Electric Guitar with Speaker

When people see the outcome of this project there are a few things I want to come to mind:

  • Rock and Roll
  • Road worn
  • Mismatched/accidental

My intent is to make something that looks like it was put together in somebody’s garage or basement.  It should be clearly a labor of love, something made out of passion, but also look like it was crudely thrown together with whatever was available.

What I am building is an electric guitar with a built-in speaker.  The goal of this is to be able to play an electric guitar without the need to plug into an amp.  A cord with a plug for a wall outlet will come out of the guitar to provide power to the on-board amplifiers.  I think that both the object and my vision lend themselves well to a post apocalyptic aesthetic.  Functionally I hope to amplify the sound of an electric guitar up to reasonable levels to allow for playing along with music or simply listening to oneself.

New Doc 20_1

My inspiration is drawn from classic rock ‘n’ roll musicians who were abusive of their instruments such as Pete Townshend smashing guitars at the end of shows, Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire or Eddie Van Halen cannibalizing his stratocaster to insert his own electronics (for more on this see my previous post). One of my favorite things about this era of rock music and the culture and aesthetic that go with it is that nothing is clean.  Things and people are dirty and well used.  Many of the most iconic objects from TV and movies appeal to this.  For example Indiana Jones’ hat and leather jacket never appear to be clean or new but instead can be seen to be creased and dirtied from frequent use.

Indy with his trusty (but not pristine) hat and jacket [1]
Seeing an object transition from new and pristine to old and worn builds a bond between the object and the user.  Objects that have experienced this are often said to have character and are usually of high quality to have lasted so long.  Most objects that people hold sentimental value for appeal to this “road worn” quality.  Although there is clearly value in seeing the object go through these changes gradually I often find myself wanting to accelerate the process with items that are known to age well such as wool coats, anything made from leather, and even guitars.  Because I see the value in having this happen over time I have avoided trying to accelerate the process with any of my objects, but decided to take this project as a chance to give it a try.

Although my inspirations are mainly aesthetic my biggest challenges are likely to be functional.  I have a fair amount of experience working with electronics but never in audio and not enough to feel fully comfortable diving into such a project.  I have already ordered parts to begin putting together the amplifier circuit.  This is definitely the make or break part of the project.  Without a functional amplifier and speaker all I will have is a beat up looking guitar with some extra holes in it.  Speaking of extra holes, my other biggest concern is creating the cavity for the speaker to be mounted into.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  1. Electric guitars are pretty thin (~2 inches) so this could turn into quite the packaging challenge.  2. I am currently a bit unsure of how I will be cutting this hole as most of my previous work with on campus fabrication has always been in metal or plastic.

To complete this project I need:

  • Entry Level Guitar – $99
  • Power Amplifier Board – $8
  • Pre-Amplifier Electronics – $8
  • Speaker – $25
  • ———————————–
  • Total – $140


  • Parts ordered – 3/2
  • Circuit Built and tested- 3/16
  • Guitar modifications complete – 4/1
  • Assembly complete – 4/8
  • Finishing touches/buffer – 4/20


Edit: Presentation Video


[1] http://consequenceofsound.net/2016/01/whipping-indiana-jones-back-into-fortune-and-glory/

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9 Comments. Leave new

  • Erick Pena
    May 5, 2016 8:29 am

    This is a very neat idea. it saves you the trouble of hooking it to an external speaker. This could be great for road trips, someone that is learning to play guitar, and maybe just playing some music in public. aside from using rubber to dampen the noise you could use some fun foam.

  • This looks cool, I can’t wait to see how you pull this off. This reminds me a little of the Mad Max 3 guitarist.

  • Mathew Tabor
    March 7, 2016 7:05 pm

    Really good idea. That’s a super useful device, as most people don’t use anywhere near the full power of their amp 99% of the time they are playing; you just need a little more than purely string noise. This makes it totally wireless and portable. I think the biggest issue for you is going to be melding the look of the speaker and guitar, that interface (as you’ve anticipated as well). I think you can get away with not drilling through the entire guitar but using just a counter bore, which will make it way easier to secure in there. You’ll probably need something between that hole and the speaker (to cover whatever clearance you use in that hole)…Maybe some cut up pick guard material or something? Laser cut acrylic? I think that part is where the look could potentially be lost so that’ll take a bit of creativity.

  • Kenzy O'neill
    March 6, 2016 7:02 pm

    Some thoughts I’ve had since your presentation:

    You talked about how a problem you will be facing is interference due to the speaker being part of the guitar itself and it got me thinking. Earlier you had mentioned using rubber between the speaker and body to dampen vibrations which I feel would definitely work well. Something else you might be able to do would be to use elastic suspension to hold the speaker, similar to how studio microphones are suspended within a frame using little bungee cords.

  • I’m looking forward to the final product! Are you still going for the chain strap idea? It sounds like that amplifier is going to work too, I’m still surprised they can make it that small. I think even if the electronic stuff doesn’t work out, the body and the addition of the speaker and worn look will make this a nice piece regardless of the functionality.

  • Daniel Moody
    March 4, 2016 6:34 pm

    I predict with a plethora of hard evidence that this guitar gonna be end up being worth millions like “trigger.” Cool project look forward to hearing it.

  • Kenzy O'neill
    March 4, 2016 5:32 pm

    I’m looking forward to hearing about how you make it look worn down , I think it will be a really cool aesthetic.

  • Ashley Zimmerer
    March 4, 2016 12:14 pm

    Making sure you don’t get feedback sounds like it’ll be hard. Very cool idea though. It’ll be nice not to have to haul an amp around when you’re playing.

  • Chip Bollendonk
    March 4, 2016 12:13 pm

    Ethan – just thought about maybe having a normal mono output jack, in case you really like this thing and need to hook it up to a bigger speaker. Also: had the idea that if your speaker was too deep for the guitar body (which is likely), you could totally go all the way through the body and then add a cover to the back. Could be cool! Nice work.

    I like the addition of making it seem “road worn”.


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