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Calgary’s Next Economy: Dualo shaping the next generation of musical instruments

Sure, you can run music loops in Garage Band and other programs, but what about having the control of several instruments all in one?

French company Dualo calls their du-touch S “an intuitive, all-in-one instrument.”

“We have designed an instrument that is the bridge between the traditional musical instrument and what you can do in a music production software on a computer,” said Bruno Verbrugghe, who co-founded Dualo along with Sergueï Bécoulet.

Verbrugghe said they wanted to still give musicians the feel of playing an instrument with the flexibility of having any instrument in their repertoire.

“You can create full songs with a whole bunch of instruments much more quickly,” said Bécoulet.

Bécoulet actually got to this point through math. A former associate of his taught math – and they played in a band together. His associate created a space that allows better access to the harmony theory, which is based on mathematics, Bécoulet said.

With a little bit of experimentation and musical know-how, they came up with the first iteration of their keyboard.

Then, they met famed jazz musician Herbie Hancock.

“He said, maybe we have an invented one of the most powerful layouts of keys on a keyboard,” Verbrugghe said.

Despite the breakthrough, they still had a problem.

“The main problem was to try to convince people that it’s still OK to invent new musical instruments nowadays,” Verbrugghe said.

Is it a musical instrument?

After the first prototype, the pair asked nearly 1,000 musicians: What would be the instrument of the 21st Century?

“The main thing that came out was, I don’t want to need to spend like two or three years to dig into music theory,” Verbrugghe said. They didn’t want to have to learn the instrument itself.

Users told them they didn’t want to ‘play’ a certain instrument, they wanted to play many different sounds.

Verbrugghe said that when he was younger, he wanted to play guitar like some of his favourite musicians. That’s just not the way it is today. Electronic music or hip hop are increasingly popular and it didn’t require the specific knowledge of playing certain instruments.

With their instrument, you can create a song, use loops, change instruments and play a song live if you want. It can also be used in conjunction with a computer or mobile phone. There’s a software program that also comes with the instrument.

“It has an approach of live music like we can record really quickly in front of people and friends, whatever,” said Bécoulet.

Communicating the new music form

Verbrugghe and Bécoulet took part in the Platform Calgary Junction program as part of an international exchange because they were looking for new ways to communicate about their product.

They’ve been building Dualo for 10 years. Hundreds of musicians have provided feedback on the instrument and it’s been used and shown to hundreds more.

“We were just trying to find the best way, I guess, to sell it, to communicate around it,” said Bécoulet.

The duo have learned how to communicate around the solution they’ve provided to other musicians. They believe they’ve provided flexibility in producing whatever sound a musician wants.

For Verbrugghe and Bécoulet, it’s not just about unit sales. While that helps, it’s about opening up a new frontier for music and musicians.

“Our instrument is really powerful for learning music, for practicing music, for composing – for helping everyone to express what they have in their head,” Verbrugghe said.  

“So, you can imagine what consequences that can have on people.”

Dualo has sold thousands of units already in Europe, but they are looking to broaden their reach in North America. But, beyond the typical music scene, they’ve also seen their instrument used in musical therapy as well.

“We are really on trying to understand how to explain to people, it’s not just about using an instrument,” Verbrugghe said.