Ergonomic seven with onboard MIDI control

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by snapperjonno, Feb 27, 2016.

Please help me evaluate viability of producing these! Choose 1 option from each set -

  1. Just not my thing at all

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. Like the guitar, but would never use the MIDI

    4 vote(s)
    50.0%
  3. Would like to use the on-board MIDI, but don't like the guitar

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Love it all!

    3 vote(s)
    37.5%
  5. -

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. A production model should be less than US$2000

    3 vote(s)
    37.5%
  7. I can see production models selling over US$2000

    4 vote(s)
    50.0%
  8. -

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  9. Made to measure model should be less than US$4500

    2 vote(s)
    25.0%
  10. I can see made to measure models selling over US$4500

    5 vote(s)
    62.5%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. snapperjonno

    snapperjonno SS.org Regular

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    So... this is the result of nearly four years' development (on and off) of a prototype that I hope will prove of interest to a few out there... it would be really great to hear what anyone thinks - it's all been in my own head too long and I need feedback!

    I'll start with a few pictures and follow with an in-depth explanation:

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    Close up of the on-board microprocessor


    Design:
    Inspired by the development of the Strandberg, the shape is designed to be ergonomic without compromising the aesthetic, allowing for different balanced playing positions when sitting - see photos below.
    The headless design creates a more comfortable weight distribution by taking weight away from the headstock, utilising Strandberg fixed tuning bridges on the body and string clamps at the head.
    The neck profile on this prototype began with the principals of the trapezoid shapes introduced by Rick Toone and Ola Strandberg but with the corners softened and flat planes merged to create an asymmetrical flat 'U' shape, thicker on the bass side, for a more comfortable left hand playing position which I hope will appeal to a wide range of playing styles.
    The extended range 7-string instrument is also multiscale (25.5" - 26.5") for improved ergonomics, tone and intonation. The fanned frets are parallel at the 5th. Luminlay dot markers to fingerboard edge, mother of pearl to front.

    Construction:
    Through 5-part neck is shaped and routed before joining to the body sides. The body is made from two separate sides with radius carving to front and back, and are made individually as components as a lot of routing takes place before assembly to house electronics. Separate hardwood strips, again pre-routed for electronics, are sandwiched between sides and body wings completing the modular construction of this instrument. This allows for componentising production in a thru neck instrument, meaning modifications are more easily accomplished in single components as required, so mass production of blanks is possible which than then be customised rather than having to customise the entire guitar as one unit.

    'Traditional' electronics:
    Seymour Duncan JB (bridge) and SH-2n Jazz (neck) each have two mini switches on the bass side of the thru neck, wired to mimic the Seymour Duncan "Triple Shot" covers (not available for extended range pickups), allowing each pup to be split to single coil only (slug and pole individually selectable), series humbucking or parallel humbucking. In combination with the 3 way pickup selector switch there are 24 possible pickup configurations possible providing a massive pure tonal range before you even touch the tone control pot - this really needs to be heard to be appreciated! The switching is discrete but easy to use, and does not interfere with play.

    On-board MIDI controller:
    NOTE: this guitar does NOT produce MIDI note data.
    It does, however, have something I reckon is pretty exciting... wireless (or wired) control of MIDI capable digital effects processors, right at your fingertips!

    Digital signal effects processing continues to improve apace, and is becoming a major part of both studio and live rigs for more and more players - and I seriously believe it won't be too long before it becomes the main rig for many. I wanted to find a way of being able to control parameters and presets directly from the guitar itself in a carefully considered ergonomic way, rather than having to reach out to an external device in order to change your sound. The on board controller on this prototype is simple... but highly flexible and very, very effective.

    Digital effects processors, such as Positive Grid's BiasFX and JamUp Pro, Yonac's Tonestack and Irig's Amplitube on iOS and Mac use presets to store multiple configurations of amp and effects chains and their parameters' positions, meaning you can build up a library of rigs that are very quickly accessible. On this prototype, the third pot (closest to the bridge) increments a number up and down on an LED display located on the top edge of the guitar's body. When the button next to the pot is pressed, a program change (pc) message is sent to the external device which triggers a preset change to match the number selected on the display. There are 128 individually selectable presets available making a vast user library of sounds directly accessible from the guitar.

    Once your preset is selected it is then possible to modify the chain and parameters within it, as you play. There are four sliders mounted either end of the pickups - out of the way for picking and strumming but close by for use while playing. These send control change (cc) messages and are used to modify individual parameters within the digital processing chain - in other words you can change delay time, reverb amount, distortion level, flange or phaser depth etc., etc... you name it.

    There are also four miniature 'stomp pedal' push-switches that allow you to turn individual effects on and off, e.g. turning individual 'pedals' on and off, or the BPM mode in a delay effect, or even to toggle recording or sample playback on and off in apps such as Loopy, or used to send PC messages to change presets like a pedalboard. Together with the sliders they can be used to control any parameter in any software that accepts incoming MIDI data and has a MIDI learn function - imagine what might be possible using Max/MSP or PureData for example...

    Within BiasFX, Tonestack and Amplitube both push-switch and slider control assignments can be saved in the software with each preset, meaning each controller may be used in many different ways and set as the preset loads. Tonestack in particular has an incredible implementation of MIDI control and works beautifully. In practice I'm finding it probably makes sense to create a habit of assigning a particular slider with a 'style' of function, eg slider 1 usually controls distortion level or amp modification, slider 2 usually controls modulation parameters, slider 3 usually controls delay, slider 4 reverb etc., all of course tailored to your own style of playing and the particular rig you have loaded up.

    Finally there is a further momentary push-switch that sends a 'snapshot' of all the sliders current positions to the software to enable its parameters to instantly match the physical slider positions. There are also three slide switches on the left of the bridges, one for power to the controller, one to change the display between 0-127 and 1-128 as the systems vary in how they number presets, and one to turn the slider LEDs on or off.

    There are of course several hardware rack digital signal processors available too, such as AxeFX, Kemper Modeller, Pod Pro etc that I believe this will work with in it's current incarnation although perhaps some better than others - I haven't yet had the opportunity to test. If there is anyone out there who can confirm which of these are capable of MIDI Learn..? I thing the AxeFX is at least..?

    At this point wireless communication is via a Quicco Sound mi.1 unit plugged into the MIDI OUT 5-pin din next to the guitar output jack. Another module has just been released by Yamaha and I expect more to follow, but if my concept ever goes into production it will be custom built in to the guitar as part of its own internal circuitry. I have also prototyped a double snakehead lead combining 1/4" jack with MIDI 5-pin at each end, meaning there is only one cable if you want to use the MIDI wired direct into your interface rather than wireless to iOS or MacOS. Currently the BT4 wireless protocol only seems to work with MIDI on Apple products and not Windows, but the wired version works just fine. Please note the guitar works perfectly as a 'normal' guitar independently from the MIDI control if you choose not to use it, with a regular guitar lead. The MIDI and wireless is powered by a standard 9V battery.

    Prototype Specs:
    Neck - 5 piece wenge / maple through construction
    Body - Swamp Ash with figured sycamore caps, ebony edging, maple connection strips
    Fingerboard - ebony with 24 fanned frets (parallel at 5th), ss zero fret, luminlay markers to side, mother of pearl to face
    Scale length - 25.5" - 26.5"
    Strandberg fixed bridges and string clamps
    Volume, tone and 3 way pickup selector
    Coil tap, series and parallel switching
    Preset selection (program change) via encoder, 3 digit LED display, and push switch
    Parameter control (control change) via 4x slide pots with integral LEDs (green, blue or red in any combination available)
    Parameter control (MIDI toggle) via 4x momentary switches
    MIDI activity LED
    1/4" mono output and 5 pin standard MIDI OUT port

    What I'd really appreciate is hearing if any folks out there would find the on-board MIDI controller concept a useful addition to their rigs... as well as constructive criticism of the design and build.

    Any and all comments welcome!

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    Seated playing positions

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  2. Random3

    Random3 SS.org Regular

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    I would have no idea how to use that thing but I have to say it looks incredible.
     
  3. celticelk

    celticelk Enflamed with prayer

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    A very interesting idea! I'd worry about my ability to avoid the sliders while playing, but that might just be a consequence of my particular technique.
     
  4. snapperjonno

    snapperjonno SS.org Regular

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    Thanks. Just pick up and play...!


    Thanks. This is something I've been very aware of and have tried as hard as possible to minimise being an issue for any player. The sliders are mounted slightly below the main surface of the guitar, exactly centered on the pickups and project no higher than the pickup surrounds themselves, so I hope they are out the way enough for most people...

    I started out testing completely flat touch sensors that work really nicely except that there is no visual or tactile feedback where the slider position was left after being used, so when they were touched again, inevitably in a different place, the parameter being controlled would jump to that location and produce unwanted effects, so I think I've come to the best solution - and the LEDs look pretty cool too if you choose to have them on. :cool:
     
  5. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    Hi.

    The guitar looks appealing, modern looking, sharp and focused, however...

    I have installed those Triple shots on the only 6 stringer I have. The first attempt with the switches on the bass side and I hated them there, they felt like there is something pinching my hand there (specially on the bridge pickup) and, therefore, distracting me from playing. Maybe it is my playing style, but I rather not have anything there. I turned those rings 180º and am now having those at the treble side. They are now much easier to get to with the ring and pincky fingers. Being those slider a little farther away from the bass strings, I imagine myself hitting them with my wrist/arm and possibly breaking them really fast. Do have that into consideration.
     
  6. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    :drool::yum::frantic::shawn::holy::minions:

    {in other words, I'm speechless}
     
  7. KR250

    KR250 SS.org Regular

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    I can totally appreciate all the thought and work that has gone into this, it looks absolutely incredible! I think beyond a great conventional guitar, what you mention above is all I could think of using the MIDI for.

    The more I look at this, the more inspired I get. Fantastic work.
     
  8. jwade

    jwade Doooooooooom

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    Man, that looks like a Framus from far in the future. Gorgeous.
     
  9. BlackMastodon

    BlackMastodon \m/ (゚Д゚) \m/ Contributor

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    This is mind blowing. Looks incredible!
     
  10. Prophetable

    Prophetable Prophet For Profit

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    I'd really like to play this through a rig that is set up to be controlled by it. Really interesting build and I love the looks.
     
  11. vansinn

    vansinn ShredNeck into Beck

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    Well, this is pretty yum yum - and pretty too :agreed:
    Seems you've found a neat way of arranging everything, which most certainly isn't that easy on an instrument with such features.
    Such constructions easily gets to look too busy or too technical, but this one doesn't.

    Too busy ATM to read the full story now, but really exited about this.

    EDIT
    Went through your detailed outline and specs; sounds quite well designed to me.
    The ability to read all control faders at once is another cute detail, and, if I understand correctly, should make it much easier to setup change on the fly while playing.
    I also like the ability to control preset change on external gear; I've often thought about having such a feature on guitars, in order to not have to be near, and step dance on, the floor controller - not that I dislike those, but it would still be cool being able to have at least some freedom of movement.

    I more or less assume at some point you'll add MIDI note messages, correct?
     
  12. snapperjonno

    snapperjonno SS.org Regular

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    Thanks to all who have posted comments, it really is very helpful to hear your feedback and it is all much appreciated!

    This is the second comment about the positioning of the sliders and how they may interfere with play, and it will obviously be something I need to have tested by lots of folks playing it to see whether or not it it really is an issue and what measures I'd need to implement to deal with it if it is - but that's the idea of getting this feedback so thanks, I hear you!

    The best solution I can think up right now would be to lower the sliders further into the body of the instrument which would be easily achieved, even to the extreme of making them flush to the surrounding surface but sitting in shallow a core box scoop rout so they still function easily but are effectively totally out the way of playing the strings too. However, I do find that in their current position, and being approximately the same height as the pickup surrounds, they are pretty unobtrusive in use for me anyway.

    I also included Triple shot covers in my first prototype build and while they were also quite discrete I understand the fact they could get in the way because the switches sit slightly higher than the covers and are obviously close to the strings. The sliders are an improvement on that being further away and lower, but only testing with lots of players will confirm how common the problem may be. I'm very keen to get this as right as possible within the constraints of the design.

    I'm in East Sussex in the UK - if there are any players within reach who are open to testing the instrument and its capabilities or are interested in helping to make demonstration videos please... do get in touch! :shred:. I am certainly not much of a player myself - much to my shame.
     
  13. snapperjonno

    snapperjonno SS.org Regular

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    Thanks vansinn, very glad you noticed and appreciate that side of it. A lot of this process has been about keeping a core principal: maintaining the fundamental soul of a guitar while developing its capabilities to utilise advancing technology, without letting the 'gimmicky' side of that technology de-value its essence - hence wanting to do the best I can with the instrument itself with or without the MIDI technology on-board.

    In researching this idea I've seen a couple of other products that 'over-do' the controller concept to my mind, and appear way too much to cope with. I'm very much in the camp of wanting to produce an instrument that allows players to build upon their habitual techniques rather than trying to force them to do something completely new, so I hope the layout and functionality manages to get as close as possible to that idea.

    Yes, the 'snapshot' feature allows you the option, having switched from one preset to another, to keep the parameter positions as saved within the preset or to immediately set them all to match the current location of the sliders, meaning the modification of those parameters becomes seamless and smooth - and much easier to setup change on the fly while playing, as you quite rightly say.

    To be honest I can't believe its not been done before. Why have a foot pedal when you can do it on the guitar?! And those pedals seem to only be able to change presets and modify one parameter with a separate cc foot pedal, seems quite limited to me...

    Actually... no. I guess that comes back to my reply above to your first point, that makes it a quite different instrument. Personally, I'm not interested in turning the guitar into a synth like MIDI guitar in the 'traditional' sense (in my view). It is a guitar first and foremost and I don't want to dilute that one bit, I want to expand on that. I hope that makes sense, it is pretty fundamental to my concept!

    Many thanks for your input, please feel free to keep the conversation going...
     
  14. vansinn

    vansinn ShredNeck into Beck

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    Me neither.. actually, I guess many, myself included, did think along such lines, but just never got around to it - and I fail ti understand myself on this ;)
    WRT MIDI boards, several actually do allow changing more CC parameters per button, like the FCB1010, the Gordius series, and, IIRC, my Rocktron All Access. However, this doesn't change the fact that it should be nice to not have to use the floorboard all the time ;)

    I understand your thinking on this. Back in the days when the Zed Leppelin guitarist and others started using MIDI guitars, it was all the rage for a while but kindof died out, and I guess because, after all, a guitar isn't a synthesizer. Still, I might think with todays revival of analog in the shape of fill-a-rack-with cards-based synths, it just might become a different story, as those do have the capability to sound quite likable.
     
  15. pettymusic

    pettymusic SS.org Regular

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    Wow man! Very impressive! Many, many possibilities with the midi controller built in like that.
     
  16. Spicypickles

    Spicypickles 8 string Warrior

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    I have no idea whats going on in there, but the guitar itself sure is sexy.
     
  17. Ram150023

    Ram150023 NutzKustoms

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    Absolutely insane! Excellent job with the R & D.

    If you can make the fretboard with "standard" perpendicular frets... Im first in line!!!
     
  18. Bdtunn

    Bdtunn SS.org Regular

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    All I can say is unreal!!!!!
     
  19. Alex Kenivel

    Alex Kenivel Psycho, dont engage

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    Need any crash test dummies? I have a Pod :wavey:
     
  20. M3CHK1LLA

    M3CHK1LLA angel sword guardian

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    amazing looking instrument...

    subbed...i cant wait to see a demo on this.
     

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