Groover Glides into New Instrument Competition
Posted on: February 2, 2021
Tigerville, SC – (January 24, 2019) A North Greenville University music professor’s new invention will soon premiere at one of the most noteworthy instrument competitions in the world.
Keith Groover, who teaches guitar in the Cline School of Music at NGU, entered an instrument he created from scratch into the Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition last September. Within just a few days, he heard back: he’d made it onto the elite list of only 15 applicants accepted to present their instrument at the 2019 competition.
Groover will no doubt feel in his element at the event — in a room full of newfangled musical instruments and the innovative musicians behind them. He’s surrounded himself with music since he was five years old.
Which instruments can he play? Prepare to listen closely when you ask him.
“I started out on the piano when I was really little and then switched over to the trombone in elementary school. I started playing guitar when I was in ninth grade, and then things like the electric bass and the upright bass and the French horn — kind of a lot of random instruments. The banjo, the accordion, that kind of thing,” he trails off, as if there’s too many more to try to name them all.
But Groover says his family didn’t have “a ton of money” when he was growing up. And as anyone who’s signed their kids up for music lessons can tell you, new instruments easily run into the thousands.
As he became interested in learning one instrument after the next, he would either have to find a cheap rental or, more often, borrow an instrument from his friends and family.
By the time he was in high school, Groover had a mound of these borrowed instruments. In fact, one day when his family was showing their house to potential buyers, one of them asked, pointing at the pile, “Do you have a family band?”
“My parents said, ‘No, it’s just our teenage son playing all these instruments,’” Groover laughs.
So no one was surprised when he decided to study music composition at the University of South Carolina and then pursue a career as a music director and music teacher.
Eventually, Groover even began to toy around with inventing his own instruments. Cut to 2016, and he was scribbling down an outline for an instrument based around the accelerometer, a device used to measure increase in speed.
Accelerometers are what power our cellphones to switch between horizontal and vertical views when we tilt them, Groover explains. When applied to his instrument, the accelerometer could give the musician surprising control over the elements of not only pitch and tone, but even volume and vibrato.
“The biggest feature of the instrument is that you can play one note and then you can change your fingers around and glide to a different note: aah-aah,” Groover demonstrates in a singing voice, with the second “aah” several full steps higher. “That was one of the very last features that I came up with, and that feature brought it all together.”
That feature is also the namesake of Groover’s now patented instrument, The Glide, which in its completed realization consists of two hand controls with a total of five buttons, joined together by a thin cable.
“You choose the notes with the buttons, and with one hand, you make a hitting motion to make the note come out,” Groover explains.
And it doesn’t even matter which hand. The Glide controllers can be played ambidextrously, he continues.
“My guiding principle with the whole design was accessibility,” Groover adds.
For Groover, that meant creating an instrument almost anyone can play. Right-handed or left-handed. Perfect fingers or missing joints. (During his 17 years as a guitar teacher, he’s seen it all.) Cash to spare or tight on money.
He plans to sell the instrument for around $150.
Groover would also eventually like to make the software behind the instrument accessible, or open source, empowering other musicians to alter what the instrument can do in the future.
“My ultimate goal is that this would become an instrument that the culture and the musicians actually shape and modify. I’d love to see them come up with great new features that I would have never thought of,” Groover envisions.
He started unveiling the instrument to the music community last September through videos he uploaded to the instrument’s dedicated Facebook page and YouTube channel. His video introducing the instrument — and subsequent covers of tunes like Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” which Groover plays on The Glide — have garnered nearly 90,000 views so far.
He’ll get to showcase The Glide even further at the 2019 Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition at Georgia Tech, an annual event “aimed at identifying the world’s next generation of musical instruments,” according to its website.
As one of the selected contestants, Groover will present his instrument and offer a performance at the competition on March 8 and 9, along with just a handful of other selected instrument inventors from across the globe.
The top three contestants will walk away with a cash prize and, hopefully, a greater shot at spreading the idea for their new instrument. Previous finalists like the OP-1 portable synthesizer, next-generation-keyboard Roli Seaboard, and the music-teaching interactive Guitarbot game have gone on to commercial success.
As it is, Groover is continuing to promote The Glide online and to manage his steady flow of pre-orders. He plans to ship out the first batch this April, using the profits to fund mass production of the instrument.
He dreams of seeing The Glide become as common in music education as the recorder is today, raving that the instrument opens a “new world” for aspiring musicians of all levels.
“It’s important when we make stuff, especially as educators, to think about enabling other people, to hand it off to them and let them take the reins,” Groover says. “If I could have had an instrument like this as a kid, I think I really would have taken off with it.”
Learn more about the music programs at NGU at ngu.edu/academics.