MIDI Harp Guitar

Curtis Thorpe Creates a MIDI Harp Guitar with Voyage-Air

Hello Voyage Air Guitar!

“I’ve got quite a collection of guitars but I always find myself picking up my Voyage Air VAOM-06. It’s tone is rich and complex and it is just a joy to play. I really enjoy seeing the look on peoples faces when I fold it to and put it in my gig-bag! I cannot get enough of my Voyage Air and I’m going to be playing this guitar for many years to come. ”

I just wanted to share my latest ‘invention’ that I applied to my Voyage Air VAOM-06 guitar. I used some common electronics, a laptop computer, a bunch of wire, and was able to transform my normal Voyage Air guitar into a Harp Guitar.

Harp Guitars are large instruments that employ a regular guitar neck and frets, fitted into an oversized body with an array of bass strings. This enables the musician to pluck deep bass notes that flatter and enhance the music played with the guitar melody. They were popular in the early 1900s.

Recently, musicians such as Michael Hedges and Muriel Anderson have adopted a Harp Guitar to create their own compositions. I wanted to use my Voyage Air guitar to mimic their beautiful work.

My Voyage Air Harp Guitar modification works by using a device called the Makey Makey to trigger MIDI notes on my laptop computer.

The Makey Makey allows you to turn any conductive material into a keyboard key (a-z and 0-9) on your computer. When the conductive material comes into contact with a ‘ground’ it completes an electric circuit, and the corresponding key is automatically typed on the computer. I used a portable laptop computer for this project.

In this case, the conductive material was the 5 ordinary Canadian quarter coins on a small wooden platform. By simply touching any of them, I’m able to send a signal that creates the deep ‘Harp Guitar’ bass note.

To convert my touch into a MIDI note, I used a program called VMPK (Virtual Midi Piano Keyboard). It allows you to assign a MIDI note to any key on a regular piano keyboard. In my case, I chose the 5 deep bass notes common to a Harp Guitar.

The triggered key/MIDI note is then sent to the Logic Studio software on my laptop, and it plays the programmed sound that corresponds to a real instrument. I used a virtual electric/acoustic bass to get a sound similar to the strings of a Harp Guitar.

I hope that makes sense. Watch the video. Everyone’s amazed by the sounds I can create with this modification to a Voyage Air guitar!

– Curtis Thorpe

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