An instrument that plays along with you


The crew over at Teague Labs was talking about musical instruments and how digital music creation seems to get bogged down under user interfaces littered with increasing numbers of buttons, knobs, and sliders. They decided to build a musical device that has its own musical inclinations and personality, while also allowing for two-way interaction with the user.

The resulting creation is Muze, a simple musical instrument with only a single user input. Muze has been programmed with a palette of notes that it can combine and remix into a nearly infinite number of musical combinations. Muze is perfectly happy composing on its own, and will create music that evolves over time, if left alone long enough.

As with all musicians, not every tune is a hit, so Muze can be gently nudged away from cacophonous melodies with a simple twist of a knob. Each of the device’s knobs represent a blend of functions, which are used to influence Muze when placed on the board. The interaction does not send Muze flying into a completely different direction, rather it tells Muze to shake things up a little bit, much like you would ask your guitarist to pick up the tempo during a jam session.

It’s a neat little instrument, and we can imagine it would be a big hit with kids and adults alike. Keep reading to see a video demonstration of Muze in action.

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Human Theremin, one step closer to cyborgs (not really)

Oh [Humberto], what will you think up next? A human Theremin you say, and it’s for Halloween? Certanly this will blow last years creepy capacitance sensing jack-o-lantern out of the water right? Eh, not really, but still cool none-the-less. By using pairs of IR LEDs and IR photo-transistors, [Humberto] makes a simplistic distance sensor. Then its just a matter of converting that light value into sound, which is accomplished by using some very clever PWM square wave hacking to make a triangle wave. Also, [Humberto] goes over the process of using fast integers to represent slow floating point numbers. While none of the project is really a new concept, it certainly is put into an easy perspective so anyone can try their hand at it. All well worth the read, or you can catch a video after the jump.

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Single string servo electric guitar

its a catchy tune!

Ah, we love musical hacks that actually play music.  [Mike Baxter] is back again with a new servo electric guitar. This one, called the physical string synthesizer, and has only one string.  He’s using two Arduinos to control the unit. One to change the midi file to a note within the string’s limits and the second to actually control the servo. It seems like that could be simplified a little bit, but we’re pretty sure his end goal was to build an instrument quickly, not learn to be a circuit ninja. Last time we saw Mike Baxter, he had built a servo electric guitar that used a keypad for control. You can see a video of the single string one after the break.

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We didn’t believe this hack at all when we saw it, or rather heard it. Surly a guitar made out of a shovel couldn’t sound decent. But the video (after the jump, skip to 2:40 for the jam) to our untrained ears sounded pretty rad. Could be the supremely well done wood work, proper use of tools, high tech pickups, or maybe Russian magic, we don’t know.

In fact, if you continue the video it doesn’t stop there. The creators also made a 2 string bass and a few other instruments from shovels. Do I smell a new shovel hero?

Related: Guitars made out of things that should not be guitars.

[Thanks Paul]

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Spark plug music

This is (video above) perhaps the most abstract way of playing sounds…ever. Yes, we’ve heard Hard Drive music and Obsolete technology bands, but [DJ Sures] brings us the first ever, spark plug instrument.

Much like Velcro and Teflon, the musical spark plug is claimed to be an accident. After testing energy use vs. spark power with his flare stack ignition controller, [DJ Sures] noticed that different frequencies could be produced. It was only a matter of reprogramming before death metal Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is heard. Now he just needs to refine it a bit and build a full stereo cabinet.

Circuit board instrument

[Moldover] decided to change up the way CDs are packaged for his album release. Yes, you still get a CD with some pretty sweet music, but the case can also play sounds. He custom printed a circuit board containing some LEDs, buttons, photoresistors, and what looks to be a piezo transducer which all combine to produce a strange whine like noise. But with the included headphone jack, he shows it can be used to produce some very interesting music – reminds us of circuit bending.

[Thanks Ferdinand]