3D Printed LED Guitar Chord Chart

Learning to play guitar can involve a lot of memorization – chords, scales, arpeggios, you name it. [MushfiqM] has made the process a bit easier with his Digital Chord Chart. Just about every beginning guitarist keeps a chord app, chord book, or even a chord poster handy. Usually these chord charts are in the form of tablature, which is a shorthand method of showing where each finger should go on the instrument. [MushfiqM] took things a step further by actually placing that chart on a 3D printed model of a guitar fretboard.

ledmatrixx[MushfiqM] started by rendering a 3D model of an abbreviated guitar using Autodesk Inventor. He then printed his creation in 3 parts: headstock, neck, and fretboard. The neck of the guitar was hollowed out to allow room for a matrix of LEDs which would show the finger positions. [MushfiqM] then painstakingly soldered in a charlieplexed matrix of 30 leds, all connected by magnet wire. The LEDs are controlled by an Arduino UNO, which has the chord and scale charts stored in flash.

For a user interface, [MushfiqM] used a 2×16 character based LCD and a low-cost IR remote control. All the user has to do is select a chord or scale, and it’s displayed on the fretboard.

There are a couple of commercial products out there which perform a similar function, most notably the Fretlight guitar. Those can get a bit pricy though – costing up to $400.00 USD for an LED enabled guitar.

[via Instructables]

12 thoughts on “3D Printed LED Guitar Chord Chart

  1. Dammit, somebody’s done this ;-) I remember thinking about this a while back – great to see it in action!

    $400 is NOT pricey for a guitar, especially when you get the LED system as well. It takes that just to get a decent Stratocaster knockoff, from what I’ve seen locally. Sure you can get $100 guitars, and might get lucky, but you might get very unlucky. I had one where the frets were out of position above about the 5th fret, and a host of other crap ;-)

    1. I would think there would be a whole host of problems with a 400 dollar LED guitar as well. If you figure the price of doing the LEDs and electronics you are probably buying a $200 dollar guitar that just won’t play well in the long term. Especially if the neck is weakened by a bunch of holes for wiring and LEDs.

      1. A better solution would be to have a microcontroller to USB to PC GUI that can register fretting through the resistance changes from the strings shortening. It would require a proprietary string set and would not be practical either…

      2. I have a fretlight, and its excellent. Its sort of strange because you cant tell until you hook it up to the computer that anything is different from an standard ebony fretboard.

      3. Maybe but you have to remember this is just a learning tool, not a real full time playing guitar, so if it lasts even 6 months (and I’m sure it will last longer than that) that’s more than enough time to learn enough to move on to a full time guitar or realize the guitar just isn’t the instrument for you.

      4. I have a Fretlight guitar and indeed, all the money went into the neck. The rest of the guitar is literally the biggest piece of crap imaginable, to the point it isn’t fun to play. Not to mention the first one I received froze up/crashed and had to be sent back. The replacement I played for 5 minutes just to make sure it worked and now it’s collecting dust on a guitar stand. Oh, and the software that makes it run is pretty worthless as well. It would be a wonderful learning tool with more R&D.

  2. As a guitar player the vertical orientation seems a bit odd to me as most players would want to see the display in a similar plane to their own hand I would think, mirrored might actually be the most useful for learning chords and scales. I would want to be able to hear what I am playing to be sure I am getting the fingering right from what the display is showing. Nice hack though, shouldn’t be too hard to recode for mirroring I should think.

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