Chameleon Guitar; Physical Heart in a Digital Instrument

Chameleon Guitar3
Amit Zoran, Marco Coppiardi, Pattie Maes

Credits: Video by Paula Aguilera, Electronics layout design Nan-Wei Gong

Natural wood, with its unique grain patterns, is what gives traditional acoustic instruments warm and distinctive sounds, while the power of modern electronic processing provides an unlimited degree of control to manipulate the characteristics of an instrument’s sound. Now a guitar built by a student at MIT’s Media Lab promises to provide the best of both worlds.

The Chameleon Guitar — so named for its ability to mimic different instruments — is an electric guitar whose body has a separate central section that is removable. This inserted section, the soundboard, can be switched with one made of a different kind of wood, or with a different structural support system, or with one made of a different material altogether. Then, the sound generated by the electronic pickups on that board can be manipulated by a computer to produce the effect of a different size or shape of the resonating chamber.

Several resonators were made, using techniques similar to the guitar body, to demonstrate the acoustic possibilities; from wooden acoustic resonators to experimental ones.

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