Guitar Becomes An Improved Color Organ

[Charles] wanted to put some LEDs in his guitar. He also wanted individual notes to output certain colors, but he couldn’t find any projects with tone-based algorithms to convert sound into colors. After about a year of work, his ColorChord guitar was born.

Unlike every other color organ build we’ve seen, the color of a note does not relate to the absolute pitch of the note. Instead, the colors are mapped within a musical key. A I chord will always be Yellow, a IV chord will always be purple, and a V chord will always be blue. Playing in the key of C will have the LEDs output yellow, purple, and blue for a C, F and G chord, respectively.

Right now, the processing the guitar’s audio output is handled by a PC. [Charles] says that latency is a big issue, so we’re guessing that’s the reason he hasn’t moved over to an embedded solution yet. He hasn’t quite figured out how to automatically determine the key of a song, but he’s working on that.

[Charles]’ build reminds us of the Rickenbacker Lightshow from the early 70s. It feels wrong to compare a Rickenbacker to a lucite Strat copy, but we’re going to say the ColorChord is superior to the hand-painted automotive tail light bulbs of the Rickenbacker.

Check out the hott lixx that are just way up high on the tiny strings and you mash your fingers on ’em below:


12 thoughts on “Guitar Becomes An Improved Color Organ

  1. This is fantastic! I love color organs and sound-reactive displays.

    I hope he’s looked at FMOD for processing his signal on the PC… It has a demo that displays the note being played. Dunno if his solution is better or if he’s seen the FMOD examples.

    Regardless, well done :D

  2. THAT WAS AWESOME!! I didn’t get the point until I watched the video. Back-lighting to make the whole guitar body light up was very nice.

    Great colour choices. I liked the metallic brown effect.

    Man, you should make a few of those for sale.

  3. @kaod I’ll tell you how I did a similar hack back in the day (2001ish) Get a .wav to MIDI converter software-translates the noise into notes. Use AudioJACK software to run the output of that program into MUSIAC (deaf software that turns music into color via MIDI) and voila! Instant early rave light show! Like I said this was back in the day so most of it is probably abandonware at this point. This was back in the day. Also an easy way to get a cheap guitar midi controller. Admittedly, the note recognition is hit or miss sometimes. Perhaps it has improved over the years.

    Nice job to the builder! Glad you took your interest to the next level :)

  4. nice never thought of using a computer to do this. we built a color changing led display for a customers guitar that changed via the pitch of the note playing. 12 filters in two octaves all analog.i like this better

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