For The Rhythmically Challenged, Strumbot Will Strum Your Guitar For You

Yu Jiang Tham may not have rhythm, but that didn’t stop him from getting up on the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon stage and singing “Country Roads,” thanks to his self-strumming guitar, Strumbot.

For the first three hours of the hackathon on Saturday, Tham had no idea what he wanted to do and didn’t want to use any of the available APIs. At about 4 p.m., he made a trip to the hardware store and borrowed his dad’s guitar to create Strumbot. “I’m actually really bad at guitar. Rhythm mostly,” Tham tells me. “So I wanted to create a robot that would help me strum in rhythm.”

Covered in velcro and black tape (since he couldn’t use a drill), the Strumbot enables you, with one hand, to play the chords while a metal lever moves a guitar pick across the strings. Still, it alleviates the problem of having to manage both, and makes it easier to concentrate on chords and lyrics.

Tham uses a node.js application to enter Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 2.29.51 PMstrumming patterns using JavaScript, which then sends signals through an Arduino board to a motor attached to the guitar. The motor then controls when the guitar pick moves, following each pattern. From the computer, you can press the button for each pattern and the Strumbot will take care of the rest.

The Strumbot application is going online, but Tham wants to improve the strumming ability with a better motor for quicker movements. The pick also currently has to go both up and down, which makes a chord echo and isn’t ideal for sound quality.

Tham has participated in other hackathons. He was part of a winning team that developed a lost-and-found app at the Outside Lands Hackathon. However, he says he’s looking to get into more hardware projects, with Strumbot as his second undertaking in hardware.

Watch his performance below: