Nektar is a guitar projector that aids people in learning the guitar. It is not based on some existed mini projector you can find in the market. It is what we designed and made by ourselves for this particular problem: six lasers, a motor, a mirror, and a micro controller assemblied in a black box attached to the guitar neck; and also an accompany Android application for user interaction and sending music chords sequence to the micro controller through blue tooth.

I did this project with 3 other great partners in Cal in two months. Two of them (Nikki and Chai) are mechanical engineering also with some electrical engineering background. One of them (Vivek) is computer science. I want to thank them for their contributions to this project. Good job team!


Project Overview

Guitar learners find it hard to learn playing the guitar because of the difficulties in memorizing the chords. If you find watching videos or app tutorials has less interaction, and you don’t want to go to a real guitar class, try Nektar!

Clip the Nektar box to the guitar neck (which is where the name Nektar comes from), and play a song in the Nektar app. The Nektar app will show you the chords, and the Nektar box will project light to the fret of each string indicating the positions you need to press for the chords. Just like a real teacher instructing you to play a song!


Project Background

We find the problem by ourselves (not a well-defined class assignment):

  • Time / location / cost for a real guitar class
  • Less interaction in watching video / app tutorial
  • Using a real guitar instead of buying something just for learning

We do interview (guitar amatuer, player, teacher) and search (similar guitar teaching platform / device) to define our position and advantage:

  • Eliminates the steep learning curve at the start where beginner has to learn to read music.
  • Provides a real-time visualization of steps and guidance to facilitate rapid learning.
  • Integration with existing guitar resources to provide an interactive learning system.
  • Target users can custom select the speed to go through tutorials so as to match their personal learning pace.

Story Board:

Say you have a hobby, playing the guitar. But you can’t afford the cost for a real guitar class. And you find learning from online or app tutorial is really hard to follow. When you try to play a song, you can’t find the corresponding chords. That’s why you need Nektar! Attach it to the guitar head and it will shires to the points you need to press. It will read music notes and convert for you. And you can practice at any time, any where. Finally, you become a guitar player, and may receive even more…

Why Nektar?

  • Anytime, anywhere: Like an at-home electronic tutor for guitar teaching. Have a guitar lesson at anytime!
  • Any guitar: Just clip and calibrate it, then you can use it on any guitar you have!
  • Low cost: Six lasers, a mirror, a motor, a microcontroller, supporting structures, and wires. Cheap in manufacturing!
  • Future expectation: take audio record of user performance and give feedback.

How does it work?

Our first prototype used a mini projector to project strings, frets, and points to be pressed on the guitar neck. We used SDL to program the visual effect. But since it’s after all a projector, it is designed to be used in a dim environment. But we want to use Nektar anytime, anywhere.

So we decided to build our own projector.

Use 6 laser pointers for displaying light points on the 6 strings, and a mirror driven by a rotating motor to adjust the direction of the pointers’ light.

We use micro controller (RedBear) to control the laser pointers and the motors and the time, since the laser pointer needs to be switched on only when the mirror is in the correct angle.

The composition of the hardware is shown as follows:


As for the software:

  • A converter to read music notes and save as controller language (tempo, chord switching time, string number, fret number), which is useful for both our two prototypes.
  • A blink function to read the input of the strings and frets we want to display and then switch the corresponding point on and off based on a timer that records the time when the mirror rotates to the correct position.
  • A flow control function to make sure the timings are correct and send converted notes to the buffer in the correct time slot (when last notes have been displayed already).

Short Video

See a short video about Nektar

Learn more about Nektar

pdf version of Nektar poster

Visit Berkeley Jacobs Institue of Design Website



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