Learn To Play Guitar, Digitally

Learning to play a musical instrument takes a major time commitment. If you happened to be stuck inside your home at any point in the last two years, though, you may have had the opportunity that [Dmitriy] had to pick up a guitar and learn to play. Rather than stick with a traditional guitar, though, [Dmitriy] opted to build his own digital guitar which is packed with all kinds of features you won’t find in any Fender or Gibson.

The physical body of this unique instrument is entirely designed by [Dmitriy] out of 3D printed parts, and uses capacitive touch sensors for each of the notes on what would have been the guitar’s fretboard. The strings are also replaced with a set of six switches that can be strummed like a regular guitar, and are used to register when to play a note. After a few prototypes, everything was wired onto a custom PCB. The software side of this project is impressive as well; it involved creating custom firmware to register all of the button presses and transmit the information to a MIDI controller so that the guitar can communicate digitally with anything that supports MIDI.

To finish off the project, [Dmitriy] also added a wireless device as well as some other bonus features like an accelerometer, which can be used to augment the sound of the guitar in any way he can think of to program them. It’s one of the most innovative guitars we’ve seen since the prototype Noli smart guitar was unveiled last year, and this one is also on its way from prototype to market right now.

13 thoughts on “Learn To Play Guitar, Digitally

  1. I tried a MIDI guitar back in the ‘90s… it was shockingly bad. So bad, that even though I wasn’t a guitarist then, I could see many things wrong with it.

    This actually looks and sounds good, though I suspect it’s really a new instrument and not completely trivial for a guitarist to pick up. Very nice!

      1. There’s a lot of variation in midi guitars. Roland has since the 1980s been refining their system of per-string pickups on a traditional electric guitar, while DSP advances have made outboard audio-to-midi devices increasingly powerful and expressive. Then there’s this style, that bypasses having strings.

        I’ve got a peculiar model; it has pushbuttons (shaped like string segments) in place of this one’s cap touch fret positions, and the strumming area is a set of short strings; an accelerometer, some control buttons, and a 5-pin DIN connector round it off. It was built as a controller for Rock Band 3 — the “Wireless Fender Mustang Controller” — back when that game was trying to distinguish itself from Guitar Hero by having real instruments; it’d send game commands to your console wirelessly while sending MIDI events out the DIN jack. Of course, it turns out nobody actually wanted to play real instruments with their rhythm games, so these and the corresponding keyboard got sold off cheap.

        (The keyboard is one of the best cheap options for midi controllers out there, with 25 full-size, velocity sensitive keys, a touch strip that’s either a mod wheel or pitch bend, and a jack for a sustain or expression pedal, plus knobs to put a strap on and wear it like a keytar; you can often find them in thrift stores for $5-10.)

    1. can hardly imagine “MIDI guitar”, could easily imagine it being a disaster zone.

      in about 1999 i was much impressed to see a guitar-to-midi converter…it took in 1/4″ analog electric guitar signal and did the analysis to convert it into midi note events in real time. i can’t imagine it really worked very well but the accomplished guitarist that was fooling around with it was able to get his intent across with it. i was astonished.

  2. Genius. I have a hunch this will go far. Best part is you can fold it up for transport. Hard to make a stringed version that can do that. Maybe it will usurp traditional stringed guitar, in the same way that electric guitar did for acoustic guitar?

    1. “Maybe it will usurp traditional stringed guitar, in the same way that electric guitar did for acoustic guitar?”

      While technically very interesting, this instrument has nearly zero capabilities wrt bending and active continuous modulation of the strings by either pulling them above the frets or using the lever, which makes a guitar sound so natural and a performance hardly reproducible. One could put in there the samples of a $10000 guitar, but it would still sound fake compared to a $100 real one.
      And btw, the acoustic guitar is a completely different instrument, the electric guitar became more popular for being more practical in some contexts, but for sure it didn’t displace the acoustic one.

      1. Proof enough: the electronic wind instrument (ewi) has not displaced the clarinet or other more expensive wind instruments, and they’ve been around for decades. (I didn’t even know they existed until taking a jazz history class)

  3. Reminds me vaguely of the similar guitar-shaped controller a member of Muse plays: it looks like somebody smashed an ipad into the body of a guitar. I don’t recall the name offhand though. Amazing things can be done with it.

    This kind of makes me want to build a DIY electronic wind instrument controller… I’ve got plenty of air pressure sensors…

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