Well, actually stringed instruments generally, but I needed a U and I didn’t want to do universities or the UN again and certainly not unicorns, so I cheated slightly. I realize that other topics starting with U may exist, but I didn’t do much research and I needed an excuse to write up this new idea.
If I was any good at making electronics, I’d have built a demo of this, but I have only soldered 6 contacts in my life, and 4 of those were dry joints, and I know when to quit.
My idea is very simple indeed: put accelerometers on the strings. Some quick googling suggests the idea is novel.
There are numerous electric guitar, violins, probably ukuleles. They use a variety of pickups. Many are directly underneath the strings, some use accelerometers on the other side of the bridge or elsewhere on the body. In most instruments, the body is heavily involved in the overall sound production, so I wouldn’t want to replace the pickups on the body. However, adding accelerometers to the strings would give another data source with quite different characteristics. There could be just one, or several, placed at specific locations along each string. If they are too heavy, they would change the sound too much, but some now are far smaller than the eye of a needle. If they are fixed onto the string, it would need a little re-tuning, but shouldn’t destroy the sound quality. The benefit is that accelerometers on the strings would provide data not available via other pickups. They would more directly represent the string activity than a pickup on the body. This could be used as valuable input to the overall signal mix used in the electronic sound output. Having more data available is generally a good thing.
What would the new sound be like? I don’t know. If it is very different from the sound using conventional pickups, it might even open up potential for new kinds of electric instrument.
If you do experiment with this, please do report back on the results.