Cyborg Guitar
Portable midi wireless talkbox guitar with raspberry pi midi sampler
tags: openframeworks, raspberry pi, midi, arduino, ableton, processing, illustrator, radio, soldering, wires, circuits

I've been making music for more than 10 years. Started as a guitarist and then made few bands and electronic projects. I tried different ways of singing but after a while got bored and was searching for the new ways how I can use my voice. I was experimenting a lot with different guitar and other analog processing pedals and effects. I ended up with vocoder and talkbox because they change the voice dramatically and in a very interesting way. I was digging more into that direction and wanted to do something even more interesting.

I decided to build a device which would allow me to talk like a robot and where I could switch between different kinds of voices really easily. I wanted to make it in a form of a guitar and use a fingerboard as a controller. I also wanted to make it wireless, portable and the way that it doesn't need a big computer or laptop to run.

Then I made a research and checked what I can get from the market. I tried a lot of different devices. Tried to make them work together. In the end, I got a lot of experience and also figured out a lot of things. Like, for example, that I'm gonna use midi between controller and a sampler (or a synthesizer) but, also, that many devices just don't work together as they should, and after couple of months I decided to stick with a laptop as a sampler, since it was an easy solution for that time. In the best scenario, I'd have everything on board of a guitar. However, I had to use a laptop and that's why I needed a lot of wires to send data between it and the guitar. I didn't find any multiplex solutions on the market and had to buy 4 radio transmitters to keep everything wireless. The funny thing was also that I spent 1 month to fix midi receiver internal bug while testing it and talking to the developer.

So, the 1st version was ready. With huge radio station on a back-end and complicated power management inside the guitar. I decided to play few gigs to check how it all works on a loud sound system. And after that test I figured out some problems about my prototype.

1. the mic gives a huge feedback even after eqing resonant frequencies
2. the sound from the talkbox is not loud enough.

I had to fix those issues. I bought a throat mic which pilots use. It supposed to give less feedback. And also, I decided to build my own talkbox out of toilet plumber) It really was better in the end than the original one. Also I built a body of a guitar out of transparent acrylic glass. The interesting thing was that I never heard that anyone used a talkbox with a throat mic together. I didn't know how it will work and will it work in general because of just physics but it worked quite good and I decided to check everything again on a loud PA.

The 2nd version was much better. The feedback is almost gone. The volume of a talkbox became louder. However, the new problems popped up after the test.

1. The guitar was way too big. I made it with 2 fingerboards because it supposed to look awesome but in real life if was super difficult to transport the guitar 'cause of the size.
2. The laptop was a bad idea as I expected. I had to carry much more stuff like soundcard, wires, so on.

So, I decided to get rid of it. I was thinking how I can make a tiny sampler the way I want and put it inside the guitar. And the solution was raspbi + oF. I just had a feeling that it shud work. I wrote a simple sampler app on oF, put it on raspi and it worked with my controller and the rest!

The 3rd version is still in development. I'm gonna buy piezo mics 'cause I hope they will give even less feedback. Plus I wanna build even more powerful talkbox with bigger speaker. I'm gonna put a tiny HD screen and raspberry pi onboard of guitar and redesign a guitar it self for 1 fingerboard that it will be smaller. Also, I'm gonna make a laser engraving on a new body and use a power bank for better power management.

To make engraving on the acrylic body I wrote small program on processing . It generates some recursive geometry. I also used it to generate art for the album cover for a freelance project.

I've been making this guitar for more than a year and spent already more than 1500€ for research and experiments but this is not the end. I'll keep working on it. Soon I'm gonna release the album with the robot voice which I play while performing with the guitar. If everything will be finished I'm gonna also make a latex or 3d-printed cyborg mask with controllable leds or a screen.

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