Guitar teaches you to play using LEDs

guitarduino

[Andrew] is an electrical engineering student at UIC, and decided that he would build a MIDI guitar for his senior design project. After tinkering for awhile, things were not looking good, and the MIDI guitar idea was scrapped. With his deadline creeping up, he came up with a new idea, the Guitarduino. His new project is a guitar that teaches you how to play chords and scales by showing you the proper notes to play via LEDs embedded in the guitar’s neck.

He removed the neck, and carefully drilled the holes that would eventually house his 130+ LEDs. The LEDs were wired to his Arduino via some multiplexing circuitry that resides on the back of the guitar’s body. The Arduino was mounted on the front of the guitar along with a shield used for communicating with his LED array. He built another shield that serves as the LCD display as well as the input board for his guitar.

The final result of all his work is fantastic. The user simply needs to dial in the chord or scale that he wants to learn, and the guitar lights up, showing the proper finger positions on the fretboard. We could see this coming in quite handy for anyone just starting to learn how to play.

Check out the video below to see a demonstration and walkthrough [Andrew] put together highlighting his guitar’s features.

Comments

  1. Ron says:

    It’s been done.

    http://www.fretlight.com/

  2. mowcius says:

    Ron, yes but that’s not the point.

    This home made version is much cooler – you could program it to do so much more.

  3. jaqen says:

    hehe yer what about taking a midi file, and playing it while showing you where to put your fingers while playing? wouldnt show you what finger to use, but still

  4. Ed says:

    Wonderful! I’ve been wanting a fretlight guitar for so long!

    If I can make a suggestion, as chords are made up of scales, why not have a mode that shows the I, III, V notes of the scale across the whole fretboard, to build your own major chords, or I, minor III, V for minor chords, etc?

    And then, oooh, a computer GUI to load tabs into the arduino for song mode! (okay, I’m getting carried away).

    Great work, again!

  5. Hackius says:

    How about some sources so we can build our own?

  6. soopergooman says:

    cool hack, very impressed. hope you get/got a great mark.

  7. zoutepopcorn says:

    Wow, connect it to the computer and let a prog read the tabs and put them into the guitar.

    :D.

  8. Johnny6 says:

    @mowcius

    Yes, I understood the point after watching the video for myself… the problem is all these websites are focusing in on the LED hack as if that’s the innovative part of the project. Upon first reading these blogs, I was like Ron and sitting here thinking “this is not a new idea”.

    Honestly, I think these blogs are doing this kid a huge disservice by putting focus on the LEDs in the neck and making it out like he came up with that idea. The genius is the software and the true star of his project. Great idea by him, poor reporting by the bloggers writing about it.

  9. kabukicho2001 said, says:

    What about tuning? Is it possible to use the LED position to get that one?

  10. Robert Reynisson says:

    I think there was a mainstream product in the 90’s that did this. The internet is to cluttered with LED zeppelin / guitar results to yield any relevant results. I hope someone at google is reading this so they can fix this algorithmical problem!

  11. steaky says:

    also tuning would be cool if you flashed the LED’s at the correct frequency such that the string appeared to be still (similar to the water droplet stuff)

  12. Andrew Garza says:

    Keep in mind, I had a deadline and only started 2 months ago. This is the final project I am turning in, this is only round one. My main goal is to create a MIDI controlled device, like a guitorgan.

    @johnny6 I have always felt that sometimes as engineers and project builders we forget our audience is not only other hackers like ourselves, but the general public. The focus of the project to almost everyone at my expo will be the LEDs. They are great to get those interested into hacking. How many of our first projects involved LEDs? This is just on a larger scale.

    Thank you everyone for your comments and for some more great ideas.

  13. dan fruzzetti says:

    andrew: hell yes. you should patent this and find a company willing to help you sell it.

  14. Hackius says:

    Dan fruzzetti: The fretlight people have this patented to hell and back. It’s been around since the 90s

    It is however very impressive as a senior project.

  15. Sashmo says:

    I’m selling my fretlight guitar if anyone wants it?

  16. holly_smoke says:

    There are several sources online that show how to use an LED as an input device also.

    It would be cool if you could use one of these methods to record what notes are played, then either log that on a computer or send to a second guitar. Then you could have a tutor playing something on one guitar and the student can easilly see what was played and repeat it on his guitar.

    At the moment it can involve awkward leaning around and moving peoples fingers for them.

  17. Andrew Garza says:

    @holly_smoke – Ha, This was our original idea even before the MIDI part of things! This is something I still want to do. Another implementation I thought of was adding tricolor LEDs. The different color LEDs would indicate which fingers should go where. Next implementation will involve using a PCB as a fretboard. I could not imagine doing this again the way I did it, especially with tricolor LEDs. It was mainly a time and money issue.

  18. evolutiongsr8 says:

    i go to UIC too!

  19. Brennan says:

    @steaky

    Or you could use all the LEDs on the fretboard to show tuning. You could make the middle (let’s say 7th) fret the “in tune” point and then light up the lights below or above that center fret which would correspond to how flat or sharp the note is. Might be cool.

  20. Most importantly though, will it show you Phrygian Dominant?

  21. Andrew says:

    @Andrew

    You’re using an arduino and having issues when you have too much stored on the device? does the arduino IDE say there’s still a bunch of free space?
    I had the same problem in a couple of my projects. I was running out of SRAM. This is easily solved by using program memory to store variables:

    http://arduino.cc/en/Reference/PROGMEM

  22. error404 says:

    Your ground loop is probably between the PC and the amplifier, since the arduino is getting its ground via the PC. Tieing the grounds shouldn’t be necessary as long as you have the PC disconnected when you’re playing.

    I’m going to guess that the noise problem comes from the multiplexing, you’re switching relatively high currents there, and with long wires, so it’s going to radiate quite a bit. Playing with the frequency here might reduce the noise problem or make it easier to filter out.

    Very polished product. Any thoughts about ditching the Arduino and building a custom board with all your electronics directly into the body? That’d be sexy!

  23. Andrew Garza says:

    @Andrew – I found the PROGMEM last week and plan on rewriting the code once senior design is completed. I have been taking care of my report over the last week. Thanks.

    @error404- The GuitArduino is not plugged into the computer, but is from a USB (B?) cable plugged into an outlet. Yes the noise comes from the rapid change in current in the long lines which creates a magnetic field. To polish up the project for the next round the plan is PCB as a fretboard, with SMT tri color LEDS as well a hollow bodied guitar. I am with you on making it polished up. Makes it appeal to more people. Not planning on ditching the Arduino though. NO WAY!

  24. ??? says:

    Fuck the haters, I enjoyed that video and props on finishing up a project you’re passionate about.

  25. steaky says:

    @???

    I dont know what thread youve been reading, but there doesnt seem to be any “haters” here…
    In fact, most of the comments seem to be very constructive

  26. Frido says:

    This reminds me of http://www.5volt.eu/archives/94
    This one looks cooler though, but no schematic or code, it seems. Could use the piano MIDI above and arrange differently the LEDs on the guitar!
    Yap!

  27. Coda says:

    Andrew, did you have to take any considerations regarding the stresses on the neck? After drilling all those holes, I think you might have had to reset the torsion bar at least? Does the guitar stay in tune after a long period of playing?

    BTW – I first saw this concept some time ago, when Mark Knopfler (Dire Straights) was showing one off on TV. I was thinking the same things as others here, about interfacing it in different ways, but unlike you, I didn’t get off my arse and do it ;-)

  28. Andrew Garza says:

    @Frido – that is a great resource. Thanks. I want to implement something like this similar to the way that fretlight does it.

    @Coda – The only thing I did to alleviate stress from the the neck was not have the truss rod tightened all the way. Aside from that I don’t think that the strength was really taken away from it. What I did was dremel out a cavity deep enough to fit the wiring. Check out this video and you can fast forward it 2 minutes and see what the inside of the neck looks like. You will see that the truss rod is not exposed.

  29. ernesto says:

    So you know .. I did almost the same thing, but reading scores of guitar pro, before this guy, see:

    Why nobody commented on my prowess as well? = /

  30. bigcat says:

    ernesto
    This project “Guitarduino” is open, maybe for that reason you don´t have any user feedback.
    Personally i´d download Guitarduino doc , and is very informative, and learn a lot about how this was build, this is the arduino spirit.
    Power to the people, build your own stuff, and share it!!!

    Sorry for may bad English
    In Spanish

    ernesto, este proyecto “Guitarduino” es abierto, por lo tanto ,se puede modificar , aprender de el. Eso es lo que me cautivo de Arduino, hay proyectos tan interesantes e impresionantes como maquinas cnc o impresoras en 3d y otros cientos mas y son totalmente abiertos, en su parte hardware y software, yo he visto tu proyecto, pero solo lo muestras , al parecer me da la impresion que esta cerrado o no tienes intencion de abrir el codigo o el hardware, creo que si abrieras tu proyecto, hicieras una web , contarias con un cientos de seguidores y seria mas connotado aun

  31. Hi all!
    Based on Andrew’s Hardware and software.
    We have added several chords m7,m9,7,9 and scales pentatonic min, pentatonic maj and more.
    Also spanish support, change key signature, ram to flash, serial support to display anything.
    We have done a TuxGuitar plugin to interface with guitarduino.

    You can check history, video, photos, source code on

    http://www.elarteylatecnologia.com.ar/spip.php?article64

    Hope you like!

  32. Dennis says:

    Andrew……care to assist with adding the feature of LED’s illuminating inside the bodies of the acrylic electric guitars I mfg. If so, we can work out compensation!

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