The instrument a musician plays is almost as personal as the songs they create, and that’s particularly true for guitarists. Eric Clapton had his Fender Stratocaster “Blackie,” B.B. King had many Gibson “Lucille” guitars, and Jack White famously rocks a vintage plastic Airline guitar. But some musicians, such as Decadon, want something completely original, and Andy England of SparkFun helped make that happen with more than 1,500 individually-addressable NeoPixel-style LEDs.
Donnie Miller, AKA Decadon, is a music producer, DJ, and guitarist from Denver, Colorado. He approached SparkFun’s Andy England about turning his already-custom guitar into an even more custom guitar — possibly with the intention of turning it up to 11. The project started with more than 1,500 individually-addressable RGB LEDs on a SK6812 “skinny pixel strip”. In order to avoid modifying the guitar body itself, those were sandwiched between two laser-cut Plexiglass panels on either side of the body. The result was a guitar that glowed in mesmerizing patterns, but England wanted to take it a step further.
With that many densely-packed RGB LEDs, England figured it would be possible to display animated graphics. To coordinate the LEDs into a cohesive screen, he used the popular stage effects standard DMX512. Specifically, the animations are setup in Resolume Arena 6 and sent wirelessly to the guitar’s ESP32 through ArtNet DMX. A single DMX “universe” can only handle 170 3-channel (red, green, and blue) LEDs, so this actually required nine separate universes that England had to sync with some custom code. That effort was worth it though, and the finished guitar displays animations that are mapped to the unusual shape of the body, which Decadon’s fans will definitely go nuts for.