A Framework for the Evaluation of Digital Musical Instruments

Sile O'Modhrain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


At the outset of a discussion of evaluating digital musical instruments, that is to say instruments whose sound generators are digital and separable though not necessarily separate from their control interfaces (Malloch, 2006), it is reasonable to ask what the term evaluation in this context really means. After all, there may be many perspectives from which to view the effectiveness or otherwise of the instruments we build. For most performers, performance on an instrument becomes a means of evaluating how well it functions in the context of live music making, and their measure of success is the response of the audience to their performance. Audiences evaluate performances on the basis of how engaged they feel they have been by what they have seen and heard. When questioned, they are likely to describe good performances as “exciting,” “skillful,” “musical.” Bad performances are “boring,” and those which are marred by technical malfunction are often dismissed out of hand. If performance is considered to be a valid means of evaluating a musical instrument, then it follows that, for the field of DMI design, a much broader definition of the term “evaluation” than that typically used in human-computer interaction (HCI) is required to reflect the fact that there are a number of stakeholders involved in the design and evaluation of DMIs. In addition to players and audiences, there are also composers, instrument builders, component manufacturers, and perhaps even customers, each of whom will have a different concept of what is meant by “evaluation.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-42
Number of pages15
JournalComputer Music Journal
Volume35 (1)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Media Technology


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