Wah-Wah-Won’t, To Wah-Wah-Will

This is the tale of [Chris], who discovered he was no [Jimi Hendrix] in his youth, and shelved his trusty wah-wah pedal as a result. Many years later as a bassist with more modest aims he brought it out of retirement and built a blend pedal kit to allow him to bring in a bit of wah to the mix when he wanted it, but as more of a Voodoo Grown-Up than the full Voodoo Chile.

The kit worked and he should have been happy with it, but for one thing. As he increased the mix on the loop box instead of getting more wah he simply got less volume. A bit of detective work reached the conclusion that the old pedal was inverting everything, and that he needed to put in a circuit to correct that when needed. A single op-amp and a switch, with the op-amp circuit dead-bug-style on the back of the switch, completed the modification.

Wah pedals seem to be a recurring feature here. We’ve brought you one made of Lego among many others, as well as one repurposed as a synth controller.

Strumbot: The Guitar that Strums Itself

[Clare] isn’t the most musically inclined person, but she can strum a guitar. Thanks to a little help from an Arduino, she doesn’t even have to do that.

She built the strumbot, which handles the strumming hand duties of playing the guitar. While [Claire] does believe in her strumbot, she didn’t want to drill holes in her guitar, so hot glue and double-sided foam tape were the order of the day.

The business end of the strumbot is a micro servo. The servo moves two chopsticks and draws the pick across the strings. The tiny servo surprisingly does a great job getting the strings ringing. The only downside is the noise from the plastic gears when it’s really rocking out.

Strumbot’s user interface is a 3D-printed case with three buttons and three LEDs. Each button activates a different strum pattern in the Arduino’s programming. The LEDs indicate the currently active pattern. Everything is powered by a USB power pack, making this a self-contained hack.

[Clare] was able to code up some complex strum patterns, but the strumbot is still a bit limited in that it only holds three patterns. It’s good enough for her rendition of “Call Me Maybe”, which you can see in the video after the break. Sure, this is a simple project, not nearly as complex as some of the robotic guitar mods we’ve seen in the past. Still, it’s just the ticket for a fun evening or weekend project – especially if you’re introducing the Arduino to young coders. Music, hacking, and modding – what more could you ask for?

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The Coolest Electronic Toys You’ll See At NAMM

Winter NAMM is the world’s largest trade show for musical instrument makers. It is a gear head’s paradise, filled to the brim with guitars, synths, amps, MIDI controllers, an impossibly loud section filled with drums, ukuleles, and all sorts of electronic noisemakers that generate bleeps and bloops. Think of it as CES, only with products people want to buy. We’re reporting no one has yet stuffed Alexa into a guitar pedal, by the way.

As with all trade shows, the newest gear is out, and it’s full of tech that will make your head spin. NAMM is the expression of an entire industry, and with that comes technical innovation. What was the coolest, newest stuff at NAMM? And what can hackers learn from big industry? There’s some cool stuff here, and a surprising amount we can use.

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Power Your Guitar Pedals With Drill Batteries

Guitar pedals are a great way to experiment with the sound of your instrument. However, they require electricity, and when you’re using more than a couple, it can get messy. Some will run on batteries, while others are thirstier for more current and will only work with a plugback. There are a great many solutions out there, but most people with more than a few pedals to power will end up going to some kind of mains powered solution. [Don] is here to show us that it’s not the only way.

Mains power is great for some things, but where pedals are concerned, it’s not always perfect. There are issues with noise, both from cheap power supplies and poorly designed pedals, and it means you’re always hunting for a power socket, which is limiting for buskers.

[Don] realised that the common drill battery is a compact source of clean, DC power, and decided to use that to power his rig. By slapping together a drill battery with a pre-assembled buck converter and a 3D printed adapter, he was able to build a portable power supply for his pedals. Thanks to the fact that the vast majority of pedals use 9V DC with the same input jack design, it’s a cinch to wire up. With an appropriately sized buck converter, a drill battery could supply even a hefty pedalboard for a significant period of time.

Overall, it’s a great hack that solves a problem faced by many performing musicians. We’ve seen our fair share of guitar pedals around Hackaday – perhaps you’d like to see how one makes it from concept to production?

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One String, One Print, One Harp

To exclude musical instruments in the overflowing library of possibility that 3D printing enables would be a disservice to makers and musicians everywhere. For the minds over at [Makefast Workshop], an experimental idea took shape: a single stringed harp.

The TuneFast Harp needed enough notes for a full octave, robust enough to handle the tension of the string, a single tuning mechanism and small enough to print. But how to produce multiple notes on a harp out of only one string? V-grooved bearings to the rescue! The string zig-zags around the bearings acting as endpoints that rotate as its tuned, while the rigid PLA printing filament resists deforming under tension.

After a bit of math and numerous iterations — ranging from complete reconfigurations of part placements to versions using sliding pick mechanisms using magnets! — a melodic result!

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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.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Adaptive Guitar

Due to a skiing accident, [Joe]’s new friend severed the motor nerves controlling her left arm. Sadly she was an avid musician who loved to play guitar — and of course, a guitar requires two hands. Or does it? Pressing the string to play the complex chords is more easily done using fingers, but strumming the strings could be done electromechanically under the control of a foot pedal. At least that’s the solution [Joe] implemented so beautifully when his friend’s family reached out for help.

There are just so many things to enjoy while reading through [Joe]’s project logs on his hackaday.io page, which he’s entered into the Hackaday Prize. He starts out with researching how others have solved this problem. Then he takes us through his first attempts and experiments. For example, an early discovery is how pressing the strings on the fretboard pulls the string down where the picks are located, causing him to rethink his initial pick design. His criteria for the pick actuators leads him to make his own. And the actuators he made are a thing of beauty: quiet, compact, and the actuator body even doubles as part of a heat sink for his custom controller board. During his pick design iterations he gets great results using spring steel for flexibility leading up to the pick, but thinking of someday going into production, he comes up with his own custom-designed, laser-cut leaf springs, different for each string.  Needing Force Sensitive Resistors (FCRs) for the foot pedal, he iterates to making his own, laying out the needed interlinked traces on a PCB (using an Eagle script) and putting a piece of conductive rubber over it all. And that’s just a sample of the adventure he takes us on.

In terms of practicality, he’s made great efforts to make it compact and easy to set up. The foot pedal even talks to the control board on the guitar wirelessly. Non-damaging adhesives attach magnets and velcro to the guitar so that the control board and pick bridge can be precisely, yet easily, attached single-handedly. The result is something easy to manage by someone with only one working hand, both for set-up and actual playing. See it for yourself in the video below.

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