Why a Self-Tuning Bass Guitar?

The decision to make the self tuning guitar this team’s project for the year was the result of a brainstorming session in the team’s infancy. The goal of this brainstorming session was to come up with a project idea that all four members are interested in pursuing, and was feasible for a group of four electrical engineering students to complete in one school year. The self-tuning guitar gained traction early in the process because Chris and Cheyn are both bass guitarists and the entire team avidly listens to music. The self-tuning guitar project also incorporates topics and components that the team members are interested in, including digital signal processing and servo motors.

After the team had determined the general project, a self-tuning guitar, the next step was to determine how to make it something that a consumer would desire. A self-tuning guitar system could manifest itself as an integrated system or as a universal system that would require user installation. The team decided that, although a universal system has the potential for a larger market base, it has some fundamental drawbacks: tuning a guitar is currently not difficult enough that it requires spending an exorbitant amount of time or money on improving it. Therefore, installing a bulky universal system onto an existing instrument for a small amount of added convenience would not be worth it.

Instead, the team chose to pursue the development of an integrated system because this would improve reliability and it would not require any additional effort on the part of the consumer to enjoy the added self-tuning functionality. The project was further qualified as being implemented on an electric guitar because of time and ability constraints. Implementing an integrated tuning system on an acoustic guitar would have an adverse affect on the sound quality of the instrument. According to team member Cheyn Rushing, this is because acoustic guitars rely heavily on the ability of the guitar body to vibrate in order to produce sound. Conversely, an electric guitar relies on electromagnetic pickups to collect and amplify an electric signal. This aspect suits the project idea because it gives the team an avenue to detect the frequencies that will be utilized in the tuning process.

Later in the process of developing the self-tuning guitar, the team was looking to cut costs. Team member Chris Diemer had a spare bass guitar that he was willing to donate to the senior design project. The team decided that the project could be reframed around a self-tuning bass guitar due to the similarities between a standard guitar and a bass guitar. The major differences between the two guitars are the number of strings, of which a standard guitar has six and a bass guitar has four, their sizes, and the size of the strings. Bass guitar strings are larger than standard guitar strings. The larger bass guitar strings require a larger tension to bring the strings to their proper tuning.

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Webpage designed by Cheyn Rushing and Sam Baas. 2013-2014. Background Texture from Subtle Patterns.