Guitar Game Plays with Enhanced Realism

There’s a lot more to learning how to play the guitar than just playing the right notes at the right time and in the right order. To produce any sound at all requires learning how to do completely different things with your hands simultaneously, unless maybe you’re a direct descendant of Eddie Van Halen and thus born to do hammer ons. There’s a bunch of other stuff that comes with the territory, like stringing the thing, tuning it, and storing it properly, all of which can be frustrating and discouraging to new players. Add in the calluses, and it’s no wonder people like Guitar Hero so much.

[Jake] and [Jonah] have found a way to bridge the gap between pushing candy colored buttons and developing fireproof calluses and enough grip strength to crush a tin can. For their final project in [Bruce Land]’s embedded microcontroller design class, they made a guitar video game and a controller that’s much closer to the experience of actually playing a guitar. Whether you’re learning to play for real or just want to have fun, the game is a good introduction to the coordination required to make more than just noise.

In an interesting departure from standard stringed instrument construction, plucking is isolated from fretting.  The player fingers notes on four strings but plucks a special, fifth string with a conductive pick that closes the plucking circuit. By contrast, the fretting strings are normally high. When pressed, they contact the foil-covered fingerboard and the circuit goes low. All five strings are made of carbon-impregnated elastic and wrapped with 30AWG copper wire.

All five strings connect to an Arduino UNO and then a laptop. The laptop sends the signal to a Bluefruit friend to change Bluetooth to UART in order to satisfy the PIC32. From there, it goes out via 2-channel DAC to a pair of PC speakers. One channel has the string tones, which are generated by Karplus-Strong. To fill out the sound, the other DAC channel carries undertones for each note, which are produced by sine tables and direct digital synthesis. There’s no cover charge; just click past the break to check it out.

If you’d like to get into playing, but don’t want to spend a lot of money to get started, don’t pass up those $30-$40 acoustics for kids, or even a $25 ukulele from a toy store. You could wind your own pickup and go electric, or add a percussive solenoid to keep the beat.

5 thoughts on “Guitar Game Plays with Enhanced Realism

  1. Those $25 ukuleles are vastly improved by adding a set of good strings.

    I’m glad someone has done a project like this and I’m going to look into it about further as it was always something I thought should exist after having a play with guitar hero and the like I wasn’t going to learn much but to have real strings and chords to manage would be very useful

  2. The thing that stumbled me ages ago was the 2 hands, one to pluck the correct string that is also being fretted so. This doesn’t address this with only one pluck. I wanted to play a melody not chords.

    When I was 10 we moved to a house with a 40 year old upright that came with the house in the basement. I could play a melody and I went from there. Years later I am good on a one handed self made sustaining steel guitar. It’s like being able to sing with your hand.

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