MIDI-Augmented Guitar

Nicolas was classically trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama from 2009 – 2013 and currently performs, composes and teaches. Over the past two years he has toured the UK performing his compositions for new theatre works; performed at the Southbank Centre and Royal Albert Hall with his Brazilian choro group; designed a ukulele syllabus for a London music service and taught guitar, ukulele, and music-making classes throughout the country.

When performing he often fuses classical traditions with cutting-edge technology to create a tangible dynamic between him and the audience.

The idea behind these MIDI-augmented instruments was to find a way of performing complex solo arrangements of songs by augmenting the traditional instruments using Electric Paint and a Touch Board.

His first experiment was to test the concept on his ukulele. For this, Nicolas taped foil patches to the neck, which would act as the midi switches.

He then trailed copper wire from these to the Touch Board which acted as a MIDI interface to his computer. Using MainStage, he was able to map the MIDI signals to trigger specific samples to add harmonic depth to the acoustic performance. When performing with this set-up, he played the acoustic parts as normal but positioned his thumb at different places on the neck to change the sampled chords when needed.

For the MIDI-augmented guitar, Nicolas painted midi switches onto the body using Electric Paint and mounted the Touch Board just underneath the bridge.

The Touch Board was then connected to the computer and patched into MainStage. To perform with this set-up, he ran all of the resulting sound signals through a loop pedal so that he could build up a larger mix of guitar and electronic sounds.

To use the Touch Board with MainStage, he uploaded the Midi_interface program from the Arduino interface. Then, when the signal was received by MainStage, he mapped each Touch Board electrode to a sample or sound that he wanted for the piece.

This is something that offers great flexibility when performing, as the MIDI mapping within MainStage can be re-routed during a performance, meaning that the Electric Paint switches on guitar have a huge array of samples and instruments that they can be quickly assigned to.

Watch the video and enjoy a private guitar performance!

Images & Video: Nicolas Lewis

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