Reference works for Extended Guitar Performance #2

Albeit having used Google Scholar to find scientific articles extensively while writing my Bachelor’s thesis, I never considered using it for my Extended Guitar performance project – until today. It was a good decision for I discovered some great articles that deal with electric guitars and possibilities to further extend or evolve their sonic capabilities. One of these articles is briefly summarised below.


The first article I found documents the development of the so-called MIDI Pick. This special pick serves a dual purpose: on one hand, it can be used as a conventional pick to pluck the strings of an electric guitar and on the other hand, it functions as a pressure trigger, interpreting finger pressure exerted on it as analog or digital values. The pick itself is made of wood, rubber and double-sided tape with a force-sensing resistor mounted on it. The sensor is connected to an Arduino microcontroller and Bluetooth module is used to transmit the data by wireless means. The two latter items are attached to strap worn around the wrist. As already mentioned, the MIDI pick needs to be squeezed and the harder the pressure, the higher a numerical number is outputted. The output is received by a MSP/Max patch that relays the data to other patches. Furthermore, the MIDI pick can operate in serial or switch mode with the mode being controlled by a switch on the wrist. In serial mode, values between 0 and 127 are transmitted. In the switch mode, the pick sends a 1 when the pressure exceeds a certain threshold and a 0 when that pressure is exceeded again, essentially making the pick a toggle switch. In a live performance test, the developer successfully tested the MIDI pick, using it as a controller for a white noise generating patch. In this context, the developer also noted that being capable of adequately using the MIDI pick necessitated time and practice. The 2006 article also spoke about a future outlook involving a updated version of the MIDI pick, however, I did not find another article documenting the further development process of the pick.

Personal thoughts

This article is definitely interesting for my project because the latter will also involve using the pick one way or another to add to the sonic capabilities of the guitar. In fact, the notion of placing a pressure sensor opened a whole new world of possibilities for me as far as sensors are concerned. Let me explain: Until now, I only thought about mounting an accelerometer/gyroscope/IMU kind of sensor on the pick or the back of the hand in order to register e.g. the strumming movements of the hand. However, I see now that I need not to restrict my thinking to the afore mentioned sensors alone. While the idea of using a pressure sensor is evidently taken (XD), I immediately thought of a touch sensor, more precisely, a capacitive touch sensor. A capacitive touch sensor measures touch based on electrical disturbance from a change in capacitance and not based on pressure applied (in contrast to a resistive touch sensor). As far as applications in a guitar context are concerned, such a touch sensor may be used to trigger or activate an effect by double tapping on the pick for example. Admittedly, double tapping would not be possible with a conventional pick that needs to be held between thumb and forefinger all the time. However, by using a so-called thumb pick, a pick that is strapped to the thumb, the forefinger would be free to tap onto the underside of the pick in order to trigger a certain value. This idea will certainly find its way into my final project concept. Beyond that, the article also shows that it is possible to place a sensor on a pick without compromising playability.


Vanegas R. (2007, June 6-10). The MIDI Pick – Trigger Serial Data, Samples, and MIDI from a Guitar Pick. Proceedings of the 2007 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME07), New York, NY, USA.

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