For the past year I've been thinking a lot about solo guitar interfaces. One of the challenges with being a guitarist and playing solo is that both hands are almost constantly busy with the guitar and your feet are usually busy with pedals. Doesn't leave a lot of other options.
I've thought up a lot of ways the guitar as an interface could be improved or augmented and the simplest idea seems like it would be to put a bunch of easily accessible buttons in the guitar and have those buttons simulate keystrokes on my laptop. How hard could that be? Let's see.
I ordered some Seimitsu PS-14 arcade buttons. A lot of the buttons I found were wayyyy too deep (such as these) but these ones looked like they might not go all the way through my guitar and halfway into my torso while playing.
I also impulse bought an Arduino. The Arduino is awesome but turning button presses into keyboard strokes isn't really its main deal. So I ordered an I-PAC VE which is dedicated entirely to simulating keyboard controls.
Months later when the I-PAC finally arrived, I wired up the buttons and the board and it all worked on the first try. I made a little cardboard stand for testing:
But it doesn't look like there's much testing to do, it's pretty brain dead easy. I had it entering keystrokes on the computer and triggering clips in Ableton Live within minutes. Windows XP even recognized the I-PAC without any additional drivers, very nice.
Where should the buttons go on the guitar? I put some cut-out circles on it to see where they'd fit and be most useful:
This is the layout I'm thinking of right now. There's a lot to take into consideration, such as:
- Ease of access while playing (the upper right ones seem close enough I'd be able to hit them with only a brief pause in playing)
- Staying away from locations where accidental hits are likely (the right side is where my arm is while playing)
- Making sure I don't interfere with any of the guitar's guts
- Keeping them far enough away from the edge that I don't weaken and collapse it
Right now I'm wondering if I should try to house the circuit board inside the guitar and run a USB cable from the guitar to my laptop or should I run the wires from the buttons to the external I-PAC which would be by the laptop? I do not know.