Last week I tested positive for COVID-19 and actually felt ill as well. Therefore, I focused on recovering and put the project on the backburner. With no new developments to write about I also skipped the weekly blog post. However, this week I felt much better already and continued with the project. I have to admit that the project until now was not as fruitful as hoped with no or only little progress made even after hours of working on it. However, this week things worked out to some extent, and I made a few steps in the right direction.
The first milestone I achieved was writing an Arduino IDE sketch that allowed me to use the Arduino as a MIDI output device. Initially, I had borrowed an Arduino UNO from the FH only to find out that an UNO is not really capable of being used as a MIDI device. I received an Arduino Micro Pro from my supervisor, but the Micro Pro required a specific set-up procedure that appeared quite daunting to a programmer noob (=me). Luckily, the FH also had an Arduino Leonardo which works with MIDI AND is easy to set up so I decided to use this one. With the right Arduino available, I started working on the code and managed to make a sketch that takes the distance measurements of the ultrasonic sensor and converts them to MIDI messages that I can subsequently use to control parameters in my DAW or Pure Data.
The next challenge was then to attach the ultrasonic sensor (+ the Arduino) to the neck of the guitar in a way that gives me reliable and useful distance readings of my fretting hand to pinpoint its position along the neck. The problem is that the posture of the fretting hand varies a lot depending on how one plays. The hand’s posture playing barre chords for example is very different from playing single notes. Therefore, I tried quite a few positions before settling on the one seen in the picture. (!!!!) I even considered to drop the ultrasonic sensor in favor of a different sensor that may be better suited for this kind of measurements. For now, the ultrasonic sensor seems to work but I will keep other options in mind.
With the ideal position identified, I still had to find a way to attach the sensor to the neck. This proved to be quite difficult because the required position while being suitable to measure the fretting hands distances is not at all ideal to attach the sensor to. Furthermore, I am no DIY genius, and I was still in quarantine, so I had to make do with the materials I had in my apartment. In the end, I “built” a small box for the ultrasonic sensor out of a Bepanthen package and used a single chop stick to attach it to the guitar’s headstock. I was very much in doubt if I really managed to put the sensor in the right position but to my great astonishment it works good enough to allow for some tone testing.