James Bruton’s Guitar Uses Barcodes for Strings

Barcode scanners can read unique information based on the line pattern that they see, so the next logical step — if you’re James Bruton — is to make a MIDI guitar based on one. While it might not be the first thing you think of while getting your groceries scanned, the device works pretty well playing an improvised tune starting at just before the 7:00 mark in the video below.

The instrument’s body is made using sticks of 2020 extrusion, along with 3D-printed components to attach everything together and hold the electronics. Barcodes to be scanned are arranged on the guitar’s four extrusion necks, stuck to angled pieces of PVC. This allows Bruton to scan each note as needed with a reader when playing.

The project is somewhat retro-arcade themed, so five arcade buttons on the bottom neck provide extra functions, while a spinner near where you’d strum an actual guitar lets him bend the notes. A joystick next to that shifts octaves and lets him select the MIDI device that he sends signals to.

Bruton’s using an Arduino Mega board for control of the apparatus, as well as a USB host shield and a MIDI shield on top of that. It’s a truly unique instrument, and perhaps with a bit of practice it could be an excellent performance piece. Code for the is found on GitHub if you’d like to examine how it works in more detail.

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Author: Jeremy S. Cook

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