SmartFretboard

Case ID:
C15782
Disclosure Date:
5/13/2019
Unmet Need
Approximately 80% of professional musicians sustain performance-related injuries including repetitive strains, tendinitis, and nerve compression, among others. With guitarists in particular, a number of these injuries are thought to be caused by a sudden or excessive application of force on the guitar neck. It is important that professional guitarists understand and correct excessive finger pressure in order to prevent unnecessary or recurrent injury. However, there are a lack of tools that measure finger forces applied to a guitar neck and there are no commercially available technologies that can do this while also preserving an authentic feeling of playing a guitar—an important feature to ensure force measurements are faithfully reproduced from device to instrument. Thus, there is a need for a device that authentically preserves the feel of playing a guitar that can also sense musicians’ finger mechanics.

Technology Description
The SmartFretBoard is a thin guitar fretboard that can sense forces applied by a player’s fingers at the string-fret intersections of the first 12 frets. Unlike existing finger force-sensing products for string instruments, the SmartFretBoard can be assembled onto any classical guitar and preserves an authentic playing feel, enabling accurate assessment of a musician’s natural finger mechanics. The fretboard can be connected to a laptop and is complemented by a graphical user interface that displays force measurements in real time to the musician. By allowing musicians to track their force application in real time, the SmartFretBoard helps musicians with performance-related distal upper limb injuries correct high peak forces and sudden force increases that exacerbate their injuries. Beyond preventing injuries, the SmartFretBoard can also be used for a wide range of purposes from studying the fundamental biomechanics behind expert guitar playing to teaching aspiring guitarists where, when, and how much force should be applied when performing a piece.

Stage of Development
The inventors have developed prototypes of the fretboard, microprocessor software, and the graphic user interface. End user testing indicated that the fretboard felt authentic to the customary mechanics of guitar playing and also helped users gain motor expertise more quickly. The inventors plan to incorporate a viscoelastic element onto the fretboard for increased support.

Publications
Manuscript in preparation.
Patent Information:
Title App Type Country Serial No. Patent No. File Date Issued Date Expire Date Patent Status
SMART FRETBOARD PCT: Patent Cooperation Treaty United States 17/639,199 2/28/2022     Pending
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For Information, Contact:
Heather Curran
hpretty2@jhu.edu
410-614-0300
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