January - May 2022
Solo project for Musical Instrument Design & Manufacturing class.
Over the course of the semester of Musical Instrument Design & Manufacturing, we were tasked with building, analyzing, and composing a piece for a musical instrument of our own design. As a guitarist myself, I knew I wanted to build a guitar.
STAGE 1: MARKET RESEARCH & DESIGN
I dove into market research, looking at guitars from hundreds of years ago to modern-day travel guitars.
My research revealed a gap in the market: I could not find a travel-sized classical guitar. Classical guitars cause less finger strain than other types, which makes it easier for beginner players or anyone who struggles with finger strain.
I incorporated design elements of classical, electric, and acoustic guitars in my design.
I began deciding on dimensions based on the features above for an ergonomic design. I modeled the guitar in CAD using Autodesk Inventor.
STAGE 2: FABRICATION
Making wood bend with the laser cutter
With a limited time frame and tools, I had to be creative with my fabrication methods. I made the curved sides with a laser cutter pattern called a “living hinge” which allows the wood to bend.
To keep a consistent visual style, I used the laser cutter to engrave a pattern around the sound hole top plate to imitate the “rosette:” a decorative ring around the sound hole of many classical guitars.
CNC milling a custom guitar neck and bridge
I suspected that using the ShopBot CNC to make my neck and bridge would be the biggest challenge. This was also on purpose—it was the machine I most wanted to learn. To prepare, I scheduled training and consultations with the maker space employees. Making a “mini neck” during my training helped me anticipate a lot of problems.
The final neck ended up taking days, numerous failed attempts, and countless adjustments with the software. I persisted because I knew that the neck and bridge of a guitar determine the sound quality. Through my failures, I learned about the constraints of designing for a CNC.
STAGE 3: EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN
I designed an experiment to investigate the effect of the plucking point on sustain (how long the note rings out). To collect my data, I coded a program in LabVIEW that calculated the sustain and overtones using a Fourier Transform.
My results show that the plucking point does have an audible effect on the sound of the guitar.
STAGE 4: COMPOSITION
The final component of the class was to compose and perform an original piece on our instrument. I was inspired by flamenco rhythms and classical guitar styles.
Trial and error. I learned that it is always better to take a stab at fabricating a part rather than spend endless amounts of time planning and adjusting settings.
Asking for help. I learned to take advantage of the support available to me. I set up many meetings with the employees of the maker spaces on campus to troubleshoot my problems and ask for their advice.
EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRA!
Another assignment for the class was to create a video explaining how your instrument makes sound.