COS 233

Plucking a Guitar String
Programming Assignment


This assignment allows partnering. If you choose to work with a partner, you must follow the pair programming guidelines. Please note that writing code with a partner without following the pair programming instructions is a violation of the course collaboration policy. All writing of code (including comments), the readme, and uploading to dropbox.cs must be done together, from start to finish. If you come to office hours alone, you can get advice, but you may not change any code until both partners are together.

Write a program to simulate plucking a guitar string using the Karplus–Strong algorithm. This algorithm played a seminal role in the emergence of physically modeled sound synthesis (where a physical description of a musical instrument is used to synthesize sound electronically).

Digital audio. Before reading this assignment, review the material in the textbook on digital audio (pp. 155–159, 211–215).

Simulate the plucking of a guitar string. When a guitar string is plucked, the string vibrates and creates sound. The length of the string determines its fundamental frequency of vibration. We model a guitar string by sampling its displacement (a real number between –1/2 and +1/2) at n equally spaced points in time. The integer n equals the sampling rate (44,100 Hz) divided by the desired fundamental frequency, rounded up to the nearest integer.

Why it works? The two primary components that make the Karplus–Strong algorithm work are the ring buffer feedback mechanism and the averaging operation.

From a mathematical physics viewpoint, the Karplus–Strong algorithm approximately solves the 1D wave equation, which describes the transverse motion of the string as a function of time.

Ring buffer. Your first task is to create a data type to model the ring buffer. Write a class named RingBuffer that implements the following API:

public class RingBuffer {
    public         RingBuffer(int capacity)  //  creates an empty ring buffer with the specified capacity
    private    int capacity()                //  returns the capacity of this ring buffer
    public     int size()                    //  returns the number of items currently in this ring buffer
    public boolean isEmpty()                 //  is this ring buffer empty (size equals zero)?
    public boolean isFull()                  //  is this ring buffer full (size equals capacity)?
    public    void enqueue(double x)         //  adds item x to the end of this ring buffer
    public  double dequeue()                 //  deletes and returns the item at the front of this ring buffer
    public  double peek()                    //  returns the item at the front of this ring buffer

    public static void main(String[] args)   //  tests this class by directly calling all instance method

Guitar string. Next, create a data type to model a vibrating guitar string. Write a class named GuitarString that implements the following API:

public class GuitarString {
    public         GuitarString(double frequency)  //  creates a guitar string of the specified frequency, using a sampling rate of 44,100
    public         GuitarString(double[] init)     //  creates a guitar string whose length and initial values are given by the specified array
    public     int length()                        //  returns the number of samples in the ring buffer
    public    void pluck()                         //  plucks this guitar string (by replacing the ring buffer with white noise)
    public    void tic()                           //  advances the Karplus-Strong simulation one time step
    public     int time()                          //  returns the time lapsed, i.e. the number of times tic has been called so far
    public  double sample()                        //  returns the current sample
    public static void main(String[] args)         //  tests this class by directly calling both constructors and all instance methods

Interactive guitar player. is a sample GuitarString client that plays the guitar in real time, using the keyboard to input notes. When the user types the lowercase letter 'a' or 'c', the program plucks the corresponding string. Since the combined result of several sound waves is the superposition of the individual sound waves, it plays the sum of the two string samples.

  public class GuitarHeroLite {
      public static void main(String[] args) {

          // create two guitar strings, for concert A and concert C
          double CONCERT_A = 440.0;
          double CONCERT_C = CONCERT_A * Math.pow(2, 3.0/12.0); 
          GuitarString stringA = new GuitarString(CONCERT_A);
          GuitarString stringC = new GuitarString(CONCERT_C);

          while (true) {

              // check if the user has typed a key; if so, process it
              if (StdDraw.hasNextKeyTyped()) {
                  char key = StdDraw.nextKeyTyped();
                  if      (key == 'a') stringA.pluck();
                  else if (key == 'c') stringC.pluck();

              // compute the superposition of samples
              double sample = stringA.sample() + stringC.sample();
              // play the sample on standard audio
              // advance the simulation of each guitar string by one step  

Write a program GuitarHero that is similar to GuitarHeroLite, but supports a total of 37 notes on the chromatic scale from 110 Hz to 880 Hz. Use the following 37 keys to represent the keyboard, from lowest note to highest note:
String keyboard = "q2we4r5ty7u8i9op-[=zxdcfvgbnjmk,.;/' ";
This keyboard arrangement imitates a piano keyboard: The "white keys" are on the qwerty and zxcv rows and the "black keys" on the 12345 and asdf rows of the keyboard.

Piano keyboard

The ith character of the string keyboard corresponds to a frequency of 440 × 2(i − 24) / 12, so that the character 'q' is 110 Hz, 'i' is 220 Hz, 'v' is 440 Hz, and ' ' is 880 Hz. Don't even think of including 37 individual GuitarString variables or a 37-way if statement! Instead, create and initialize an array of 37 GuitarString objects and use keyboard.indexOf(key) to figure out which key was typed. If a keystroke does not correspond to one of the 37 possible notes, ignore it.

Files for this assignment. The file contains; optional API templates for and GuitarString; and this week's readme.txt template.

Submission.   Submit,,, and a completed readme.txt. If your partner is submitting, you should submit only a completed partner readme.txt.

Extra credit. Write a program that will automatically play music using GuitarString objects. A few ground rules:

You may create chords, repetition, and phrase structure using loops, conditionals, arrays, and functions. Also, feel free to incorporate randomness. You may also create a new music instrument by modifying the Karplus–Strong algorithm; consider changing the excitation of the string (from white noise to something more structured) or changing the averaging formula (from the average of the first two samples to a more complicated rule) or anything else you might imagine. See the checklist for some concrete ideas.

You may submit additional .java or .txt files to support the extra credit, (but do not modify,, or If you are working with a partner, you can do this part together or solo, but you must decide before you begin.

This assignment was developed by Andrew Appel, Jeff Bernstein, Maia Ginsburg, Ken Steiglitz, Ge Wang, and Kevin Wayne.
Copyright © 2005