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touchless control mounted on guitar?

2/13/2001 9:31 PM
kg touchless control mounted on guitar?
i was thinking a bit a few days ago, brainstorming as i enjoyed the mellow cannabinol, and it occured to me...  
how about using the principles of the theremin, namely that one electrode controls the volume and the other the frequency, and mounting ONE of the electrodes (say the volume control) on the guitar itself?  
naturally this approach wouldn't be activated all the time (you'd fade in and out if anyone came near you) and it would require some kind of umbilical connection the amp itself... but the possibilites of generating a DC control voltage by means of physical proximity to an electrode intrigues me...  
hell, it doesn't have to just be an amplitude control--how about a ring modulator? a wha-wha circuit built INTO THE AMP? tremolo speed? channel blending? the possibilities are certainly there... anything you could control with a DC voltage!  
the electrode could consist of a small conductor mounted somewhere on your guitar. once the sensitivity of the electrode was adjusted (front pannel control on amp?) you could forget about it. it would be simple to put a hard bypass switch on your footswitch.  
who besides me thinks this is a pretty cool idea? i have given no thought as to feasibility, so it may be way to effing hard. oh yeah, don't forget it can be done completely with tubes! ;)  
2/13/2001 9:46 PM
Stephen Conner

It sounds good in theory but I suppose the problem will always be finding a spare hand to operate it. Maybe you could have it mounted somewhere near the bottom of the instrument and wave your right elbow at it.  
Or, for giggles, you could use the strings themselves, or a strip of tinfoil down the back of the neck as the electrode, with a lie-detector style resistance-measuring circuit instead of the Theremin controller. If you controlled volume, you would get a synth-style aftertouch effect by left-hand pressure.  
Several years ago, on the British TV show Tomorrow's World, I saw the mouth-operated wah-wah pedal. It was a thing like a cigarette with a wire dangling out. I think you worked it by holding it in your teeth and making wah noises. I seem to remember it had a light sensor in it that would have detected the light getting into your piehole as it opened and closed. You'd have trouble with it though, your joint would keep falling out :D  
Steve C
2/13/2001 9:49 PM
Don Symes

Mount the sensor to a mic stand so yer not _wearing_ the thing.  
Or what about some big x-y pressure pad to control two things at once as you slide around on it?
2/13/2001 11:00 PM

Is an electrode the same thing as an antenna ? I know theremins use 2 attenae, and the capacitance of your body in proximity to the antennae is what controls the circuits. Anyway, a friend of mine makes experimental instruments that use other somewhat similar means of control - among other things, photo cells, which are controlled by partially blocking the light that is reaching the sensor, usually from a single focused light source, and 'body contacts' - I don't recall how those work but you have to touch them, I assume you're absorbing a small amount of electricity when you do. He's got a nice webpage up at  
I've also thought about 'alternative' controls that could be mounted to the instrument. There are various ways of making flush mounted sensors or controls that could be on a pickguard or something, but how do you tell where they are set ? You could put some kind of LED type thing to show you, but that could quickly be 'too much information' to be good to use on the fly. I'm talking about the kind of things you would normally control with a pot. You could use something like that in place of toggles, or maybe other switches, pretty easily.  
2/14/2001 1:21 AM

It might be easier for the performer (if not the designer) to have a set of threshold steps, rather than direct analog control of, say, volume. Like a button that you repeatedly hit to raise the volume on a TV. That could diminish the liklihood of unfortunate over-volume events at gigs.  
2/14/2001 2:50 AM
Re: touchless control mounted on guitar? ZVEX
Done already.  
ZVEX is selling guitars like this. For some reason I can't find the web page. Here's an excerpt from my board:  
"i was asked by the company that makes guitars for Vox if i would make an on-board effect, and i came up with a probe-controlled wah, which they liked. the control antenna is hidden under the pickguard.  
for some reason Vox has reduced production of their reissue guitars to a trickle. the wah i made for them sat quietly for a year and a half without seeing any production or being showed at the NAMM convention, so i was going to release it as an aftermarket kit, but i changed my mind after i asked the OEM if they'd make guitars for me and they said sure, they'd love to. so now i guess i'm in the guitar business. there's 5 of them in the back seat of my car right now, and i start shipping the next week. the wah is the pretty-sounding twin-t filter from the seek-wah pedal, and the probe controller is the same circuit as the fuzz probe and trem probe. it's kinda funky. instant shaft. i'll probably be adding more effects too. you turn it on by tapping the push-push volume control. the guitar is called The Drip (guess which old Vox model it looks like). it's got my name silkscreened all over it. i never thought i'd be a "guitar maker", but i guess things happen that you d!  
on't expect. anyway, if this fails, at least i'll have a bunch of fun-colored guitars sitting around the apartment. yay. hey, these things make great doorstops. kidding. they're too slippery. maybe if i jam the headstock in by the hinge...  
2/14/2001 3:29 AM
Dave R
Cool web site...
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