ForumsDIY ← Guitar robot update


I build robots that automate guitar picking--I send picking patterns via MIDI from a DAW to a robot built on the top of a guitar. This is fun, because it means you can fret with both hands, or use your right hand to control effects, change picking patterns, or do other things (I tend to think of it as giving the right hand more "directorial" functions).

I recently rebuilt the controller and gate/velocity module into a Eurorack-sized module.

Here's some noodling around with it (three tracks, not a finished piece):



Hey, nice to see you here—thanks for the update!

I really like that cyborg shoegazey piece and would love to hear it longer.

Hi Randy,

I wasn't happy with the basic sound of the picking, so I rebuilt the picking mechanism. Here's a sampler of how it sounds now:

There are four example sections--first, a "raw" acoustic sound, then a Telecaster sound, then a clip with some effects, and, finally, an example of driving the robot from a pulse matrix in VCV Rack (rather than a MIDI sequence from Ableton Live). The pulse matrix clock is a modulated LFO, so it speeds up and slows down in an interesting way (well, to me, anyway). Sort of reminds me of Egberto Gismonti or a Villa-Lobos piece.



Really neat! The first clip sounds almost synthetic because of the perfect timing. I think I can hear the stronger servos in action. These new pieces are exciting and I hope I get to hear longer ones when you make them. For what it's worth, it feels like complete music I would either work or bliss out to and I don't think it needs anything but the guitar.

I have been playing Egberto Gismonti and some related ECM-universe records I have on my morning "radio" show. Sundays at 10am at if you want to tune in!

Thanks for your kind words! I've got a few things that feel like they're headed toward being actual pieces now. There are a few folks who want to collaborate with me and the robot. That could be fun.

Besides the robot itself, I'm working on some M4L devices that listen for specific notes or MIDI sequences that I play on the robot-equipped, then trigger live MIDI clips that then send MIDI to the robot. First thing I learned: don't let the robot trigger the note/sequence that triggers the clip that triggers the robot. That way lies madness.

It's also looking like something about the guitar robot will appear (in some form) in MAKE magazine--I pitched them an article, and they're enthusiastic.

The early ECM albums by Gismonti and Terje Rypdal and a few others are lifelong favorites/influences of mine. I'll try to remember to check out your stream and hear what you've got going on!

I guess MAKE published this a few days ago without telling me.:-)

I hadn't expected other people to write about the article, but they have. This one is nice:

I really like the line: "The result is one of the more remarkable guitar engineering achievements we’ve seen in quite some time."

Now I can start work on the next version--it's been agony keeping the robot in one state long enough to get the article out. Up next:

  • USB port/stress relief
  • new pick/pick holder design
  • on-board MIDI controller
  • cover (prevent wires from being disconnected by my elbow)

The first one is the most critical--it's too easy right now to snap the USB-C port right off of the board. This has happened once already, and it's pretty much impossible to repair. Luckily, I had ordered extra controller boards.