Synaesthesia Guitar

I have a form of synaesthesia that causes me to see sound and hear light. To show others what this is like for me, Brian Ernst and I modified a classical guitar to display colors around its edge according to what I see when I’m playing it. A brief rundown of how it works:

  • A pair of Piezo pickups records sound from the guitar, which is wired into
  • a guitar tuner, which routes analog audio data to
  • the USB sound card that pulse-code modulates that sound, and hands it off to
  • the Raspberry Pi, which runs a Fast Fourier Transform on the data to extract spectral components, which is driven over a high-speed serial bus to
  • the Arduino Uno, which modulates the frequency spectrum according to my synaesthesia and sends visual data to
  • the WS2812B lighting strip that’s wrapped around the body of the guitar.

The software running on the Raspberry Pi and Arduino are open source. The wiring diagram for this instrument is available as well. There is also a video recording of the talk and performance I gave with this instrument at TEDxSalem in 2014.

Synaesthesia Guitar Photograph