With the proper equipment, electromyography (EMG) signals can be detected and can used for medical research… and apparently controlling musical instruments. After seeing an Old Spice commercial where Terry Crews uses his impressive and well-controlled physique to perform a song about — what else? — muscles, hacker Julio David Barriga decided to make his own simplified setup. His instrument measures output from his bicep muscle and plays a corresponding note via an Arduino Uno .
While this might seem like an intimidating project (whether electronics-wise or because you should maybe hit the gym first), Barriga’s project requiring only three electrodes and forgoes the need to go shirtless. In its simplest form, one just has to hook up the sensor output from a MyoWare muscle sensor to an Arduino, which is programmed to vary the output frequency to a small speaker depending on how hard you flex. The second option involves one actually building this type of sensor, which will be much more difficult, but will certainly help you learn about what’s actually going on.
Whichever route you take it looks like a lot of fun. Even if you don’t want to take it to the Terry Crews level, it could even be expanded to two biceps or other muscle groups to control different sounds. Be sure to check it out in the videos below. The first sweeps through a frequency between 400 to 912 Hz, while the second cycles through the third octave on the C major scale.