top of page

Aaron Shay

Guitarist, Guitar Maker, Music and Sound Installation Artist, Music Professor, Teacher, Recording Engineer.


News & Updates

Musical Sculpture Installation Art in the Albacete Gallery, Kent State Stark Fine Arts Building

Running from Sept 1st - Sept 30th 2022

This is a collaborative effort with my life long friend and programmer Shawn Gragg. This installation art work which was programmed to "improvise" music in nine styles endlessly. 

Here is the text which hangs with it in the gallery and explains it in further detail -

Quadriptych Sky Marimba, 2022

At the heart of this installation is software which has been programmed to "improvise" in nine different musical styles. Rather than writing specific notes and rhythms, a composer can instead "teach" the machine a musical style or set of boundaries and then allow the computer to play or "improvise" endlessly within those boundaries. Random number generators are harnessed and controlled to select rhythms, chords, melodies, and melodic fragments which are stylistically appropriate.

Due to the extensive variety of options provided by the random number generation, it will not repeat itself for many thousands of years.

It is currently set to select a style, key, and tempo, which plays for three minutes, then rests for four minutes, repeating this process until turning off.

The styles in this set are loosely equivalent to baroque, classical, minimalism, Latin-jazz, a traditional Roma dance form in quintuple meter, and Hindustani ragas heard through Western tuning systems.

The physical instrument has 44 tone bars tuned chromatically. This constitutes three and a half octaves of range. Each tone bar is tuned to a specific pitch and has a resonator pipe suspended above to amplify and sustain the sound. The tone bars are made of Padauk wood and the resonator pipes are painted PVC pipe. The four main structural panels are maple plywood.

A push/pull solenoid is placed within each resonator pipe and strikes the tone bar from above. The solenoids are then reset by a spring which holds them in position above the tone bar. These solenoids are controlled by an Arduino board and 44 transistor relay circuits. The Arduino constantly receives and decodes MIDI information from a computer in real time.

Walking underneath the panels as they play provides a unique, enveloping musical experience. The work provides sonic clouds which morph and change the mood of the room throughout the day.

The bench is made of matching woods and is fully functional. You are welcome to sit, look, and listen.

Aaron Shay - Instrument design and construction, MIDI generating/”improvising” software programming

Shawn Gragg - MIDI decoding programming for Arduino board



As a guitarist Aaron has performed across the US in a variety of rock, jazz and classical settings. Holding a masters degree from the University of Akron, Aaron is comfortable playing and teaching a multitude of styles. He is a founding member of two different Northeast Ohio hard rock bands which achieved extensive radio play in local and overseas markets. Audio examples of various styles of guitar work can be found below in the music player section. Aaron has recently begun work in the field of sonic installation art. His latest installation, "The Uncommon Practice Harp," was a prize winner for "The Manifest Art Prize" of 2021.

Aaron is a two-time recipient of the Kent State Stark "Award of Distinction" for excellence in teaching. He is only the third Kent State Stark professor to win the award twice. As a music professor Aaron has taught a wide variety of subjects from Jazz Guitar, Classical Guitar, Music Theory, World Musics, Audio Recording, General Creativity, Classical Guitar Ensemble, Rock Ensembles, Music Production, Live Sound, and Music History. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Popular Music at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.

As an electric guitar builder, Aaron strives to create unique and high quality instruments which are hand built one at a time. "Gypsy Guitars" was named as a tribute to both Django Reinhardt and the gypsy music which inspired his father Tom Shay growing up in Pittsburgh, PA. With an ear for selecting tone wood and some unique design principles, these instruments are special and unlike anything currently being built in mass production lines. Building only 2-3 per year, they are each constructed slowly with care and dedication. Each piece of tone wood is carefully selected out of hundreds for the most suitable timbre. Guitar repair available upon request. 

A few quotes from guitar customers -

"If you get the opportunity to get one of Aarons Gypsy Guitars do it! I think you will be very happy with it. FANTASTIC! Dont stop building Aaron." Scot from FL

"You, sir, build some amazing guitars. Never heard that much sustain from a bolt on neck. Perfect balance, amazing tone, and that neck is a dream to play. It's everything I hoped it would be and more. I couldn't be happier. Thank you!" Jonathan from TX

"Tonally amazing guitar, and build specs way above other boutique builders in the same price range. Beautiful body shape that would have mass appeal if he ever expanded. Thanks Aaron." Kirk from SC

"A+++++ the guitar is absolutely perfect in every way. Thank you Aaron" Mark A. from NJ

"Second Aaron Shay guitar I have purchased. Thank you Aaron. Guitar arrived great and quicker than I ever expected. Thank you again and will be watching for your new builds." Scot from FL


Film Scoring Portfolio and Pictures below

Quadriptych Sky Marimba 4
Quadriptych Sky Marimba 2
Quadriptych Sky Marimba 3
Quadriptych Sky Marimba 1
Quadriptych Sky Marimba 5
Uncommon Practice Harp "Improvises" 1
Uncommon Practice Harp "Improvises" 2
Uncommon Practice Harp "Improvises" 3