Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Experience Building Musical Instruments

  1. May 17, 2013 #1
    Hi everyone.

    I'm looking to take up electronics as a hobby. I also play the electric bass guitar and I've been seriously contemplating building my own in my spare time. The ominous woodworking aside, I was wondering if anybody had any experience with building instrument electronics from scratch.

    Not specifically just bass guitar though; does anyone have experience designing their own instruments? If so, any tips or warnings? I think that'd be a really cool exercise in both technical skill and creativity. Plus it'd be damn cool to emerge onstage with a custom instrument :)

    NOTE: By "electronic instrument" I include both guitars (sort of electro-acoustic) and strictly electric instruments (like keyboards)
    Last edited: May 17, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2013 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I suspect no one would know the difference if you walked on stage with your own custom guitar just by looking at it from a short distance. Face it, a lot of guitars are 'custom' to start with. I helped my nephew build an electric guitar for a science project. It was very crude and simple. No fancy wood, just something that came out of my portable sawmill. Used MIG welding wire for strings and there were only two. The pickup was a sensor for an electronic speedometer. It worked as well as any electric guitar could with only two strings. LOL I wish we would have had more time we could have had one more string and actually play a chord. You could actually tune it and we got the frets spaced right so it could easily play simple tunes. Building keyboards or something of this nature would seem pointless to me for the amount of time needed. But who knows, maybe someone has and can point you in a direction. Always good to ask questions.
  4. May 17, 2013 #3
    Sounds like a fun project regardless!

    And yeah, I was planning on spending a while on this. By "custom" I meant like planning it all out, making sure I got the dimensions correct, choosing good wood, coloring, and ultimately adding some details to it to make it look unique (e.g. metal piping, LEDs, fiber optics, etc.). I've found some DIY tutorials online but they're less than helpful when it comes to the electronics of the instrument, and that's what I need help with.

    I'll likely use some actual hardware though, like strings, the bridge, and the tuners.
    I'm not really sure where to start with it. I know it'll be a bit costly, but not break-the-bank bad. I just don't want to plug in and get electrocuted. That happened to me before with a bad wall socket and it wasn't a good feeling.
  5. May 17, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Start small. Get a guitar that needs some TLC, strip it down and rebuild it. I did this several times in the 60s and 70s. I hit the mother-lode when I got into college and found that so many students were hawking their guitars (parents paid for) for little or nothing, and they all seemed to have abuse/wear issues to address. Strats and Telecasters were my favorites, since they are so simple. Once you have a few of these under your belt, you can branch out a bit and build your own.

    BTW, it would be a really great idea to learn how to re-fret and fret-dress older guitars. Such repairs teach you a lot that you must know before attempting a new build. Good luck.
  6. May 17, 2013 #5
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook