Soda Can Theremin Made In Minutes

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Looking for a fun weekend project? How about building your very own sci-fi Theremin using just a soda can and a few simple components you probably already have.

Not familiar with Theremins? It’s an electronic instrument that can be played without any physical contact. Essentially, the antenna (soda can) acts as half of a capacitor — your hand acts as the other. By varying the distance of your hand to the soda can, you change the capacitance, which can then be used to modulate a sound. It was invented in 1928 by the Russian inventor [Leon Theremin], and you can actually see a video of him playing it on YouTube — we’ve never seen this before, but we must say it’s actually quite impressive!

Anyway, back to the hack. All you need are some op-amps, a few capacitors, some resistors, a diode, a breadboard, and of course — a speaker. [Will's] gone into great detail in how each circuit works with both schematics and diagrams of the breadboard configuration — it’s a great little project even kids can follow along.

Take a listen after the break.

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PVC Percussion Pipe Organ Sounds Surprisingly Good!

PVC Instrument

Using over 20′ feet of PVC pipe, a whole bunch of 2 x 4′s and a few nuts and bolts, [Jeremy] and his cousin put together a rather unique percussion pipe organ.

[Jackson], his cousin who is a musician is always looking for different ways to make music. They had a rough idea of what they wanted to do with a few sketches, but after a day of tinkering, they ended up with something completely different — but it sounds awesome.

The frame is made of a combination of 2 x 6′s and 2 x 4′s which hold the PVC tubes in place. PVC elbows and varying lengths of pipe create a wide range of rather deep bass notes. It can be played with just your hands, or even a pair of sandals for better effect. You’d be surprised how good it sounds.

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5-Gallon 5-Piece Electronic Drum Set

electronic drums from 5 gallon buckets

Who hasn’t wanted to rock out on some drums in the middle of the night? If you have anything that resembles neighbors then a midnight jam session is out of the question. That is unless a set of electronic drums is available… but alas, those are expensive. If you don’t have the spare cash burning a hole in your pocket, then be like [Mike] and build a complete 5 piece e-drum set.

[Mike] started off with 5 gallon buckets that would become the drum shells. On a real drum set, all of the drums are different sizes in order to produce different notes. Drum size doesn’t matter with an electronic drum as a drum module creates the note and sound. Even so, to make this set a little more realistic, each drum was sectioned and pulled back together to change the diameter. A homemade circle cutting jig and a wood router were used to cut top and bottom rim hoops out of 3/4″ plywood. The inner diameter of these hoops were made just a hair larger than the outer diameter of the 5 gallon bucket shells. The bottom of the top hoop was then routed to produce a groove which would allow a standard mesh drum head to fit inside.

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Popmaskinen — An Electromechanical One Man Band

one man band

The Stockholm Mini Maker Faire 2014 has just finished up, and [Johnny Eriksson] was awarded the Maker of the Year award for his very impressive electromechanical one man band.

As a musician/electrician/furniture carpenter, [Johnny] has quite a few skills — and he wanted to try putting them altogether for a project. He calls it the Popmaskinen (the pop machine).

Using MIDI keyboards, buttons, and knobs, the Popmaskinen translates digital outputs to physical instruments controlled by various electromechanical components. One of our favorite parts is the guitars, which use solenoids to strum, and even more solenoids to squeeze various cords on the pair of guitars.

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Turning Lego Into A Groove Machine

lego

Last weekend wasn’t just about Maker Faire; in Stockholm there was another DIY festival celebrating the protocols that make electronic music possible. It’s MIDI Hack 2014, and [Kristian], [Michael], [Bram], and [Tobias] put together something really cool: a Lego sequencer

The system is set up on a translucent Lego base plate, suspended above a webcam that feeds into some OpenCV and Python goodness. From there, data is sent to Native Instruments Maschine. There’s a step sequencer using normal Lego bricks, a fader controlling beat delay, and a rotary encoder for reverb.

Despite being limited to studs and pegs, the short demo in the video below actually sounds good, with a lot of precision found in the faders and block-based rotary encoder. [Kristian] will be putting up the code and a few more details shortly. Hopefully there will be enough information to use different colored blocks in the step sequencer part of the build for different notes.

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The Solafide Forbes Nash Organ

analogue

A few years ago, [Chad] wanted to build a musical instrument. Not just any musical instrument, mind you, but one with just intonation. Where modern western music maps 12 semitones onto a logarithmic scale per octave, just temperament uses ratios or fractions to represent notes on a scale. For formal, academic music, it’s quite odd especially if you’re building an analog synth for this temperament. In a remarkable three-part write up (parts one, two, and three), [Chad] goes over the creation of this extremely strange musical instrument.

The idea was for this synth to produce sine waves for each of the tones on the just intonated scale. [Chad]‘s initial experiments led him down the path of using strings and magnetic pickups to produce these sine waves. These ideas were initially discarded for producing sine waves electronically on dozens of different homemade PCBs, one for each tone.

The keys are an extremely interesting design, working on the principle of light from an LED shining on a photodetector, blocked by a shutter on a spring-loaded key made on a laser cutter. The glyphs on the keys seen above actually have meaning; each one describes the ratio of the interval that key plays, encoded in some schema that isn’t quite clear.

What does it sound like? There’s three videos below, but because this synth isn’t tuned to the scale you’re used to, it doesn’t sound like anything else you’ve heard before.

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Bumpy, The Beautiful DIY MP3 Player

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[Matt]‘s been working on a small hombrew MP3 player, and although it’s not much more useful than an iPod Shuffle, sometimes that’s all you need. Besides, it turned out to be a beautiful project, completely custom, and a great example of what a high resolution 3D printer can do with an enclosure design.

Inside Bumpy is an ATMega32u4 with a VS1003 MP3 codec IC. The device is powered by a 1000mAh lithium battery, and the user interface is an exercise in simplicity; a single click/scroll wheel changes the volume, toggles play and pause, and selects the next or previous track. Eight LEDs mounted in the center of the board glow through the case for status, volume, and interface feedback.

By far the most impressive part of Bumpy is the case. It was printed at [Matt]‘s place of employment – Formlabs – in white UV curing resin. The pictures show a surface finish that would be difficult to replicated on a squirting plastic style 3D printer, with a textured, bumpy surface that inspired the name.