Drums Anywhere!

The students over at Cornell’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering have been hard at it again with their senior projects. This time, it’s the very tiny and portable drumset dubbed Drums Anywhere by its creators [Shiva Rajagopal] and [Richard Quan]. Since there are other highly portable instruments like roll-up pianos, they suppose there should be a portable drum kit that actually sounds like drums, and this ECE duo have hit the metaphorical and physical drum on the head… except that this project doesn’t actually use physical drums to make sound.

The project consists of two 3D-printed box-like sensors with velcro straps that can be attached to any drumstick-shaped object that might be lying around. Inside the box is a flex sensor and a tiny microphone which report the “beats” to a microcontroller when they strike another object.

On the software side, there are two sampled sounds stored in the microcontroller but they plan to add more sounds in the future. The microcontroller outputs sound to a pair of speakers, and the sensors are sensitive to force, so the volume can range from almost inaudible all the way up to [John Bonham]-style booms. This could also be theoretically expanded to include more than two “beat boxes” for extra sounds, or be wireless. The options are virtually limitless, although the team notes that they are limited by the number of interrupts and ADC converters on their particular microcontroller, an ATmega1284.

This is another interesting take on a having drumset without the drums, and definitely expands the range of what a virtual drum set can do. It’s also great to see interesting projects coming from senior design classes! Be sure to check out the video after the break.

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Organ Donor Gives Up a Leslie Speaker

It was about ten years ago that [Richard] received an old musical organ. Moving to a new house meant it would be cumbersome to move the organ with him, so he opted to harvest some interesting components instead. Specifically, he kept the Leslie speaker.

A Leslie speaker is a special kind of speaker mechanism that creates a tremolo effect as well as a vibrato effect. You can hear this effect in [Richard’s] video below. Simple effects like this would be easy to do on a computer nowadays, but that wasn’t the case several decades ago. Before digital electronics, musical effects were often performed by analog means. [Richard’s] Leslie speaker is a small speaker behind of a Styrofoam baffle. The baffle spins around the speaker which changes the reflection angle of the sound, producing the musical effect.

[Richard] tried hooking this speaker up to other musical instruments but found that turning off the electric motor created an audible pop over the speakers. To remedy this, he build a simple “snubber” circuit. The circuit is just a simple 240 ohm resister and a 0.05 uF capacitor. These components give the transients a path to ground, preventing the pops and clicks when the motor is powered up. Now [Richard] can use this classic piece of audio equipment for newer projects. Continue reading “Organ Donor Gives Up a Leslie Speaker”

Stereo Audio on a PIC32

The PIC microcontrollers are powerful little devices, and [Tahmid] is certainly pushing the envelope of what these integrated circuits can do. He has built (for educational purposes, he notes) an audio player based on a PIC32 and a microSD card. Oh, and this microcontroller-based audio player can play in stereo, too.

The core of the project is a PIC32MX250F128B microcontroller. 16-bit 44.1kHz WAV files are stored on the microSD card and playback is an impressive 12-bit stereo audio. It can also play back 8-bit files (with some difficulty). [Tahmid] programmed the interface to work through the serial port and it is very minimalistic, mostly because this was a project for him to explore audio on a microcontroller and wasn’t to build an actual stand-alone audio player that he would use from day to day.

Still, even though the project isn’t ready to replace your iPod, the core audio-processing parts are already done if you want to try to build on [Tahmid]’s extensive work. You could even build a standalone audio player like this but have it play high-quality 12-bit stereo audio!

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Guitar Mute Pedal Made From Upcycled Parts

Rockin’ out on your fave guitar is pretty fun for sure but whether your on stage or jamming in your basement, it can be convenient to quickly mute those killer licks. [wozlaser] wanted a mute pedal for his guitar and instead of shelling out the tens of dollars for a commercial version, he decided to build one himself.

This pedal is heavy-duty and made out of metal. If the frame looks familiar, that is because in a prior life this was a control pedal for a sewing machine. [wozlaser] found it cheap at a thrift store. After the internals were taken out, he added a few key parts. First were the 1/4″ input and output jacks that were scavenged from an old stereo system. There is a momentary switch from a VCR and a standard guitar stomp pedal switch mounted all the way in the front of the frame. The wiring is as follows:

DIY guitar mute pedal

The wiring schematic is pretty darn simple, it just grounds and ungrounds the signal wire. As stated earlier, there are 2 switches, a momentary and a push-on/push-off switch. A normal mute pedal would only have one switch but [wozlaser] wanted something special. If you push the pedal all the way forward it will mute or unmute the signal until it is pushed again. When the pedal is in the spring-supported ‘up’ position a lever pushes on the momentary switch, a slight push on the pedal lifts the lever off of the momentary switch to mute or unmute the signal. The function of the momentary switch (mute or unmute) changes with the state of the other switch. This works exactly the same as a 3-way light switch circuit allows two switches to control one light in your house. With this setup [wozlaser] is able to not only mute and unmute his guitar but strum a chord with it off and pulse the chord on to the beat of the music or tap the pedal with some guitar feedback to make the sound cut in and out. All that only cost [wozlaser] a little time and spare parts… and there are no batteries to replace!

This CD Jewel Case Plays Music Without a Disc

We’ve all heard the terrible greeting cards that have soundbites of 2 bit jingles that usually make you want to tear the battery out… but Hallmark is finally catching up with technology and now including real music in their cards — it might only be about 10 seconds, but hey, it’s a step!

They’re still pretty corny though, and we’re not really sure what even dictates an ideal situation to give someone an audible greeting card — but regardless, [Dmitry Grinberg] thought he could do better than Hallmark — and we’d have to agree. He’s created a New Year’s Greeting card using a CD jewel case, and what he’s packed inside is pretty incredible.

The case, when opened, will play a full-length song in full fidelity. Next time you open it, it’ll play something new and at random, from its very own micro SD card 300-song library.

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Sound Reactive Drums of Trailing Light

If you’re going to be the drummer in a band for a Back to the Future themed New Years Eve party, you really need to add something to your gig that captures that kitschy futuristic ambiance as seen by the 80s. Rainbow LEDs will do the trick.

For his drum set’s reactive trailing light display, [Alec Smecher] was inspired by a similar project he’d seen in the past where Neopixels were added to a regular drum kit and activated with several individual microphones. Since the microphones ultimately heard all of the thundering noise from every drum and cymbal at once, there was a lot of bleed over in the response of the LEDs. To remedy this, [Alec] used piezo pickups which listen to discrete surface vibrations rather than sound in order to clean up the effect produced by the lights. Each of the five LED strips lining the stands of his cymbal and inside of his drums were programmed to react with a burst of light equal in brightness to the intensity of the vibration sensed by the piezo.

To insure everything kept together amidst all the constant motion and shaking during performance, [Alec] soldered his connections directly onto his Trinket’s pins as well as the fragile pickup of the piezo. The pickup of the sensors were taped directly against the skin of his drums and along the inside of each cymbal to maximize responsiveness. After ringing in the new year appropriately as the ‘band from the future’, [Alec] reports that his colorful addition worked fantastic the whole night.

Those interested in building their own can find a nice schematic on [Alec’s] blog as well as the code he used on github. Difficulty level taken into account, this is a great first project for a musician who has yet to dabble in electronics… and seeing that it’s a brand new year, there’s no better time to have a go at something new.

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Pendulum Music for Oscilloscope and Photodiodes

Two turntables and a microphone? Try two oscilloscopes and a couple of photodiodes. [dfiction] reinterpreted Steve Reich’s classic feedback piece for more modern electronics. The video is embedded after the break.

The original Pendulum Music is a conceptual musical composition from the heady year of 1968. Basically, you set a bunch of microphones swinging across speakers, making feedback as they pass by. The resulting rhythmic and tonal oscillations change over time as the swinging damps down. It’s either mesmerizing or entirely boring, depending on your mindset.

In the [dfiction] version, the feedback is produced by passing a “light microphone” over an oscilloscope. And since he’s got a pair of these setups, the one microphone also feeds the other ‘scope. The resulting sound is this chaotic and gritty noise-rumble. We dig it.

If slowly evolving “process music” pushes the boundaries of your attention span (or if it’s just not your thing) you can totally skip around in the video. Try around 1:40 and 3:45 into the piece just to get an idea of what’s going on. But once you’re there, you might as well let it run its course.

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