Distorted guitars were a big part of the rock revolution last century; we try to forget about the roll. As a youth, [David Hilowitz] couldn’t afford a loud aggressive amp, a distortion pedal, or even a proper electric guitar. This experience ended up teaching him that you can use random old audio hardware as a distortion effect.
[David’s] guitar journey started when he found a classical guitar on a dumpster. He learned to play, but longed for the sound of a proper electric guitar. Family friends gifted him a solitary pickup, intending he build a guitar, but he simply duct-taped it to his steel-strung classical instead. The only thing he lacked was an amp. He made do with an old stereo system and a record pre-amp. With his his faux-electric guitar plugged into the microphone input, he was blessed with a rudimentary but pleasant distortion that filled his heart with joy.
[David] goes on to explain the concepts behind distorted guitar sounds, and how his home hi-fi was able to serve as a passable starter amp when he was young and couldn’t afford better. He then goes on the hunt for more old gear at a local Goodwill store, finding a neat old tape deck that similarly produced some nice warm distorted tones. In [David’s] experience, old hi-fi gear with microphone inputs can generally do a decent job in this role, with electric guitar pickups typically overloading the preamps which expect a lower-level signal. It’s different to what you’d get from a Big Muff or Boss DS-1, but it’s a neat sound nonetheless.
With the holiday season fast approaching, there’s a good chance that some well-meaning friend or relative might buy a toy musical instrument for your children, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never have to listen to the results! The sound from these cheap toy guitars is pretty terrible, partly because they’re just too small to tune to a pleasing guitar tuning, so [joekutz] decided to see if one could be turned into an electric ukulele instead.
You can pursue your dreams of rock superstardom with any guitar, be it from an expensive luthier, a pawn shop, or a mail order catalog. But to join the ranks of rock greats there’s one way to have a truly special instrument, which is to build it yourself. [Bensoncraft] may not be [Bryan May]’s dad or indeed [Eddie van Halen], but he has at least joined the exclusive ranks of home made guitar builders with his video “Guitar from scratch: hard mode“.
It’s a fairly long video and we’ve placed it below the break, but a compelling one as we learn just how many operations go into making an electric guitar. When he says hard mode he’s not joking, there are no pre-made parts save for the strings and he’s not following a set of plans. Everything including the tuners and pickups are made from scratch, but for a non-guitar-player it’s she sheer number of different pieces of wood that go into making the solid body and neck of the instrument that’s so interesting. Even if you’ll never make a guitar you should watch it.
We’re Makers. By definition, we make things. Some of us prefer to build from scraps, while others like to make their own IC’s in their garage. [Make With Miles] on the other hand prefers one of the oldest types of making around: woodworking. And in this build, he goes a step further by using a very old Japanese method of woodworking called Kumiko to build a Stratocaster style electric guitar. The results are absolutely stunning as you can see in the video below.
Inspired by a challenge put forth by [The Modern Maker Podcast] to build a woodworking project that ties into another hobby that isn’t related to woodworking, [Miles] knocked it out of the park by including several art forms in this one-off Strat.
The centerpiece of this guitar build is the Kumiko style of construction used within the body. Kumiko is a Japanese method of assembling wood without the use of fasteners. Developed around 600-700AD, Kumiko is as much a construction method as an art form. [Miles] went further by filling the Kumiko framework with blackened epoxy resin which was then sanded and polished. Decals bring the headstock into the motif, but the attention to details goes much, much further. Be sure to watch the video so you can get an appreciation for the high level of workmanship that this young man displays.
That’s right- [Miles] isn’t a maker with decades of experience. In fact in 2017, one of his YouTube videos was “12 yr Old Builds a Row Boat!!!” [Miles], our hats are off to you and we look forward to seeing your art progress, for you truly have commanded the attention of the maker community that you are so rightfully part of.
Much discussion goes on in the guitar world about the best hardware to use. Whether its pickups, how they’re positioned, or even the specific breed of wood on the fretboard, it’s all up for debate. [Eli Hughes] put much of that to one side, however, with his innovative “Active Pickguard” project.
The project reimagines the electronics of an electric guitar from the ground up. Instead of typical electromagnetic pickups, six individual piezo pickups are built into the bridge – one for each individual string. The outputs of these pickups is conditioned and then read by the analog-to-digital converter of a Freescale Kinetis K40. The DSP-capable chip can then be used to apply all manner of effects. [Eli] demonstrates the guitar providing an uncanny imitation of an acoustic guitar, before demonstrating jazz and overdrive tones as well.
The Kinetis chip also features touch-sensitive inputs, which [Eli] put to good use. All the hardware is built into a pickguard-shaped PCB, complete with touch controls for things like volume, tone, and choosing different DSP patches.
Unlike a regular guitar, this one needs a power supply, which it gets via a CAT 6 cable, in place of the usual 1/4″ guitar cable. The CAT 6 also carries audio out to a converter box which allows the audio to be output to a regular guitar amplifier.
It’s a neat build, and one that shows just how modern technology can reimagine a simple 20th-century instrument. DSP really is magic, after all. Video after the break.
When we think of 3D printed parts for our projects, most of us imagine little bits like brackets and mounting plates. Perhaps the occasional printed project enclosure. But if you’ve got a big custom printer as [Joshendy] does, plus plenty of time, it opens up a whole new world of large scale projects. Take for example the gorgeous RGB LED guitar body he recently completed.
Despite the considerable 300 x 300 mm build area of his custom 3D printer, [Joshendy] still had to design the guitar body in sections that could be bolted together after being printed in ABS. It took around 60 hours to run off all the parts, with the large central section taking the longest to print at 28 hours. With the generous application of heat-set inserts, the assembled guitar should be plenty strong.
While the skeletal plastic body of the guitar is certainly visually interesting in itself, it only makes up for half of the final look. Inside the central cavity, [Joshendy] has embedded two strips of RGB LEDs, a 128×64 OLED screen, and a custom PCB that plays host to a STM32L4 microcontroller the appropriate voltage regulators necessary to run it all on a battery pack.
The board taps into the audio being produced by the guitar and uses a fast Fourier transform (FFT) to get the LEDs reacting to the beat. As demonstrated in the video after the break, you can use the screen to navigate through the different lighting modes in real-time right on the instrument itself.
From a guitar hacking point of view, the two major parts that are interesting to us are the pickups and the volume/tone control circuit that lets you adjust the sound while playing. Today, I’ll get into the latter part and take a close look at the components involved — potentiometers, switches, and a few other passive components — and show how they function, what alternative options we have, and how we can re-purpose them altogether.
In that sense, it’s time to heat up the soldering iron, get out the screwdriver, and take off that pick guard / open up that back cover and continue our quest for new electric guitar sounds. And if the thought of that sounds uncomfortable, skip the soldering iron and grab some alligator clips and a breadboard. It may not be the ideal environment, but it’ll work.