Welcome to Phase 2 of the project!

Welcome back to my blog series covering the proceedings of my guitar project! After enjoying the semester break, I decided it was time to dedicate myself to my project again. As specified in my exposé, the second phase of the project is concerned with developing working setups that are sufficiently reliable and allow for further practical research regarding suitable effects, playability and performability. The second phase includes tasks like:

  • Determine and acquire necessary equipment. Including: an IMU sensor, an ultrasonic sensor as well as two microcontrollers of the brand Arduino
  • Determine ideal placement of sensors and microcontrollers on guitar neck and pick/right hand and install them accordingly
  • Program microcontrollers to pick up the movements of the fretting and picking hands
  • Determine suitable effects and parameters to be triggered by the movements of the fretting and picking hands

On Tuesday, I rented an Arduino UNO starter kit from the FH JOANNEUM and bought a package of ultrasonic sensors which will be needed for my left-hand guitar setup. I decided to start with the fretting hand setup using the ultrasonic sensor since I think it will be easier to implement than the picking hand setup involving the IMU sensor. Thanks to YouTube university, I was able to quickly code a sketch which allows me to measure the distance from the sensor. As outlined in my exposé, the plan is then to use the distance data to pinpoint the hand along the neck. The position of the guitarist’s hand is then used as input data to modulate effects.

On Thursday I met my new supervisor DI Marian Weger from the KUG Graz. Although Mr. Ciciliani guided me very well through my ideation and research phase, we decided in the previous semester to part ways since my current project focus now requires a technical, coding approach more than an artistic approach. Consequently, I will now be working with Marian. During the kick-off meeting last Thursday, we talked about organizational aspects as well as the project itself. One very interesting issue was raised: I always envisioned to control digital effect plugins in a DAW. Marian however, mentioned that it would also be interesting to him if the setups controlled settings of “analogue” effect pedals. While I think that the modulation possibilities are more limited with actual effect pedals, it is certainly a noteworthy perspective since my goal is to further extend the range of sonic possibilities of an electric guitar in a non-invasive manner. While I primarily focus on not interrupting the player’s natural hand movements, “non-invasive” could also refer to rig compatibility. The setups would therefore fulfill the working hypotheses even more if they could be used in conjuncture with a conventional guitar rig consisting of effect pedals and do not require an additional laptop or other “invasive” measures.

During the meeting, I also received my first “homework”: namely to come up with a way to convert sensor data to MIDI data and thus make the Arduino UNO I am working with a kind of MIDI controller. Unfortunately, after several hours of watching tutorials and sifting through online forums, it turned out that the Arduino UNO is not necessarily the best type of Arduino to work with MIDI. Luckily, I have the possibility to borrow an Arduino Pro Micro from the IEM on Monday with which I will hopefully be able to achieve the above-mentioned task. With the coding part done, the real fun begins: mounting the ultrasonic sensor to my guitar neck and start experimenting with different sounds and control parameters. The goal is to find out which hand movements are suitable to trigger which effect or which effect parameter.

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