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Sonifying physical gesture: Sensor Augmented Electric Guitar


Sensor Augmented Electric Guitar, or s.a.e.g. is both, a point of arrival and departure. Point of arrival in the sense that it represents the culmination of six years of work as a graduate student at UCSD, but point of departure because, at the same time, it has open the door for the development of new composition techniques involving a holistic approach to music creation, but with a stronger focus on movement; s..a.e.g. is a prototype part of a much broader research.

S.a.e.g is a sensor augmented system for electric guitars which is built on the potential movement as a generator of musical ideas, expanding the compositional tools palette. This prototype focuses on three types of movements:


1. Movements of the left hand based on existing guitar techniques for which a pressure sensor is utilized. This particular sensor lends itself for techniques such as glissandi and slurs.

2. Movements of the performer body of the guitar which are based on showmanship or choreography which are read by a sensor and converted into musical material.

3. Tremolo Rotation, which involves a gyroscope placed on a guitar whammy bar and can be used to control sound as well as other parameters.

A series of setbacks and problems choosing ideal sensors were encountered and solved in the simplest, most economical form possible. S.a.e.g. is intended to carry on the tradition of the guitar being a ‘people’s instrument’ and therefore inexpensive solutions to problems are paramount. Not only these solutions where available, but they allowed for an even easier approach to the obstacles encountered in the project. For example, a sensor that would cover the entire range of the instrument fretboard was not available or practical and instead a sensor covering the high range of the instrument was utilized. While this seems like a setback, the practicality of a smaller sensor is unmatched, allowing for easier installation and programing -due to the smaller range of motion detection- as well as causing little to no discomfort for the performer.

As previously stated, although it may seem technological in its nature, this project is a small part of much larger picture, one that sees composition as a holistic endeavor by embracing human nature.

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