Horribly complicated electric guitar keyboard


Gutarist, hacker, and mustache enthusiast [David Neevel] brought together way too many pieces of hardware in order to use his electric guitar as a computer keyboard.

So let’s dig into the house of cards he built for the project. It starts off with the guitar which has been fitted with an additional pickup to interface with a Roland GR-33 synthesizer pedal. That outputs a MIDI signal, which many hackers would have connected to the computer and parsed with a simple script. But not [David], he connected it to an Arduino via an optisolator. Well that’s not too ridiculous, right? Don’t you think he’ll just parse the MIDI signals and push them to the computer via the Arduino’s USB port? Wrong! He translates the MIDI signals into combinations for a big relay board which is emulating the key matrix of an old USB keyboard. But as you can see in the demo video after the jump it works quite well.

If you’re more of the drumming sort there’s an electric drum set version of this hack too.

[Thanks Dale]


  1. Wretch says:

    Brilliant! I wonder if there’s a word or a sentence that’s actually also melodic.

  2. ChalkBored says:

    That’s a sweet craigslist Flying V.

  3. rob says:


  4. Rob says:

    Finally, a Digital Instrument Musical Interface, or as I like to say: “DIMI”.

    Didn’t like that? How about, “He puts the ‘GUI’ in ‘guitar’?” Actually, it’s more ‘tactile’ or ‘audible,’ but that just isn’t as cute.

    Did David build (or at least layout) that relay board himself? Nice.

    Next step: replace common words with chords. ;)

  5. asmecher says:

    David, if you’re interested in a collaborative piece with the drum keyboard, drop me a line. It would be trivial to add a piano as well. The only question is — what to type?

  6. nelsontb says:

    Unexpected, impressive, overly complex/engineered, the perfect hackaday post :)
    Someone show this man the arduino leonardo, may save him a few bucks on the relays and custom board (but probably not as much fun).

  7. Merlin says:

    The real question is can you play guitar hero with it?

  8. jwrm22 says:

    MIDI => USB, MIDI => Arduino => VUSB, etc… So many easier options.
    Nice build, that relay board look home made. I really would like to know why he choose these options.

    Nice work and it works, can’t say that of most electronics projects…

  9. da rippa says:

    Epic mustache.

  10. 112358 says:

    Wow that impressively complicated and awesome!!!!!! I wonder what the delay is for that MIDI generator, I didn’t hear any.

    He’s rocking that ultra-stache

  11. Isaac says:

    Wow thats a lot of energy wasted on something so entirely useless…

    I LOVE IT.

  12. Neoshroomish says:

    I’d love to hear how it sounds after he’s practised a bit on it.

  13. static says:

    This project is OK but I like the Rube Goldberg sort of creation that David made

  14. Richard Öhling says:

    Ok, someone have to say it.
    Earl Hickey, is that you??

  15. MRE says:

    I like that he included backspace/delete keys.

  16. MRE says:

    @static OMG THAT should have been his hackaday claim to fame. I personally LOVE the cream filling, but hey, anyone who can first turn out an awesome robot to get rid of it, then make arguably the funniest robot demo videos I have ever seen, deserves clean cookies.

  17. ColdTurkey says:

    So, who guessed it right first time?? Haha chairoscuro!! How were we ever meant to get that?! Love this! Shithead! :)

  18. DennisC says:

    Am I the only one who thought of this?

  19. vonskippy says:

    Nice tech chops, but it’s so useless you’d think it was Steampunk.

  20. bufalo1973 says:

    I’m guessing the result of going the other way round: using the same method to “make a song” out of a text.

  21. liz_clark says:

    this is one of the most creative things i’ve seen in a while with the arduino. fantastic project!

  22. Reblogged this on Julio Della Flora.

  23. Angel Gibson says:

    I cannot decide if this “keyboard alternative” is awesome or overkill. I think I would just play a random song to see what it says afterwards.

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