RGB Stroboscopic Guitar Tuning

This is [Michael Ossmann’s] RGB LED stroboscopic guitar tuner. If his name is familiar that’s because we mentioned he’d be giving a talk with [Travis Goodspeed] at ToorCon. But he went to DefCon as well and spent the weekend in his hotel room trying to win the badge hacking contest.

Despite adversity he did get his tuner working. It’s built into a toy guitar that he takes on road trips with him. By adding a row of RGB LEDs between two of the frets he can use the vibration frequency of an in-tune string to flash the three different colors. If the string is not in tune the three colors will dance around but matching it with the LED frequency produces a stable color. He then uses that big yellow button to advance to the next string. See his demonstration after the break.

This is basically a built-in plectrum tuner that uses one LED package instead of two.


15 thoughts on “RGB Stroboscopic Guitar Tuning

  1. This is pretty sweet, they have existing stroboscopic tuners out there but they’re rather novel. There is one that is in keychain form and only flashes at the frequency of the low E string, which is awesome to keep with you if you’re good at relative string tuning. I like the way he integrated it into the guitar. I think it would be really sweet if manufacturers created little divets for SMD LEDs in one of the upper frets and blended them in flush with the wood so that fret is still playable and the LEDs aren’t noticeable unless turned on. GREAT hack though.

  2. @Brennan:
    The fretboard on a guitar is really intended to be serviced at some point in the guitar’s life. Because the frets wear and the fretboard (being wood) can move, it isn’t terribly uncommon for the frets to be removed at some point, the fretboard sanded back to flat (going down the center-line, it will be flat…across the width of the neck, there should be some curve).

    If the LEDs are flush, that might cause some problems — it might make more sense to embed them into a fret marker (block style, not dots) and have them a bit deeper than usual.

  3. @hooooooooooooooooooorj
    Yes, I actually have about 10 high-end acoustic guitars so I know a bit about the subject. I’ve seen some manufacturers do LED fret dots on electrics (basses mostly).

    What I meant was actually what you said, where you basically make the LED’s into fret inlays. It wouldn’t be easy…

  4. Nice idea, but that yellow button.. it ruins the effect by making it seem like a toddler toy, and image is important with music.
    Not to mention that the button and the hole it’s in will mess up the sound right? There must be a better and more subtle way

  5. @Whatnot
    “Nice idea, but that yellow button.. it ruins the effect by making it seem like a toddler toy, and image is important with music.”

    What a load of baloney. If you really think image is important with music, you haven’t understood music at all. Music is about sound, do you listen to sound with your eyes?

  6. Yah, way kewl – but you need two rows of these. I’m not actually sure where you want the primaries, but the secondaries, to set intonation, would be at the 12th fret.

    (wouldn’t the primaries go at the 24th? I don’t know if you want the exact midpoint of the string or near the bridge or nut, to minimize influence of overtones. – *real* luthier geeks please chime-in, this poseur is out of his depth.)

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