# Electronic Guitar Project

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by nradam123, Dec 5, 2013.

1. ### nradam123 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 3, 2013
10
0
I want to start a project where i can club electronics and manufacturing together with something that i like doing. I like to play the guitar, so i am thinking of making an electronic guitar with probably multitouch gestures (or something else) that simulates the feeling of an acoustic guitar.

The problem is, I am basically a recent mechanical engineering graduate working in a pretty bada\$\$ core manufacturing company

But then i want to jump out of my domain and see what other things have to offer. I have good fundamentals in programming (C++, Java, Matlab etc) and i am good at designing (ProE, Solidworks) and okay in analyzing (Ansys). I can program in CNC (Fanuc and Sinumerik) also kinda well.

I have done a course in Control Systems in college and i am clear with the basic mathematics behind it and i am really fascinated by it. I am also fascinated by electronics and especially microcontroller programming, but i never went into it although i always wanted to. My roommate used to program in 8051 and atmega micro controllers but then i never bothered to ask him much about it because i was busy with my own coursework and thesis.

But now i really want to start getting into electronics, especially microcontrollers because i have realized that pure mechanical engineering is hardly used these days without electronics.

So the question is, what knowledge do u think i will need inorder to make this project come alive? All i can handle now is the design part. It will be helpful if u can tell me somewhere where i can start right now, i will built it up from there.

2. ### Alec_t AAC Fanatic!

Sep 17, 2013
7,023
1,453
By 'electronic guitar' do you mean one which generates tones via plucked strings and then electronically processes signals created by the strings; or one in which the tones are synthesised electronically and then processed?

3. ### nradam123 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 3, 2013
10
0
The ones where tones are synthesized electronically and then processed. Like i would like to have a memory card with all tones in it, which can be accessed by touching the fretboard and using some kind of touch sensor for strings also. I want to basically make a stringless guitar.

I am reading about arduino developer kit with atmega168 (Lol what is 168) microcontroller but i have no idea about these things for now.

4. ### Alec_t AAC Fanatic!

Sep 17, 2013
7,023
1,453
I wish you luck. This would be an ambitious project even for someone with electronics experience. I'm no musician but it seems to me you are going to need dozens of switches or sensors just to access the tones via the fretboard, and the sensors would be complex if you want sliding tones. You would also need continuously-variable sensors for controlling volume/pitch-bend/tremolo/'string'-damping effects. Any sensor providing an analogue output would require a respective A/D converter channel in the microprocessor. The micro would need many input pins.

5. ### wayneh Expert

Sep 9, 2010
13,433
4,269
If it was me, I'd start with reverse engineering commercial products to see how they have solved the various problems named above. I'd also consider using available computing technology. I mean, use a computer (such as a smartphone or iPad) to handle all the processing chores while you work on the interface.

I guess I'm imagining a project where you develop a hardware interface to Garage Band. If/when you succeed with that part, then you could worry about how to incorporate the brain into the device itself if that's the ultimate goal.

6. ### tracecom AAC Fanatic!

Apr 16, 2010
3,925
1,424
Do you want it to sound like a guitar, or be fingered like a guitar, or both, or what?

Maybe you should take a look at the construction projects that are on-line for cigar box guitars. Although they are largely mechanical, there is an electronic component. Perhaps they would give you ideas that you could develop that involved more electronics.

7. ### tubeguy Well-Known Member

Nov 3, 2012
1,157
197
I think the cigar box guitars are a very cool project.

Some things to consider:
If you want something to be played like a guitar, having frets and strings as a guitar does would give you 'landing points' for your fingers. The strings wouldn't necessarily need to be tuned to pitch, but could act like sensors to activate electronic sounds.

If you use metal strings and frets you could create something akin to a switch matrix
to activate electronics.

Give or take you will need about 21(frets) x 6 (strings) or 126 sensors to duplicate an actual guitar neck.
Edit: Plus open strings of course.
My acoustic has 20 frets, electric has 21.

Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
8. ### absf Senior Member

Dec 29, 2010
1,654
443
Take a look at the Yamaha EZ-AG electronic guitar. May be that would give some ideas how to design one yourself.

Allen

File size:
177.4 KB
Views:
24
File size:
59.7 KB
Views:
21
9. ### nradam123 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 3, 2013
10
0
Thanks for all the comments. I need to delve deeper into the topics you guys mentioned, its going to be damn useful.

I just made a quick concept design, this is how someone who has no idea about electronics will think about such a project. Feel free to laugh at it

Just like "tubeguy" said, i will use strings (or some metal wire) to act like sensors to activate electronic sounds from the memory card. In the picture, the black lines in the fretboard are individual metal wires (144 for a 6 string, 24 fret instrument). The strings in the main body are also metal wires. I need to somehow activate sounds as i touch these wires.

For example,
1) if i touch the first fret of first string with my left hand and the first string in the main body, an F note should play. The microcontroller must be programmed such a way that only if both the fret and the string is pressed, the sound must be played. There will be complex connections to the microcontroller from the frets and strings i suppose

I have seen an article on touchboard using an arduino platform that does exactly that. The only problem being it plays only 12 sounds using the 12 pins, but i will need to somehow lay 144 sounds minimum (might include more for other effects). Check out the article here http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/863853574/touch-board-interactivity-everywhere

I think if i use a conductor (Such as a metal wire) as the sensor, it does this capacitive sensing thing such as in a smart phone. That brings me to further doubts. I am simulating an acoustic guitar and every acoustic guitar can be used to do the following at minimum:

a) Strumming (Possible)
b) Picking/ Finger Style (Possible)
c) Pull off (Possible. My idea is if the sound persists when you remove finger from the fret, you can access a different sound)

But the problems happen here:
d) Hammer on (In an acoustic guitar if i press hard on the fret fast, hammer on sound comes. So i will need some kind of method for microcontroller to figure out higher pressure on the wires! How??)
e) Tapping (Same problem as above)
f) Bending, Vibrato/Tremolo, Sliding - (How does a sensor know that i am moving my fingers through it and hence play a continuosly varying sound? Is that even possible?)

Looks like hard business hehe. Look through my concept and critisize it. Is this even the way that i should think at the beginning of the project? Am i in the right direction?

I have a few more doubts:
a) If i want to learn microcontroller programming in atmega, is an arduino platform recommended?
b) In arduino, is it possible that after burning into the microcontroller i can take it out and use separately so that i can use the platform for other projects?

c) @Alec_t: Can you tell me what is a continuosly variable sensor? Is it a potentiometer? Does it respond to touch and are they cheap ? Can i use it to have a bending/sliding/tremolo effect to a note i play from a memory card?
d) @wayneh: Is it possible to access functions from garage band through a hardware? How do i begin this approach? Also any ideas on how to reverse engineer commercial products such as the Yamaha EZ-AG told by @absf
e) @tracecom: Cigarbox sounds like fun. I will look into the electronics part and let you know
f) @tubeguy: Thanks for your suggestion. You told something like the touchboard that i have mentioned before in the article right? Btw can u tell me what it means by a switch matrix? I went through google, but it didnt make much sense to me how it will be useful for me

Anyway, thanks for the input folks.
I will go forward with this project for now.

• ###### IMG_20131206_093622.jpg
File size:
24.6 KB
Views:
69
Last edited: Dec 6, 2013
10. ### nradam123 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 3, 2013
10
0
Any idea how softwares such as Logic Pro 9 and FL Studio attains effects such as pitch bend?

11. ### Alec_t AAC Fanatic!

Sep 17, 2013
7,023
1,453
A pot is the simplest example. Rotary and linear types are available. More complex touch-responsive sensors could probably be constructed using capacitive, inductive, optical, or acoustic technology. Any such sensor could be used with appropriate electronics or a microcontroller for controlling b/s/t effects. Unlikely to be particularly cheap whichever method is used.

12. ### Metalmann Active Member

Dec 8, 2012
700
224

I've been watching those instruments for several years, now they have even more models to choose from:

http://www.roland.com/products/en/G-5A/

I don't think you'll be able to compete, with companies who have already worked out all the bugs.

13. ### nradam123 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 3, 2013
10
0
Im still working on this. I will get back to you guys later !

14. ### tubeguy Well-Known Member

Nov 3, 2012
1,157
197
The metal strings would need to be be isolated by using a plastic top nut and individual non-conducting bridge saddles. Each string and each metal fret would be wired to the controller.

The strings contacting the frets as you play would indicate notes. A pickup would also be needed. It would sense when strings were plucked/picked, be used to detect open strings, and also for volume sensing. A guitar box piezo rod type or standard guitar pickup could work.

Pretty much like a real guitar, but the notes would be created through electronics, so the strings wouldn't need to be tuned to pitch. You could probably use thicker gauge strings, tuned lower (looser tension) so non-guitar players wouldn't hurt their tender finger tips.

Found this place for parts.
https://www.cbgitty.com/cubecart/piezo-rods.html

Now I think I'm going to have to start messing with these ideas myself.
(But, my projects tend to stretch into months and years nowadays)

Last edited: Dec 9, 2013
15. ### MrChips Moderator

Oct 2, 2009
14,278
4,195
I would do it differently.
I would use an ordinary electric guitar that is properly tuned. Then I would digitize the guitar signal and determine which notes are being played. From that information I would synthesize the desired effect. This would allow you to do such things as auto tuning, chorus, bass and percussion accompaniment, etc.

16. ### tubeguy Well-Known Member

Nov 3, 2012
1,157
197
@MrChips That makes sense, and would be much easier.

But I wonder, would there be any additional benefit/effects possible with the fret switches?

Last edited: Dec 9, 2013
17. ### MrChips Moderator

Oct 2, 2009
14,278
4,195
I should also add to the list key change. No more capo. You can play using all open string fingering.

18. ### nradam123 Thread Starter New Member

Dec 3, 2013
10
0
My idea was a little different
Did you mean that the sound coming from plucking the strings will be taken through a pickup, processed and a corresponding sound will be played by the controller?

I thought i will just use string as a conductor (individual little conductors for each note), which when touched will play a corresponding sound from the memory. Its sorta like capacitive touching used in arduino touch boards. The strings might be pasted on to fret board with glue, and not tightened like a normal guitar.

I was looking into MIDI controllers in arduino. I dont want to connect to a laptop through USB or something like other MIDI controllers i saw online, i would like my device to work independently. But then i dunno how i can achieve pitch bending, vibrato, volume control etc and other kinds of processing to my notes if it is sensed just by touch.

19. ### tubeguy Well-Known Member

Nov 3, 2012
1,157
197
In my post #14 I meant basically an electric guitar with a pickup, The metal strings contacting frets would act as switches to detect notes, but not need to be tuned to pitch, all done electronically. The pickup would be an extra sensor plus detect when open strings were played.

But sometimes (I) can't see the forest for the tree's
What's the point of building that from scratch?

As MrChips said, just use a regular electric guitar, properly tuned, and process the sounds as desired. You can stretch, hammer, slide...

Gotta go... more later.