Photo courtesy of Matthew Skeels '16


April 3, 2016

Students at Specdrums Startup Create New Musical Instrument

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Two Cornell students — Matthew Skeels ’16 and Steven Dourmashkin grad — have created an instrument called Specdrums, which Skeels said he hopes “will allow people to have access to playing music like never before.”

Specdrums — rings that fit around the user’s finger — play a sound when tapped against a surface. The sound depends on the surface’s color and plays on the user’s smartphone, which is connected to the Specdrum by Bluetooth, according to the product’s website.

One of the main benefits to Specdrums is its portability, according to Skeels.

“For musicians, this means playing music anywhere,” he said. “For people with no musical background, this provides an inexpensive, intuitive and fun way to start learning to play music.”

Skeels added that he and his team hope the intuitiveness of Specdrums’ user interface will allow anyone interested in music to play music.

“Kids will be able to learn the basics of rhythm and be able to enjoy music at a young age without their parents having to purchase an expensive and bulky drum set, piano or other type of instrument,” Skeels said.

Skeels said that he and Dourmashkin came up with the idea for Specdrums while rock climbing.

“[We thought of] a ‘magic ring’ which we envisioned could be used to turn on lights, send messages or money to people and do other seemingly magic actions,” Dourmashkin said. “After I spoke with a friend who plays the drums, we discovered the perfect use case for our ring: using it to play the drums anywhere.”

Skeels added that it took him and Dourmashkin a year to develop a prototype without a solid business plan, before they received aid from Cornell’s eLab program.

“Skeels and I were essentially two great engineers with a really cool invention but without much of a business plan,” Dourmashkin said. “Upon joining eLab, we were given a mentor and were required to attend two boot camps during the fall semester.”

Skeels and Dourmashkin also joined Rev — a business incubator based in Ithaca Commons — in December, which they said has provided them with technology from laser cutters to a 3D printers.

“We have been able to take our product development to the next level,” Skeels said. “Working in Rev [also] gives us constant access to many other startups and advisors who we are able to ask questions concerning anything from engineering to business planning and customer development.”

The Specdrums team is currently focusing on building its community before an upcoming crowdfunding campaign, according to the product’s Facebook page.