Two saxophone synthesizer builds for the price of one

[Bruce Land] has been sending in student projects from the electronic design course he taught at Cornell last semester. By a curious coincidence, two groups build saxophone synthesizers with the same key arrangement as a real sax.

First up is [Brian Wang]‘s digital sax. There’s a small microphone in the mouthpiece and a series of buttons down the body of the sax telling the ATMega664 what note to play. The data for the saxophone synthesis was created by looking at a frequency plot of a sax, bassoon, harp, and pipe organ. [Brian] has the synthesis part down pat; there’s definitely a baritone sax in that little microcontroller.

Next up is [Suryansh] and [Chris]‘s PVC pipe saxophone. It’s the same general principle as [Brian]‘s project – the musician blows into the sax (we really like the kazoo mouthpiece) and a small mic picks up the sound of the wind. If the microphone output is above a certain threshold, the buttons are read and a note come out of the sax. We’re picking up a whiff of alto sax here; shame there wasn’t a duet with the two teams.

After the break you can see both saxophone projects in all their glory.


  1. echodelta says:

    Hide those wires don’t use tape. The label from plumbing store is still on side. We were graded on neatness as well content.
    Bundle up or use multi-conductor wire. Extreme ugly. Exposed chip awaits static zap.
    The mic approach is only on-off, so might as well be a switch. The real EWI’s use a air pressure sensor, and a settable air resistance that you blow against. I have one of those blood pressure home-medic sensors I want to hack into a breath sensor for my Yamaha synth, which needs 0-5v to run.

  2. Vonskippy says:

    Like most kids today, they need to work on not saying “um”, “uh”, or “err” every other word.

    It would lower their dork rating by a magnitude or three.

    Back in the olden days, speaking in class was actually taught, practiced, and graded.

  3. Tim says:

    It’s not in the shape of a saxophone, but has the same fingering. I’ve used a breath pressure sensor instead of a microphone, and midi instead of synthesizing on the arduino.

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