9 Replies Latest reply on Jan 4, 2020 1:48 AM by ragin62

    Arduino powered system for electric guitar pickup selection.


      Electric guitars uses switches to select which pickups are activated at a time. Most designs though do not allow for all possible combinations of pickups. Also there are alternative ways of wiring a guitar, series/parallel wiring changes the tone. Also reversing the phase (polarity) gives you other sounds. Almost no guitar gives the option of selecting all of these options because the wiring becomes too complex. I would like to challenge Ben to create a system by which an Arduino can be used to select any of the different combinations.


      Here are the wiring diagrams to give you a idea.


      Series/parallel switching.



      In-Pase./out of phase

      Wiring Diagram


      Current mods to help add pickup combinations include:


      Wiring Diagram


      If you put all these ideas together you get something like what Brian May from Queen built. http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/21307-mod-garage-inside-brian-mays-red-special


      Still there is more, pickups with two coils, called "humbuckers" can be "coil tapped" to be single coils, making one more set of switches one might want.


      I have a Music Man 'Steve Morse' guitar. http://www.music-man.com/instruments/guitars/steve-morse.html


      It has 4 pickups, and switching between them is crazy complicated all by itself. Here is the diagram: http://imgur.com/r5As604


      Finally another guitar mod is know as a 'kill switch'. It's basically just a momentary button used to cut the signal to the amplifier, but when used by people like buckethead uses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM8DuJKYlqE

      A micro-controller would automate a killswitch and have lots of selectable patterns.


      Can you help me Ben? Can all of this be built on to one circuit board controlled by a microcontroller? Possibly even with an LCD display that indicates what mode it's in?

      • Reply
        • Re: Arduino powered system for electric guitar pickup selection.

          its actually not that hard to do without any mcu

          Here is the DEIMOS CIV a guitar i have built myself about 6-8 years ago:

          3 Pickups (2x Humbuckers) every combination possible is selectable, cut of switch / out of phase/ single coil selectable for every combination.

          its complex wiring but mangable , here is my build:



          notice REAL COW HORNS!!


          The skulls are knobs for Volume and Tone for the selected pickup combination



          it was a pretty tough fit inside the existing caverns of the guitar


          my concernes with the arduino-version:


          a mcu circuit could give you issues with interference, noise etc. there is also nearly no room for additional circuitry without cut opening the solid body-->may ruin the sound and give vibrating issues to the body itself.

          its overkill to run all the wires out to stomp-boxes and then to the amp(but possible) but this will / may create signal drop and even more noise. with active preamp and then messing around with the signal via arduino etc.. would be no different pickup selection but just a homemade effect box.



            • Re: Arduino powered system for electric guitar pickup selection.

              That's a cool guitar but I think you vastly underestimate the space those wires takes up. As an example here is a circuit board used in modern Gibson guitars for volume and tone control.




              It looks to me like there is room enough for at least an ATtiny85, and that's the hole through version. I bet with surface mount you could cram an entire ATMEGA32U4 or AT90USB1286 in there. The MCUs would not be processing the signal, just routing it from place to place probably using transistors or FETs or relays or something. Honestly, switches can be very noisy, which is why players tend not to play with them in the middle of a song. I think a transistor can be at least as quiet as a regular switch. It's possible that my dreams of a PWM controlled kill switch might be too much but believe the rest is possible and valuable.

              1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: Arduino powered system for electric guitar pickup selection.

              Hello.  I'm bumping this old thread because I'm planning to attempt such a device like this with the help of someone I met over at the VGuitarForums.


              I want this primarily for myself as I have a doubleneck guitar with a piezo hexaphonic pickup so there are a LOT of options to control and it would be best to do this via pedalboard than to twiddle knobs and switches.  Manual control is fine for recording but not in a live context.  So it's not so much being able to get a certain pickup combination but to make the change instantly without having to stop playing.  Concidentally, Ernie Ball made a guitar called the Reflex "Game Changer" that had computer-controlled pickup changes.  They stopped making that guitar in 2017 and they never offered any sort of standalone kit.

                • Re: Arduino powered system for electric guitar pickup selection.

                  Sounds interesting, you may want to add this to element14.com/suggestionbox

                  so any of the element14presents guys can pick it up for a build video(probably myself as I built the guitar shown up in the thread.)

                    • Re: Arduino powered system for electric guitar pickup selection.

                      It would be nice if it were more of a group effort.  My main interest in this is final assembly as I made the AtariVox+ boards so Ben Heck is a name I know well.  Would also like to play around with Arduino programming as I code .Net for a living and the flavor of C in Arduino seems fairly easy to work with.


                      The main attraction if this were to be a video is the guitars  Your guitar is pretty cool and mine has horns too, just not actual cow horns.


                      There's limited space in the cavity of my guitar as well.  Since I wanted this to respond via bluetooth, having it inside a shielded compartment isn't likely to work very well.  But hey, the more challenges, the better, right?

                  • Re: Arduino powered system for electric guitar pickup selection.

                    I've been working on a similar idea (purely planning so far), using the ras pi 3b+, to control digitally, the analog signals from the 4 coils, of 2 humbuckers.  Digital pots for vol and tone, and OR logic gates,  or digital spdt switches, for pup selection.

                    Big problem I'm having, is choosing which are the most suitable ICs for the task ?

                    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

                    Alan Arnold Guitars.

                    Ps. I don't want to digitise the signal. That will stay analog, but digitally controlled. Therefore able to be saved, presey, and recalled. Probably with rotaty encoders.

                    • Re: Arduino powered system for electric guitar pickup selection.

                      Hello Peeps,

                      I am working on controlling my guitars pup selection and cap selection...phase series parallel...etcetcetc...with the Arduino, also adding in possibly a Rasp Pi (IF I send any signal through the IC (microcontroller), a shift register or two. The cavity in my guitar thus far is extremely large...it caused me concern so I reinforced the bridge and also made it a floating one...added metal bondo fiberglass and a hand cut piece of red oak painted black on back to cover the extra circuitry and extra springs in there. The guitar resonates better then it did new...it is a Washburn Lyon Black strat-style. So-far out of all my 9 guitars this ones sounds and plays the BEST. I also hand cut a solid copper pickguard...lined the cavity with copper foil creating a Faraday shield...and also tying the neck tightly all the way down to the bridge tremelo that is mounted TO the copper shield and the added metal reinforcements beneath. Giving the guitar a SOLID one piece sound. Very resonant. The pups are twin single coils wired in series as homemade humbuckers with one of each "sin-bucker" ceramic magnets replaced by neodyium...or whatever they are called...lol The bridge pup is a new Seymour Duncan Dimebucker. I am adding a voltage octuppler with mini tesla coil and a booster (preamp) made from discrete components etcetcetc...and THAT is why I am pursuing the arduino microcontroller route...have been for some time now. I am glad I found you...this post. Please tell me if you have made any progress...I have...and when I am certain it will be damn near perfect...I will tell you as well.

                      Play loud play often! CHEERS! David Sellers

                      Oh! The guitar was very light weight...WAS...it now weighs MORE then an old Les Paul. I LOVE it! Peace out...