Musician and engineer creates his own guitar parts

Musician and engineer creates his own guitar parts

Joshua DeNoncour combines his expertise in electronics with his background in musical talent
Published: January 15, 2021

Joshua DeNoncour grew up around musical instruments. His father had a vast collection of various instruments. His school district growing up was famous for their marching bands. His college had a student rock association where local bands performed.

Ten years later, DeNoncour still lives around instruments. But now, as an electrical engineer, he builds custom guitar parts from scratch.

DeNoncour participated in his school’s eighth-grade jazz band, where he was first introduced to guitars. The band needed a bass guitar player. DeNoncour, who at the time didn’t know what a bass guitar was, asked his father if they had one he could use in the jazz band.

“My dad is a music teacher by trade. That’s what he’s done all his life,” DeNoncour said. “He had every instrument you can name: accordions, ukuleles, flutes, clarinets, drums, guitars. The whole gauntlet.”

Alongside playing instruments in high school, DeNoncour took an interest in robotics and became proficient in designing and building electrical circuits. He went to college to study electrical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he and a few fellow students started their first band, Meal Time. Living in college dorm buildings and lacking a drum set, the members rehearsed their music in a Guitar Center.

After a few shows at WPI’s Student Rock Association, DeNoncour looked for a new band and came across a Worcester-area punk band called Torn To Shreds that was in need of a bass player. He stayed with the band for a couple of years playing gigs at local bars and various college campuses.

“It was really fun to play with people who have the same drive to write and create as I did,” DeNoncour said. “And [we] worked really well together to bound music ideas off of each other and take a couple notes a make it into a cohesive song that could get an audience up and moving.”

During one performance at WPI, DeNoncour broke a nob off of his guitar. He decided to use it as an opportunity to put his engineering knowledge to use. He developed a custom distortion circuit using spare parts he had in his dorm room to replace the broken part of the guitar. He created the electrical circuits, designed the shell, and printed it using a 3D printer (which he also bought broken and fixed up to be usable).

After fabricating that first guitar part, DeNoncour experimented with other guitar modifications. He bought some wooden base parts for a guitar and added the necessary electrical parts to it. A year later, he decided to coat the entire instrument in playing cards. It became the guitar everyone knew him by.

DeNoncour left Torn To Shreds as the coronavirus pandemic hit Massachusetts. He now works for a military contractor making electrical equipment. But in his free time, he continues to build custom parts and record music with his extensive collection of modified bass guitars. He is searching for another band to perform with.

“Because of the pandemic, there are no bands searching for people to perform with,” DeNoncour said. “When you go to a bar to perform, you share a drink with members of other bands there, and you don’t even know their name. Now, it’s really hard to do that. Now bands Livestream their material, and I love to listen to local bands. I just wish I was a part of it again.”

Avatar for Richard J Chang

is a digital producer for The NewsHouse.