P19361: Optoelectronic Guitar Pickup

Problem Definition

Table of Contents

Team Vision for Problem Definition Phase

Our Team Vision for the Problem Definition Phase was to define what we need to accomplish, and to plan and set goals for the weeks to come in MSD I. We aimed to create an agenda that will help keep us organized, and make sure we don't spend too much time on a task to keep the project moving. We also planned to set requirements and constraints early to minimize questions and last minute project changes down the road.

Project Summary

Magnetic Guitar pickups have been used by guitarists seeking to add volume to their instruments since the 1920s. While magnetic pickups do the job of turning string vibration into an electrical signal that can be amplified, they are not perfect. Magnetic pickups are very susceptible to noise, particularly 60 cycle hum caused by alternating current power delivery and neon lights that are common in bars and other places that guitarists are likely to play. Magnets also exert a force that pulls on a guitar's strings, which can have a dampening effect. Neither of these issues are present in an optical pickup that uses infrared light to trace the vibration of a guitar's strings.

Previously, RIT students such as David Malanga have experimented with infrared guitar pickups. These designs served as a proof of concept, but were clunky, and got in the way of a guitarist's ability to play their instrument. The goal of this project is to improve on past RIT designs. The electronics used should be embedded within the guitar instead of outside. We will also experiment with sensor design, allowing improved playability and less sensitivity to being bumped during use, and research reflective options that don't have to be located on both sides of the strings like the current transmissive design. We will also experiment with effects via different DSP algorithms.

Use Cases

Use Case for Guitarist

Use Case for Guitarist

Project Goals and Key Deliverables

Project needs to...
  1. Be embedded in the guitar
  2. Be adjustable
  3. Output the frequency range of the guitar
  4. Interface with current standard controls
  5. Plug into standard guitar amp with a standard cable
  6. Feel and sound similar to a regular magnetic pickup

Key Deliverables:

  1. At least two pickup designs, one transmissive and one reflective, integrated into a guitar body
  2. Manufacturing drawings for manufacture of the pickup and alteration of the guitar body
  3. User manual for operation
  4. Paper documenting findings on different sensor designs and DSP algorithms

Customer Requirements (Needs)

Customer Requirements Template

Customer Requirements Template

The active Customer Requirements spreadsheet can be found here

Engineering Requirements (Metrics & Specifications)

Engineering Requirements Template

Engineering Requirements Template

The active Engineering Requirements spreadsheet can be found here


Constraint Value
Battery Life 3+hrs
Latency Less than 10 ms
Budget $500

House of Quality

Preliminary House of Quality

Preliminary House of Quality

The active house of quality spreadsheet can be found here

Design Review Materials

The following documents are used for the Design Review on 9/13/18 at 1:00pm in 09-4435

Plans for next phase

The team’s main goal this next phase is to populate the last revision of David Malanga’s board to begin preliminary testing on sensor designs. This will involve a team effort of component inventory, soldering, and then testing towards the end of this phase. At the same time of populating the board, preliminary transmissive and reflective sensor designs will be created. These sensor designs will need some testing during the next phase.


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