Turn a Tennis Racket Into a 3-stringed Guitar




Everyboy at some point has picked up a tennis racket and pretended to play it like a guitar. It's human nature. Well now you can do that but have it actually make noises too!

I first made this instrument a few years ago and have been meaning to put up a guide ever since. This won't be a step-by-step 'do this exactly' type instructable. I'm going to show you how I did it, highlight the important parts and let you realise you could have done this all by yourself if you really wanted to.

You Will Need (roughly):

Wooden Tennis Racket

A Piezo Transducer (http://www.maplin.co.uk/piezo-transducers-3202)

A 1/4” Mono Chassis Socket (http://www.maplin.co.uk/1-4-mono-chassis-socket-1252)

3 Tuning Pins (I got mine here: http://windworld.com/products-page/hardware-for-acoustic/zither-tuning-pins/ although if you want to go proper DIY, check out my post on DIY tuning pins here: http://www.vulpestruments.com/2013/02/a-note-on-diy-tuning-pegs.html)

Some scrap wood

A few bolts

Some L-Brackets

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Step 1: How to Make a Contact Mic

First up, solder the Piezo to the mono socket. Congratulations! You've just made a contact mic.

With this simple little thing you can turn just about anything into a plug-in-able noise making monster.

The piezo works by taking small vibrations and converting that into a small AC-Current via crystals and magic. This, when amplified, makes loud noises.

A little tip for this, I often find the soldering on the white part of the piezo to be quite fragile. I usually place a bit of cellotape ontop of it to help strengthen it. It seems to work!

Step 2: Mounting the Piezo

Next up, take your scrap bit of wood and cut it up so it fits nicely into the wooden frame.

You can decorate the wood and stain it and make it all nice and pretty if you wish. I didn't just for the purposes of this demonstration.

Next up, wriggle the mono-socket through the wire on the racket and add the washer/bolt to hold it in place.

Measure up and drill 3 holes into your scrap wood close to the piezo but not so close that you'll drill through it. That would be bad.

Step 3: The Brackets

I secured the piezo down with some duct-tape, it's not pretty but it works. You, of course, can secure it however you like.

I then bolted the L-Brackets onto the tennis racket and through the wood. I had to wriggle the tennis rack strings around a decent amount to get them to fit.

It would be better, if instead of 3 seperate L brackets there was one solid piece with 3 holes drilled into it. I didn't want to over-complicate the instructable and have people drilling through metal if they weren't comofrtable with it. The reason this would be better is that it would be stronger under the tension of the wires and not warp when you tune the strings up.

Step 4: Holes and Holes

You're finished at the business end of the instrument, now for some holes.

Close to the handle I drilled 3 small holes like in the picture.

I also drilled 3 holes on the opposite side to where the L-brackets stick up. These 3 holes are for the zither pins (drill size 4.5). Again, if you want other tuning options, go for it. There are plently.

I then added the tuning pins and was ready to wire up!

Step 5: Wiring Up

You're almost done.

I used the bolts as anchors and added another bolt ontop to secure the wire (probably didn't need it but better safe than sorry). Then through the L bracket, through the neck to the back and into the tuning pins.

This through the neck method cuts out a few little headaches when making instruments quickly.

Step 6: Make a Racket!

Tune up and make noises! I'm not a great player, tennis or guitar, but I knocked up a quick demo for you.

There are loads and loads and loads of different ways to achieve the same effect. I've thought up ways to include frets but haven't found the time to play with that idea just yet.
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    16 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Turn off that Racket!!! lol. Awesome build. might be cool to restring the racket with metal wire and mount a thin magnetic pickup on the back side. That also sounds like a lot of work too...

    I also noticed your instructable about the DIY Pickup. What is the difference between these two pickups? What pickup would you recommend for what instrument?


    6 years ago on Step 6

    You've given me a reason to take my old Jack Kramer out of its brace!

    You mention that you have fret ideas, so I'll watch and wait. A number of historic African and Indian instruments might also provide insight there.

    You use the Bonnie Raitt bird-finger placement for your slide! Speaking of which, an automotive spark plug wrench makes a great slide, with its weight adding a lot of sustain. Beer bottles are also known for their value as ad hoc slides).

    As you show, the piezo pickup picks up everything. You might consider adding a resonator for a future build - the challenge will be to make one in the shape of the racquet head, and/or to remove the strings and find a way to suspend the resonator inside the head. Alternatively, you could stretch a skin over the head and place the bridge on it (banjo-style), which would also increase the acoustic volume. Of course, that would be getting pretty fancy.

    Abunda's idea makes a lot of sense for a couple of reasons:

    1) The racquet strings ("cords") are already in tension by design. Removing a few (and retaining the stretch of the remainder - you can tie them off) to make way for threading the metal strings would improve sustain and enable more stable and higher tuning - which would also enable locating a "sweet spot" where the racquet string tuning would be most sympathetic with the metal strings.

    2) Using gut strings would present a true harmonic convergence (!) of the tennis and guitar uses: Premiere racquet strings, as well as classical guitar strings, are made from (generally cow, not cat) gut. Buy them - you could make gut strings, but that's a whole 'nother 'structable...

    Good job!


    6 years ago on Step 2

    Cool project.

    One thing that I tried to help increase volume of the pickup, I made the "bridge" out of wood (In place of the 3 metal L brackets. And sandwiched the piezo between the spatula "tailpiece" and the "bridge". Strings hold the bridge down and squeeze the piezo tight. Very loud.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 2

    Yup, there's hundreds of different ways you can do this project!

    Placing the piexo in various parts of the construction will also lead to different sounds being made. I'm guessing if you placed it away from the bridge it would be a lot quieter but maybe pick up different frequencies...


    6 years ago on Step 6

    ¡Nice Nice idea! Next natural evolution step is to use cord's holes (so strings can be tensed by the wood) and maybe place the piezo in a violin-like bridge?

    I used the wire from the core of a washing line...

    I make a lot of prototype instruments so had to find a good, cheap source for wire to use. If you take off the plastic layer on most washing line there is a core of twisted wires that work quite well!

    For this though, you can use any string you want. the mic picks up vibrations so any string would work.


    6 years ago on Step 6

    Nice! I'll vote on you in Musical instruments contest ;)

    You're one of the persons on instructables who made an instrument and play on it later.
    Most of ppl here just make an instrument and cant play on it- you do.


    I can't even count how many times I've "played" a tennis racket "guitar" (just last week being one of them!). It is so cool that you actually can now!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I love the sounds that homemade instruments make!