Guthman Musical Instrument Lesson Plans for K12 Teachers

Guthman Competition banner image


Are your students ready to choose the “next” great instrument?

The Guthman Competition, sometimes described as the jam session of the future or the “X-Prize for music”, features the next generation of music technologists sharing their latest and greatest instrument inventions.  Normally, this competition is judged by professionals in the industry, however due to this year’s virtual pivot – your students have the opportunity to help choose the winners.  There is no prior knowledge needed, just the curiosity to see the most innovative instruments in music to date.

Getting Started with Guthman

There are 25 submissions and each submission includes a one - five minute video explaining and demonstrating an instrument. In addition to the video, a short description and/or a website for that instrument is provided with more information. We encourage students to explore all resources in the virtual gallery. Some instruments are creative modifications of existing ones, while others are completely new inventions. Students may want to view all 25 submissions or may be drawn to just a few. Encourage them to fill out the tracking sheet and then pick their favorites. Get all your students involved and see if the favorites resonate across the class.
  • Click here to read a little bit about the history of the Guthman Competition and about instrument design and music.
  • Show students the video of the performance of the Guthman Competition winners

    • 2020 Guthman Competition winner: ElectroSpit. Click here to read more about this instrument.
    • 2021 People's Choice Award: The LEGO Microtonal Guitar

  • Open tracking sheet* and click on Guthman Gallery to view instrument inventions and participate in judging this year’s winner. Students can vote on the “next”  great instrument by clicking on the heart icon in the lower left corner of the instrument description. Encourage students to focus on the purpose of each instrument. *The tracking sheet asks guiding questions for students to answer with each video and also asks students to rank the instruments.  Some videos/websites provide more information than others, so they may not be able to answer every question per entry. This sheet is really just a tool to organize the judging process. They can sort by column J to see their favorites at the end of the process.
  • Other options to engage with the videos/websites could include:
    • Having the class tally their favorite instruments
    • Create a pitch or write a persuasive essay to explain why a specific instrument should be chosen as a winner
    • Creating rubrics to judge the videos

Going forward with Guthman

Are your students inspired to design their own instruments?  Do they want to learn more about the intersection of technology and music?  Are they ready to produce some novel sounds?  We have listed a series of lessons and resources to support their interest and further their learning in music technology.
Moog Hack-a-thon
Guthman Featured in New York Times
New York Times featured five of the world's newest/wildest instruments and your students can view them too. Have your students read or listen to the article and then follow the lesson to reflect on them and start the creative process on their own.
Paper Piano
Paper Piano
Lesson: Paper Piano: An Introduction to Interactive Microcontroller Systems using Micro:bits
Grade Band: Middle School Technology, Engineering or Computer Science Classrooms
Overview: This lesson integrates computer science, technology, engineering, and music. Students will go through the process of building a paper piano using a Micro:bit controller (engineering). They will use their understanding of the binary matrix to develop a pattern to create code for seven piano keys (technology and computer science). Through creating this code for the piano keys, they are learning the notes on the piano, understanding scales, and major/minor keys. The teacher can extend this lesson to challenge the students to compose a song using the Paper Piano or play a composition on their pianos.
Summary: This unit is a STEAM-focused introduction to the use of interactive microcontroller systems. Students will learn to use and code Micro:bits and construct and play a paper piano using a Micro:bit.
Click here to download this lesson
The K12 InVenture Challenge
Inventure Prize
Lesson: The Inventure Prize - Invention Lesson Plans for K-12 Students
Grade Band: Grades 1-12 – Any subject area (Lessons are grouped in grade levels 1-3, 4-8, 9-12)
Overview: Use these lessons to mentor your students through the design thinking process to develop a prototypes of their new or redesigned instrument
Summary: Students will use the steps of the Design Thinking Process (Empathize, Design, Ideate, Prototype, Test)  to identify a problem (in this case a need for a specific instrument or a change to an already existing instrument) and develop a unique solution. They will work in teams to brainstorm designs, make prototypes and pitch your instrument. Students will use fun hands-on activities, and have the opportunity to get advice from real inventors and Georgia Tech faculty members. (This is a general invention curriculum so you may have to make small modifications to adapt it to instrument design).
Click here to view K-12 Inventure Prize Lesson Plans.
Lesson: EarSketch - Learn to code by Making Music
Grade Band: Grades 5-12 - Computer Science, Technology, Math,Music
Overview: EarSketch is a free web-based platform to help students of all ages learn core topics in computer science, music, and music technology in a fun and engaging learning environment. EarSketch helps students learn to code in Python or JavaScript through manipulating loops, composing beats, remixing sounds, and applying effects to a multi-track digital audio workstation.
Summary: There are a variety of curriculum options from a 10 week Computer Science Principles course that reviews programming concepts such as abstractions and structures to a short one day hour of code lesson to introduce students to basic concepts in computer science and music.
Click here to learn to view the curriculum catalog for EarSketch.


Instrument Design Lessons (not affiliated with Georgia Tech)