Rocking out with a DIY Arduino synth guitar

Maker creates a slick synth guitar out of an old drum machine, ribbon potentiometers, a joystick shield and an Arduino. 

Recently brought to our attention by our friends at Hackadaya Maker by the name of “Gr4yhound” has devised a slick synth guitar comprised entirely from scratch using an old Yamaha DD-55 drum machine, some SoftPot ribbon potentiometers, a SparkFun joystick shield, and an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4).


The device itself consists of two components, a guitar body and neck. The body is made from a piece of pine that was cut using Gr4yhound’s homemade CNC machine, while three circles were routed out to make room for the Yamaha drum pads, wiring and the joystick shield. Meanwhile, the neck was actually derived from a de-fretted Squire Affinity Strat neck.


Three SoftPot membrane potentiometers were added to the neck to simulate strings. Beyond that, the drum pad trio acts as touch sensors, allowing Gr4yhound to play each string simultaneously and form tunes. The joystick shield enables Gr4yhound to add additional effects to the overall sound, and an Arduino Micro serves as the primary controller and transmits the musical notes as MIDI commands. The Maker used a commercial MIDI to USB converter in order to play the music on a computer, while converter lets him power the Arduino via USB.

Ready to rock out? Head on over to the project’s official build log here, or watch it in action below!

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