Saturday, October 8, 2011

Arduino explorations

I have been asked to blog about my current project, that has led me to start exploring and experimenting with the Arduino microcontroller.
First, alittle background as to why I chose the Arduino.
This project actually started with a request from a co-worker fuor an Electric Upright Bass - his daughter is currently attending university as a music major, and he wanted something easier to transport across campus than a full size acoustic bass.  This led me to start researching how musical instruments are designed and built, and how electric guitars/basses transform the string movement into sound.
Suffice to say, that I quickly realized that the electric pickups to support a bowed instrument are not readily available, so I began looking for what I would need to be able to design/make pickups that supported a curved fingerboard.
There were two basic designs and one fancy design for translating string vibration into electrical signals. Piezo-electric, magnetic, and for the fancy one, light.  I could only find one manufacturer for the light based, and they only offered it built in to their own guitars,  so quickly rejected that option.  Piezo seems best-suited for pizacatto (plucking), and magnetic pickups seem better for arco (bowed) styles.  This led me to consider having both built in to the instrument.
The most flexible onfiguration for the magnetic pickups seemed to be the humbucking layout.  If so-called 'coil taps' are added, the musician has additional options within the instrument for tonal production, before the amp begins processing the sound.  The next issue that I had to deal with was how to produce the two coils necessary for proper humbucking - ideally both coils would have the same amount of windings to ensure that the common noise (hum) is cancelled out between them.  Coil winding machines are available, and there are many low-tech ideas of coil winding as well.  One involved clamping a drill to a workbench, mounting the coil spindle in its chuck, then using another clamp on its trigger to start and control the speed.  Another added an enclosure and a shaft, plus a counter to show how many turns had been put on the spindle.  Using the second as my inspiration, I began designing..

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