarked the advantages a robot band has over its human counterparts: “The robot guitar player for example can play much faster than a human ever could, but there is no amplitude control. In the same way that you do when you write music for a human performer, these attributes have to be borne in mind—and a particular range of musical possibilities corresponds to those attributes. Consequently, in this project familiar instruments are used in ways which till now have been impossible.”

Below is a making-of video of the Music for Robots album that Squarepush wrote so that the robots could perform some real music.

Jenkinson initially wrote only one song for the robot band, Sad Robot Goes Funny, but soon enough, things escalated and he ended up writing an entire EP. The video for Sad Robot Goes Funny can be watched below.

That’s pretty much what a 78-fingered guitarist, a 22-armed drummer and a laser-using keyboard player can do if a creative mind is writing their music. I’m not sure if the Japanese engineers went exactly for this, but their robot band reminded me of the Animusic videos, which you should definitely watch on YouTube, if you have a few minutes (or rather hours) to spare.

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