Solenoid orchestra led a by laser conductor

This video brought a smile to our faces. [Griffin Milsap] is creating live music using an orchestra of solenoid instruments. Each solenoid is set up to strike an object such as a bowl or mug. The trigger mechanism is a light sensor inside of a ping-pong ball. The collection of instruments is conducted by a motor-mounted green laser. When the beam of light passes by one of the ping-pong balls the photo transistor inside actuates the solenoid and a note is played. The pitches are quite a bit more random than the Robo-vibe, but it’s delightful to hear the results that [Griffin] has achieved.


  1. Life2Death says:


  2. t&p says:

    I thought this was going to work with midi or something where the laser would turn off and on to each instrument and not the laser going back and forth

  3. Hackius says:

    Isn’t that a bit… high powered?

  4. ardcore says:

    thats whack.

  5. Peter says:

    Get yourself a set of gavanometers off ebay and do the laser scanning properly. Thats super dodgy. You can even possition the units outside the single axis your limited to atm. Perhaps even add blanking?

  6. aztraph says:

    somewhere, Rube Goldberg, is rolling in his grave

  7. localroger says:

    There is an organ that works on the solenoid principle in Mammoth Cave, except it has a conventional keyboard and the stalactites were tuned by shaving them to get correct notes (something that would never be tolerated today). Also the vibrations are not very loud so each stalactite is equipped with a microphone and it’s amplified. Okay, I guess it’s not the same at all but it does use solenoids. And maybe an Arduino.

  8. jamieriddles says:

    That looks like a strong laser.

  9. Jim says:

    This would be a whole lot cooler if he had something that makes a better sound than mugs.

  10. Chuckt says:

    Cool project.

  11. Jorge says:

    Good stuff. Solenoid based physical/electronic music is really interesting, because you have that tangibility, but you can program things humans could never do.

  12. Jorge says:

    I wonder if there will be any big dance acts based on the solenoid principal, but with really sweet sounding instruments.

  13. Josh says:

    fun stuff

  14. Griffin says:

    Hey, thanks for all the comments! I had a pretty severe time and spending limit with the project, so I couldn’t do everything I wanted to (XY laser direction, cooler things to hit, etc.) The laser is from Wicked Lasers, a 20mW. Its a bit overkill, but I really wanted a sweet laser. Thanks for watching! Thanks hackaday for featuring me!

  15. mard1kas says:

    Hey Griffin,

    Nice project, but dear, _please_ take yourselt up to date with laser security before you screw up your life.

    “…you can look at a laser twice…”

  16. smoker_dave says:

    Nice organ.

  17. Nick says:

    Gah! Eye protection man! That thing is reflecting all over the place!

  18. Chuckt says:

    It isn’t legal to buy a laser over 5 mila watt in America anymore so the website wicked lasers sells things that you can’t legally import.

    Does anyone know how to legally import them?

  19. TJ says:

    Take a few more videos of that and the camera won’t work any more either..

  20. strider_mt2k says:

    It’s hard to sound all cool and hip while saying things like “safen up” but yeah, seriously.


    I really like it.
    Sure could use a little refining, what couldn’t?

    Nice work!

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