Ardu McDuino Plays the Bagpipes

To “pipe in” the new year, [John] decided to build a bagpipe-playing robot. Unlike other instrument-playing robots that we’ve seen before, this one is somewhat anatomically correct as well. John went the extra mile and 3D printed fingers and hands to play his set of pipes.

The brains of the robot are handled by an Arduino Mega 2560, which drives a set of solenoids through a driver board. The hands themselves are printed from the open source Enabling the Future project which is an organization that 3D prints prosthetic hands for matched recipients, especially people who can’t otherwise afford prosthetics. He had to scale up his hands by 171% to get them to play the pipes correctly, but from there it was a fairly straightforward matter of providing air to the bag (via a human being) and programming the Arduino to play a few songs.

The bagpipe isn’t a particularly common instrument (at least in parts of the world that aren’t Scottish) so it’s interesting to see a robot built to play one. Of course, your music-playing robot might be able to make music with something that’s not generally considered a musical instrument at all. And if none of these suit your needs, you can always build your own purpose-built semi-robotic instrument as well.

27 thoughts on “Ardu McDuino Plays the Bagpipes

  1. You know how the whole popular music industry went crazy with autotune for a while because it was fresh and new?

    Well if you put a Midi interface on this and produce it, I’ll have to take measures.

    1. If, in 2011, you told me that the hottest musical craze of 2017 would be a robot bagpipe, I’d have laughed in your face.

      Now? I’m seeing myself investing in robot bagpipe futures

      1. It’s only going to go so far though before all the Scots are complaining they’ve been culturally misappropriated, which we’ll have to listen to for years….

        … though actually maybe not, because we won’t understand a word they’re saying. We’ll just be all, heh, look at the funny Scottish people, wow, they do really seem to be excited about something. Reminds me of this classic piece of hidden camera footage, about how the scottish cope with modern technology such as an elevator, it’s a fine piece of unintentional visual comedy, not sure what the problem is, maybe their primitive brains have been so obsessed with the opening of haggis hunting season that they forgot what floor they need, or the buttons are labelled in English script, causing them deep confusion when they can only read celtic runes….

  2. If you need further proof of the impending apocalypse, look no farther than a bagpipe robot.

    The fun part about this has been overlooked – it’s a reed instrument (of sorts) – if this can be done, then automated woodwinds can’t be far behind (if an automated embouchure/staccato can be constructed ).

    Yakety Sax by robot … it gets worse the more you think about it.

    1. This is what is called a “practice chanter.” It has the same fingering/pitches as a bagpipe chanter, but mercifully at a much lower practice volume, and without the drone pipes.

      Extending this robot to playing a full set of pipes should be straightforward.

    1. Yes, and it is correct. The bagpipe plays notes that are “in between” those on a traditional orchestral instrument. This is by design.

      The bagpipe is not tuned to the same temperament as the piano or guitar (that is to say “equal temperament”) which makes playing in many different keys possible. Instead the bagpipe is tuned to ideal frequencies which sound odd to the ear if one is not accustomed to them.

    2. Legend has it that ancient Scots would commemorate the death of great warriors by tying ten cats together and squeezing them to death. Eventually Scotland started running out of cats, so a substitute was create.

  3. Um.. no.
    Not supposed to be out of tune with the tonic note THAT much. I have a feeling the practice chanter in question is of the Pakistani import variety, as is the reed. Nothing against Pakistan/Pakistani anything, but when you are paying skilled labor the -absolute- minimum, to make a non indiginous musical instrument off “plans” – you get exactly what you paid for. Air pressure seems a bit low as well, tending to be flat because of this.

    A valiant effort, with much more skills than I have (save bagpiping), went into this project- I commend you.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I have added 10 buttons now so it can form a kind of bagpipe jukebox. I might also have a go at the Imperial March as suggested. The practice chanter is indeed the very lowest priced available, maybe I will upgrade it. At present the air pressure consists of blowing down a length of attached tube with no bag, so you have to take a deep breath first. I also now realise that for some notes pipers squeeeze the bag slightly harder.

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