Introduction: My Air Guitar Shirt

It seems to be a natural reaction for many people when they hear a sweet guitar rift, to assume the position and begin strumming away on the air guitar. I have seen many products on the market that are targeted to these over zealous types, and I have yet to be satisfied. The motivation for this project comes from my passion of music and my inability to play a real guitar. I wanted to feel the way I feel when playing guitar hero and I get the star power. I wanted to incorporate some sort of feed back. I decided to put the idea into a t-shirt. I had a basic idea and the plan took some different turns along the way but this is my stab at an air guitar experience enhancing t-shirt.

Step 1: Supplies

I will separate the materials and supplies into two groups since I have for the most part kept them separate during the construction process. The two groups will be the T-shirt and the Amp.

For the T-shirt:



Lipo Battery

Neopixel Ring

Tilt switch

3pin RC jumper

Conductive thread

Glass reed switches

Iron on transfer vinyl (for guitar graphic)

For the Amp:

Mini speaker

Audio FX

10pin ribbon cable

.090" acrylic sheet

Tools and stuff

Laser cutter (only for cutting the case)

Vinyl cutter (to cut the vinyl for graphic)

Soldering iron


Helping hands

Wire cutters/strippers

Hookup wire

Hot glue gun and glue

Step 2: The Speaker and Amplifier

Since I have a love of music I wanted a small but decent sounding speaker for the "Amp" portion of the unit. I searched Amazon for an inexpensive but acceptable option. I was looking for a few things.

1. Must have amplified circuit. 2. Must have battery (preferably rechargeable) 3. Must be small.

I found the XBOOM mini speaker for about $15. You could get by with something cheaper but the reviews made this thing out to be just what I was looking for. It does the job and has OK volume. Once I got this nice new little speaker, I immediately took it apart. It was quite simple after locating four small screws and pulling the collapsible plastic speaker box out. I sniped the speaker leads from the speaker and left the battery attached to the circuit board. So I was left with a 3.7v 400MAH lipo battery for a power source and an amplified speaker with on/off and volume dial.

Step 3: Amplifier and Audio Board

Now time for the Adafruit FX board. I cut the 3.5mm audio connector of the short cable coming from the center of the amplifier board and attached them to the audio output pins on the FX board. Then added power wires to the FX ground and VIN pins. I then connected the ground to the amplifier board and the VIN red wire went to the solder point for the on/off switch. Now the FX board was powered from the amplifier circuit and controlled by a single switch. I also soldered on new wires for the speaker and soldered them to the board.

Step 4: Making the Case

Having a Laser cutter is a great tool to have in ones toolbox. I turned to this trusty tool for this step. I had a basic idea in my head for the box. I decided to cut it out of .090" acrylic sheet I had. I started designing case using makercase. This is a simple online box designing tool that is handy for the laser. I put my dimensions in, spesified my material thickness and pressed the generate plans button. This utility saves the file as an SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) file that imports nicely into inkscape, my vector program of choice due to the fact it is free. Once in Inkscape I added a few features such as speaker hole and cut outs for 3.5mm audio jack, volume wheel and on/off switch. I then sent it to the Laser and came out with a neat clear box to put the goodies in.

Step 5: "Rock On" Meter

Part of the visual feedback from guitar hero is the flashing lights that let you know you have star power. To incorporate this into a T-shirt I decided to use the Adafruit Neopixel ring 12. I was concerned with power consumption so I decided to go with the 12 pixel ring but after getting the little thing I think I would step it up to the 16. The effect will just be smaller in my case. Since this is an article of clothing. I tried to think of ways to make it washable. So this is why I wired the neopixel ring up this way. I soldered wires on for the ground, VIN and data in and solder them to a 3pin hobby servo jumper. This would allow me to unhook the ring from the shirt to wash it. I added some heat shrink tubing to collect the 3 wires together then used a lighter to shrink it up.

Step 6: The Gemma

This is where I introduce you to my new friend Gemma. She (has to be a she because she is so beautiful) I needed a small sewable controller for the lights and sensor. Adafruit has made this little thing wonderful and it's only $10. Gemma runs off a lipo battery through a JST connector and is Arduino compatable (with a few teaks from adafruit). I soldered on a tilt ball switch to ground and D0 the the neoplixel ring to ground D1 and Vout.

Step 7: Codeing Up Gemma

Once Gemma was all wired up for testing, it was now time to make the lights do something cool. Before going into detail about what I did, I must say that Adafruit has a very helpful page about using gemma here. This page will show you the steps for downloading the driver learning about the bootloader, and many other helpful and time saving hints. After I had the drivers installed I followed the detailed instructions to download the Neopixel library for Arduino. This has some sample code and has the instructions for the Neoplixels to operate. I used bits and pieces from the samples along with some tilt switch code from this Adafruit project. The Idea is that when I'm jumping all around like a rock star, the tilt switch will trigger the pattern for the lights to change. After trying out some different patterns I came upt with a simple wipe program that I may change later.

Step 8: T-shirt

Once the electronics were assembled and tested it's time for the T-shirt. I just got a cheap gray t-shirt and came up with a simple guitar graphic to put on it. My sister has a vinyl cutter so I was able to get the iron on transfer vinyl cut to the pattern I wanted pretty easy. Before I put the vinyl on the shirt I laid it on top to see were I needed to hide my stitches for the reed switches. I tied a not in the conductive tread and started sewing lines to one spot for the ribbon cable to connect to. Once all the sewing was done, I put the vinyl on with the iron and added the reed switches. Next I had to cut a hole for the wiring for the Neopixel ring and attach the Gemma.

Step 9: Finished

Once the switches are on and the conductive thread is tied up to wire, it is time to hook up the electronics and turn this thing on. This is sure to be a hit at any event and the best part is that you do feel more like a rockstar when wearing this shirt.

All in all I am happy with the way it turned out. My only real complaint is the slight delay between the audio tracks from the Adafruit FX board. This was a fun project to work on but the cost of this t-shirt with everything on it would probably be around $70. Is it worth it? Yeah it was worth it.

First Time Author Contest 2016

Participated in the
First Time Author Contest 2016