Retrotechtacular: Piano Rolls, Made By Apple ][

Piano rolls are the world’s longest-lasting recording medium, and its first digital one. They were mass-produced from 1896 to 2008, and you can still get some made today, although they’re a specialty item. The technology behind them, both on the player and the recorder side, is simply wonderful.

[lwalkera] sent us in this marvelous video (embedded below) that provides a late-80s peek inside the works of QRS Records, and the presenter seems to be loving every minute of it.

Player pianos are cool enough, with their “draw bar” pulling air through the holes in the paper roll as it goes by, and pneumatically activating the keys. But did you ever think of how the rolls are made?

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Homemade E-Drums Hit All The Right Notes

In our eyes, there isn’t a much higher calling for Arduinos than using them to make musical instruments. [victorh88] has elevated them to rock star status with his homemade electronic drum kit.

The kit uses an Arduino Mega because of the number of inputs [victorh88] included. It’s not quite Neil Peart-level, but it does have a kick drum, a pair of rack toms, a floor tom, a snare, a crash, a ride, and a hi-hat. With the exception of the hi-hat, all the pieces in the kit use a piezo element to detect the hit and play the appropriate sample based on [Evan Kale]’s code, which was built to turn a Rock Band controller into a MIDI drum kit. The hi-hat uses an LDR embedded in a flip-flop to properly mimic the range of an actual acoustic hi-hat. This is a good idea that we have seen before.

[victorh88] made all the drums and pads out of MDF with four layers of pet screen sandwiched in between. In theory, this kit should be able to take anything he can throw at it, including YYZ. The crash and ride cymbals are MDF with a layer of EVA foam on top. This serves two purposes: it absorbs the shock from the sticks and mutes the sound of wood against wood. After that, it was just a matter of attaching everything to a standard e-drum frame using the existing interfaces. Watch [victorh88] beat a tattoo after the break.

If you hate Arduinos but are still reading for some reason, here’s a kit made with a Pi.

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Conductive Paint Turns Pizza Box Into DJ Mixing Station

Conductive paints and inks have been around for quite sometime, and the internet abounds with examples of cool projects you can use them for. They’re well suited to quick and fun prototypes, educational workshops, and temporary toys. But, as cool as conductive paint is, it’s not usually the kind of thing that gets people excited at parties.

Well, until now that is. Adafruit has published a dope guide for building a bomb-diggity DJ mixing station out of a pizza box, conductive paint, and a Circuit Playground board. The guide walks you through how to properly apply the conductive paint (in this case using a stencil to lay it onto a cardboard pizza box), wire it up using the Circuit Playground, and integrate it into popular DJ software.

Sure, your sister’s “professional” DJ boyfriend may scoff at it, but it’ll still let you lay down some boss beats. And, when the bass drops nobody will care that you’re scratching a Domino’s box. Of course, there are other options out there if you want a more permanent solution.

Tiny Pipe Organ Needs Tiny Church

There are a lot of unusual listings on eBay. If you’re wondering why someone would have a need for shredded cash, or a switchblade comb, or some “unicorn meat” (whatever that is), we’re honestly wondering the same thing. Sometimes, though, a listing that most people would consider bizarre finds its way to the workbench of someone with a little imagination. That was the case when [tinkartank] found three pipe organ pipes on eBay, bought them, and then built his own drivers.

The pipes have pitches of C, D, and F# (which make, as far we can tell, a C add9 flat5 no3 chord). [tinkartank] started by firing up the CNC machine and creating an enclosure to mount the pipes to. He added a church-like embellishment to the front window, and then started working on the controls for the pipes. Each pipe has its own fan, each salvaged from a hot air gun. The three are controlled with an Arduino. [tinkartank] notes that the fan noise is audible over the pipes, but there does seem to be an adequate amount of air going to each pipe.

This project is a good start towards a fully functional organ, provided [tinkartank] gets lucky enough to find the rest of the pipes from the organ. He’s already dreaming about building a full-sized organ of sorts, but in the meantime it might be interesting to use his existing pipes to build something from Myst.

Earliest Recorded Computer Music Restored

You want old skool electronic music? How about 1951?

Researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand have just restored what is probably the oldest piece of recorded, computer-generated music. Recorded in 1951, the rendition of “God Save The King”, “Baa-Baa Black Sheep” and “In The Mood” was produced by a computer built by none other Alan Turing and other researchers at the Computing Machine Research Laboratory in Manchester.

These phat beats were captured by the BBC for broadcast on an acetate disk that the researchers found in an archive. They sampled and restored the recording, fixing the rather poor quality recording to reproduce the squawky tones that the computer played. You can hear the restored recording after the break.

It halts apparently unexpectedly in the middle of a stanza, sounds essentially horrible, and goes out of tune on the higher notes. But you gotta learn to crawl before you can walk, and these are the equivalent of the grainy 8mm films of baby’s first steps. And as such, the record is remarkable.

Via ABC News

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Boombox Doorjam Plays Your Theme Song When You Step in the Ring

Although many of us may have had childhood aspirations to be a famous wrestler in the WWE, not very many of us will ever realize those dreams. You can get close, though, if you have your own epic intro music theme that plays anytime you walk into a room. Although it’s not quite the same as entering a wrestling ring, [Matt]’s latest project will have you feeling just as good whenever you enter a room to your own theme song.

The core of the build consists of a boom box with an auxiliary input. The boom box is fed sound via a Raspberry Pi which also serves as the control center for the rest of the project. It runs Node.js and receives commands via websockets from a publicly accessible control server. The Pi is also running Spotify which allows a user to select a theme song, and whenever that user’s iBeacon is within range, the Pi will play that theme song over the stereo.

The project looks like it would be easy to adapt to any other stereo if you’re looking to build your own. Most of the instructions and code you’ll need are available on the project’s website, too. And, if you’re a fan of music playing whenever you open a door of some sort, this unique project is clearly the gold standard. It might even make Stone Cold Steve Austin jealous.

808 Drum Machine In An ATTiny 14-Pin Chip

You may not know the 808 drum machine, but you have definitely heard it: the original Roland TR-808 was the first programmable drum machine and has been a mainstay of electronic music ever since. Hackers have been building their own versions of this vintage device for years, but this version from do-it-yourself synth builder [Jan Ostman] is quite remarkable.

He’s packed the entire device (called the Drum8 Vintage) into a single ATtiny84 14-pin DIP package, including the samples and eight polyphonic voices, plus old-school analog CV triggers, a global tune and an analog global accent input. That won’t mean a lot to non-musicians, but suffice to say that these are the same inputs that the original TR-808 had that allowed you to do all sorts of interesting stuff to trigger and modify the drum sounds. Plus some extras.

[Jan] is offering the chip itself for $20, and has made a limited edition version that is built into a patch bay panel for that genuine hard-wired look for $99. If you want to go the home-made route and make your own, he’s released the source code and schematics for making your own. You can check out more of [Jan’s] work in this post on making your own open-source instruments from Elliot. Thanks, Jan!