To begin, I needed to find an object which would vibrate and have good resonance, especially after my failed attempt at the acoustic laptop (which I made out of a book and learned that I couldn’t make it resonate, no matter how much wood etc. I put inside).
The particular object I chose was an old guitar I had, which had been given to me when I expressed an interest in learning how to play, but which needed too much work to make it playable. I decided to name the instrument ‘The GuiTarget’ at the suggestion of my housemate, who had to put up with me hammering in our kitchen. I first tested how it would work when I threw things at it, as shown in the following video:
Whilst the guitar makes sound as expected, a lot of extra noise came from the objects
bouncing off the strings and hitting the body, so I had to find a way to prevent this from happening. My preliminary sketches involved removing the back of the guitar and placing the strings along this void, creating a larger target than the original guitar.
Firstly, I took the strings off. Having heard previously from a guitar maker that the strings can exert up to 200 pounds of pressure, I felt it was in the interest of safety to take them off before making any further modifications on the guitar. Next came the removal of the back which I did using a screwdriver and hammer.
I then drilled small holes in the sides of the guitar to house the strings. The holes were of a sufficient size that the stoppers on the ends of the strings wouldn’t pass through when the strings were fed into them. Due to the fact that the strings are significantly longer than than the width of the guitar body, the same string could be fed through multiple holes, thus increasing the amount of targets for objects to be thrown at.
The next problem to overcome was how to fasten the strings to a sufficient tightness so that they would vibrate when things were thrown at them. To accomplish this, I removed the string posts and tuning pegs from the head of the guitar and placed them into certain holes. In total I used 3 of the string posts. I fed the strings through the posts and using a pair of pliers tightened them up until the strings played notes when plucked.
I now wanted to add a more technological element to the design. My idea was to use a speaker cone I procured from an old portable radio, which fitted exactly inside the guitar’s sound hole. However I was unsure if this speaker actually worked, so to test it, I connected the terminals to a 9V battery (see video below).
Knowing that the speaker was working, I wanted to add a piezo pickup, which would be attached to the body of the guitar. However, due to the fact that the rest of the radio was fried, I had no way to amplify the signal, so my idea of adding a built in speaker was unable to come to pass. To add this technological element, I soldered the piezo to a jack to be connected to an external amp, which would be aimed at the body of the guitar, thus increasing the resonance in a similar fashion. I drilled a hole to house the jack and attached the piezo with tape.
Finally, since the GuiTarget was designed to be placed on it’s side, I attached part of an old brush shaft to prop it up, as it was very likely that the instrument would fall over as it had things thrown at it. I then tested it to see how it would play (see video below). I found CDs worked the best at producing a distinct tone, although thicker objects such as hair gel pots also created some interesting sounds.
As a result of this, I began exploring how people could interact with instruments in similar ways. This instrument is played at a distance, rather than up close. It can be played using any number of objects both hard and soft which will produce different timbres and amplitudes. From here, I started thinking of designing a more technologically mediated instrument which can be played from a distance, which I will explain further in the next post.