Light Guitar

The light guitar is the first in a new class of musical instruments that we are just beginning to explore.

Acoustic musical instruments use the resonance of sound in air and wood to create music. The ‘Light Guitar’ operates in the same way but using light (electromagnetic waves) instead of sound. The resonance of electricity in a metal cavity serves as the instrument body while the emitted light is the music. The light waves are tuned to the same physical size range as sound waves and thus well outside our ability to see them. Technology is used to directly convert the light into audible music.

While a light guitar has similar physical responses as an acoustic guitar, the responses aren’t exactly the same. Acoustic guitars require internal bracing so the tension from the strings doesn’t break the instrument. This internal bracing also limits the vibrations from the musical instrument, defining a central challenge that instrument luthiers must balance. While the light guitar is constructed from a metal instrument body, the musically active part is the electricity flowing through the metal. Physically speaking, the electricity is the guitar. Insulators may be used for structural elements outside the guitar without disturbing the resulting electric resonances. The result is a richer variety of tonal variations and a significantly expanded frequency range.

(Left) First prototype light guitar created by Dr. Stoneback as an undergraduate student. (Right) Light guitar built as part of Dr. Stoneback’s physics dissertation.
Measuring copper light guitar using a vector network analyzer

U.S. Patents

Dr. Stoneback earned three patents for his invention of the light guitar and related methods, U.S. Patents 7,777,118; 7,777,119; 7,777,120