SensorPick is a pressure sensitive guitar pick that captures physical gestures in or order to wirelessly control audio output and effects. SensorPick is the physical counterpart to Infinite Sustain, a granular synthesis application for guitar.

SensorPick is part of an ongoing effort to augment the playability and performance of the electrified guitar. SensorPick is a guitar pick that allows the guitar player to control effects, MIDI, and OSC by squeezing or applying variable pressure to the pick.

For only one tiny button, SensorPick is a powerful control device with three expressive modes of operation:togglevariable, and sustain.

In toggle mode SensorPick functions like an on/off switch that can turn effects on and off. This provides the player with the capability to turn on distortion and reverb in between pick strokes. Within the SensorPick software, parameters can be set so that presses in quick succession trigger different events. For example – one press turns delay on and off, two quick presses triggers a drum loops, three quick presses to turn on variable mode…

In variable mode SensorPick outputs control values based on how much pressure is applied to the pick. Software options allow the player to calibrate sensitivity and variable range, to account for pressure applied to the pick during normal guitar play. In variable mode, the user can, for example, use variable pressure to expressively control reverb density, wah-wah frequency, volume dynamics, etc.

In sustain mode SensorPick operates in tandem with Infinite Sustain, which employs FFT windowing and granular synthesis techniques to allow players to control the guitar’s sustain with pressure. In sustain mode, there are two submodes – sustain toggle, in which a single squeeze holds a note and another squeeze turns it off, and sustain variable, in which a note will be held as long as pressure applied to the pick does not fall below a user-defined threshold. Sustain mode allows players to literally “hold” a note, forever if they like.

A bit about the current setup and configuration of SensorPick… I should note that this is the first of many prototypes to come, and I intend on developing SensorPick as an open source MIDI/OSC controller for guitarists. In the future, I would like to design my own PCB and circuit that should make this system more concise and easier to reproduce.

SensorPick currently consists of three layers of communication – wired, wireless, and software. The signal chain, which is very likely to change in future versions, looks something like this:

Physical pressure -> FSR ->  Xbee -> Max/Msp -> Ableton Live

Stay tuned for more exciting updates to the SensorPick. This is only the first prototype and im excited about where this project is headed. You can watch a teaser video that covers the basic functions of SensorPick below.