The Commodore 64 is well known as being the pick of the 8-bit bunch when it comes to making music, but hacker-extraordinaire and all round clever person Jeri Ellsworth has taken that ability to the next level, by creating a C64/bass guitar hybrid.
Some may recall seeing Jeri’s guitar at a Bay Area Maker Faire earlier this year, where the unusual instrument made its debut, but now she has shared the build process in a YouTube video, along with a demo near the end.
Don’t think the computer section is just a geeky tribute to the C64’s audio prowess either, as the original sound chip is used to process the guitar’s sound, and the function keys can alter the wave shape too. It even functions as a “Keytar” using the top row of keys on the keyboard.
The whole thing is powered by 16 AA batteries, which provided 8 hours of play during Maker Faire. Like all the best hacks, on the outside it looks neat and quite simple, but as you’ll see by watching her video, it’s incredibly complicated underneath, with her attention to detail even stretching to cutting down the Commodore 64 badge to make it fit correctly.
A demo of the C64 bass guitar comes along around the 2-minute mark, and considering its origins, it sounds great.
Ellsworth is well-known in Commodore 64 circles, as she was instrumental (sorry) in the creation of the C64-in-a-joystick emulator known as the C64DTV. Her talents are now being put to use by the games company Valve, where she’s working on “nextgen gaming hardware.”
While not wishing to cast aspersions on her musical skills, we’d love to see the C64 guitar in the hands of a professional bass guitarist, just to see what it can really do. And for extra geeky points, they should play renditions of famous C64 game soundtracks.