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Year: 2009-11
Yoshifumi Kurosawa
Kenji Suzuki

- Cybernics
- Augmented Human

Robot-Assisted Playing
Robot-assisted playing with fingering support for a saxophone



We propose a robot-assisted playing system for reed instruments that allows human players to conduct their own musical performance without applying the fingering motion. The developed system assists in this necessary part of playing, not with the purpose of substituting the player with the robot but rather to assist the human’s playing without missing the intention and expressiveness of the musical performance. The assisted person is able to achieve the feeling of playing and express their own feelings. In this study, we developed a modular device attached to the traditional saxophone to perform the fingering actions in order to open and close keys by mechanic modules. It should be noted that the system not only performs automatic fingering but also allows the players to achieve fingering in an ordinary manner. We introduce a novel style of musical performance, robot-assisted playing, and its implementation. In addition, we also report on evaluation experiments and a comparison to traditional playing.

The main purpose of these studies is to create an environment for the robot to live together with humans. The system we propose is designed to support the playing motion of a player, and paying attention to the player without trying to substitute a robot playing with a musical instrument. Musical instruments using this system do not necessarily get altered but rather work with added functionalities. Thus this system provides support without changing the method of playing. In addition, the robotic support does not differ from player to player. The system can be used by beginners for practicing and also as an assistive device for disabled people. The player gets to play with his natural style while the system provides support when it is needed. Consequently, the system can be used by healthy and disabled players alike while enjoying the automated support.

In this study, a saxophone is used as the musical instrument. The saxophone is a woodwind instrument which produces sound by oscillating a reed. Reed instruments are comparatively easy to use since it is possible to express one's individuality of sounds by varying the breath. The system mainly consists of i) a sensory mouthpiece to detect single tonguing and ii) wires operated modules to open and close the keys of the saxophone. The modules, called fingering modules, substitute the fingering and are controlled by the breath of the player. During play, the keys are opened and closed either by the fingering modules according to a given musical score and/or by the player. By playing with the fingering modules while using the breath of the player, it is possible to provide support only when it is needed by the player. We believe this consequently makes the player feel he is playing a musical instrument. Furthermore the proposed system can also be used in situations such as breathing practice by beginners, checking the fingering during playing and assisting the playing of arm or finger crippled persons.


This study was supported in part by the Global COE Program on "Cybernics: fusion of human, machine, and information systems.”

  • Media Concert (Media Project Vol.9), Sumida Triphony Hall, Tokyo, 2010/11/25.
  • Kurosawa, Y., Suzuki, K., "Robot-Assisted Playing with Fingering Support for a Saxophone," Proc. of International Computer Music Conference, pp. 1-4, 2010
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