Fisher-Price Record Player plays Stairway to Heaven

[Fred Murphy] has an old Fisher-Price music box/record player that has lost many of its disks over the last 40 years. It’s a very simple device – concentric grooves in a plastic disk have plastic bumps that are picked up by the tines of the record player ‘cartridge.’ Seeing as how this toy is basically a music box, [Fred] figured making his own records would be well within his grasp; he did the reasonable thing and made a Stairway to Heaven disk for a toy music box.

To figure out where to place the ‘bumps’ for the musical tines, [Fred] built a small tool in Visual C# 2010 that allowed him to place notes on a scale and generate the requisite GCode for the disk. After sending this file to his CNC mill, [Fred] had an acrylic disk that played Led Zeppelin on a child’s music box.

Of course, this Instructable wouldn’t be complete without a video demo of Stairway blasting out of this record player. You can check that out after the break.

Comments

  1. James says:

    No disrespect to this guy, the record looks beautiful and it’s an awesome feat of hackery, but after all that the music is poor – the lower voice plays the wrong notes, and the upper could have used two and three-part harmony all the way through instead of just one triad a the end.

    Or are the tines on the player head limited to a certain palette of notes? Anyhow man great accomplishment, my daughter plays with one of these and it would be totally cool to make discs for it. Let me know if you’re cutting another one and you want somebody to help write an arrangement.

    • 0xfred says:

      You’ll find no disagreement from me that it’s not a perfect rendition! The notes are fairly limited (with some gaps) and I’m not naturally musical. I just found some sheet music and transposed the notes where I could.

      I’ve offered to make a few discs for people who compose something. If you can get a tune your daughter will appreciate then I’ll be happy to mill a disc and send one to you. The music editing software will show you what notes are available on the player and will preview the tune.

    • If you read the Instructable, the record player is just a G# maj scale (why they chose that I’ll never know). A few compromises had to be made.

      Still an amazing build.

      • parkolay says:

        I think the scale is a function of the length of the comb, knowing that the comb had to fit in the arm, that was most likely the longest size that would fit

    • Roel says:

      Great job! But I had to replay the video to recognise this particular “interpreation” of the song ;)

    • tlalexander says:

      A 40 year old toy record player doesn’t make great music? Gasp!

  2. messmaker says:

    I had one of those players as a kid! Looks like a fun project :)

  3. nuf says:

    I had one of those. Instant Nostalgia!

  4. I agree with the “excellent build” comments. Very nicely done and good job working with the limitations of the player.

  5. AUGuru says:

    Awesome! I look forward to seeing a version of code that outputs STLs for 3d printing based on a MIDI clip or MP3 import :)

    • 0xfred says:

      MIDI import is on the list for v2, but I expect there will be a lot of “Sorry, Dave. I can’t play that note”.

      STL output will definitely happen if I get a 3D printer to test it on. The code’s all open, so I’d be more than happy for someone else to play with this.

      MP3 import – I’m not sure that’s likely! However, if you think you can do a FFT and pick out the 16 discrete notes that the player can produce then go for it.

  6. Galane says:

    Once you have a master disc cut or 3D printed, duplicates are easy. Cast an RTV silicone mold then cast duplicate discs with Smooth-On Onyx resin.

    Onyx cures fast. Sets in about a minute and for flat items like these discs could be removed from the mold as soon as it’s cooled. Pop the discs out onto a flat surface and production can be pretty quick.

    The same process could be used to duplicate the original discs and it has been used to replicate real records, especially the rare and fragile bakelite Edison and early 78RPM thick discs. Those were around 1/4″ thick and real heavy but still broke easily.

    The really cool thing about a urethane resin copy of a bakelite record is the copy is tougher and will wear less when played on the old mechanical Victrola type players.

  7. Pete says:

    That is fantastic work.

  8. Fuzzy says:

    great build.
    Some people wouldn’t be happy if you got linux running with 3D graphics on an i4004.
    “What no cup holder?”

  9. DaveO says:

    Great work. Have you seen the new version: http://www.retrothing.com/2010/11/a-toy-record-player-that-doesnt-need-records.html
    It is cheaper to make it electronic with fake records, rather than electro-mechanical. Most kids have never seen a record player so the analogy is meaningless.
    Crazy world my friends…

  10. PKM says:

    “Of course, this Instructable wouldn’t be complete without a video demo of Stairway *plinking* out of this record player.”

    FTFY

  11. 0xfred says:

    Warning… There’s a plinky-plonky version of the Star Wars theme on the way. Star Wars fans aren’t too fussy, right?

  12. alanvanwyk says:

    Cracking work Fred – will have to pop round to see it.
    I am not sure it is going to make you millions, but you’re going to give your kid(s) a little something from the past that most kids from these days will never know.

  13. sean says:

    thats such a great and orignal project keep it up

  14. 0xfred says:

    Now also plays the Star Wars theme, in a similar plinky-plonky manner

    This has started to show up the limitations of the player, which has some notes repeated in different tracks but not all. I needed to repeat a note that not one of these lucky 6, and you can hear it trip over the next pin that arrives sooner than it can cope with.

  15. 0xfred says:

    I’ve now got STL file creation sorted using OpenSCAD so it’s possible to 3D print these records.

  16. flag says:

    this is the right way for children to be exposed to music.

  17. WOW! I wish I could do this with my husband’s music! I am amazed!

  18. Would you consider making copies for sale? This is too cool!!!

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