Tiptoe Through the Tulips in No Time With Ukule-LED

Take it from someone who has played at the guitar for over 20 years: reading sheet music can be a big stumbling block to musical enjoyment. Playing by ear is somewhat unreliable, tablature only works well if you’re already familiar with the tune and tempo, and pulling melody from chord charts is like weaving fiction from the dictionary. A lot can be said for knowing basic chord formations, but it can be difficult get your fingers to mimic what you see on the page, the screen, or someone else’s fretboard. Enter Ukule-LED, a learning tool and all-around cool project by [Raghav and Jeff] at Cornell.

Ukule-LED uses 16 NeoPixels across the first four positions of the fretboard to teach chord positions. All 16 NeoPixels are connected in series to a single pin on an ATMega1284P, which sits on a board mounted to the bottom of the uke along with power and serial. [Raghav and Jeff] set the NeoPixels below the surface so as not to interrupt playability. The uke can operate in either of two modes, ‘play’, and ‘practice’. In ‘play’ mode, the user feeds it a text file representing a song’s chords, tempo, and time signature. The LEDs show the chord changes in real-time, like a karaoke teleprompter for fingers. In ‘practice’ mode, the user enters a chord through the CLI, and the lights hold steady until they get a new assignment. Knowing which fingers to use where is up to the user.

To add another layer of learning, major chords alight in green, minor chords in red, and 7th chords in blue. These are the currently supported chord types, but the project was built with open, highly extendable Python sorcery available for download and subsequent tinkering. Go on tour after the break.

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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.

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