How to Play the Bass With Marbles

Stringed instruments make noise from the vibrations of tuned strings, using acoustic or electronic means to amplify those vibrations to the point where they’re loud enough to hear. The strings are triggered in a variety of ways – piano strings are hit with hammers, guitar strings are plucked, while violin strings are bowed. Meanwhile, [Martin] from the band [Wintergatan] is using marbles to play a bass guitar.

[Martin] starts out with a basic setup. The bass guitar is placed on the workbench, while a piece of wood is taped to a tripod. The wood has a hole drilled through it, and marbles are dropped through the aperture in an attempt to get them to land on the string. Plastic containers are used to easily alter the angle the bass guitar sits at, relative to the bench, while an acrylic guide sits around the string to try to guide the marbles in the desired direction. These guides are important to make sure the marbles hit the top of the string, and bounce cleanly in the desired direction afterwards.

The initial setup is too inconsistent, so [Martin] places a notch in the wood and builds a lever system to hold the marbles and then release them in a controlled manner. [Martin] then checks that the system works by analysing footage of the marble drop with slow motion video.

The video covers the CAD design of an eight-slot guide so the four strings of the bass can be played more rapidly than in their previous build. Two guides per string allow each string to play two notes in quick succession without having to worry about marble collisions from playing too quickly.

It’s a great build, and we’ve seen [Wintergatan]’s work before – namely, the incredible build that was the original Marble Machine.

Thanks to [Tim Trzepacz] for the tip!

Incredible Marble Music Machine

We tried to figure out how to describe the band [Wintergatan]. It took a lot of googling, and we decided to let their really incredible music machine do it for them. The best part? Unlike some projects like this that come our way, [Wintergatan] documented the whole build process in an eight part video series.

The core of the machine is a large drum with two tracks of alternating grey and black Lego Technic beams and pins. The musician sequences out the music using these. The pins activate levers which in turn drop ball bearings on the various sound producing devices in the machine. The melody is produced by a vibraphone. At first we thought the drum kit was electronic, but it turns out the wires going to it were to amplify the sound they made when hit. At the end of their travel the bearings are brought up to the hopper again by a bucket conveyor.

The final part count for the machine sits at 3,000 not including the 2,000 ball bearings rolling around inside of it. If you’ve ever tried to make a marble machine, then you’ll be just as impressed as we were that the machine only appeared to lose a few marbles in the course of a three minute song. Aside from the smoothness of the machine, which is impressive, we also enjoyed the pure, well, hackiness of it. We can spy regular wood screws, rubber bands, plywood, bits of wire, and all sorts of on-the-spot solutions. Just to add bonus cool, the whole project appears to have been built with  just a bandsaw, a drill press, and a few hand power tools.

The machine is great, but we also really appreciate the hacker spirit behind it. When a commenter on a YouTube video told him he was a genius, he replied, “Thank you for that! But I do think, though, that it is mostly about being able to put in the time! I mean the talent of being stubborn and able to see things through are more important than the abilities you have to start with. If you work hard on anything, you will learn what you need and success! Its my idea anyway! So happy people like the machine!”. Which we think is just as cool as the machine itself. Video of the machine in action and part one of the build series after the break!

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Hackaday Links: Leap Day, 2012

The Earth orbits the Sun every 365.256 days. Because this number isn’t a whole number, an extra day is tacked onto February every four years, unless the year is evenly divisible by 100, except in cases where the year is divisible by 400, or something like that. To commemorate this calendar hack, here’s some stuff that has rolled in over the last week or so.

Marble sequencer

[Brian] sent in this marble-based sequencer that sounds like someone is running MIDI into an Atari 2600. There are photoresistors in there somewhere, and it really reminds us of those thingamagoop robots.

YouTube CLI

[Mike] uses YouTube as his music library. While this is a perfectly acceptable way to listen to music, the user interface is terrible. To solve this problem, [Mike] is downloading videos from the command line, automagically converting them to MP3, and playing them over speakers. It works well with SSH, so we’ll call this a win.

Key card lock

[valenitn] just joined the MIT Media Lab, but something was terribly wrong with his keys – an ID card was required to get into the building, but a key was necessary to get into his office. He doesn’t need the key anymore, at least since he modded his office door. Check out the video.

Pop Tart Cat is everywhere

[skywodd] saw our writeup on the Maximite Basic computer and figured he could send in a project he’s been working on. He programmed his Maximite to sing the nyan cat song and then created a BASIC music player. Nice job, [skywodd].

Not sure if brilliant or insane

[Vikash] ran across a forum post where a user named [I Shooter] describes his setup to dual-boot Windows and Linux: [I Shooter] connected data cables to a pair of SATA hard drives, one loaded up with Windows, the other with Linux. The power cables are switched using relays so only one drive is powered at a time. [I Shooter] gets a ton of points for creativity, but there’s a reason this brute force hardware dual-boot setup isn’t more common. We wish there were pictures of this one.

Epic wooden marble run for kids’ room

Some parents buy kinetic sculptures for their kids at art or craft fairs. Not [Steve Moseley], he turned his kids’ hovel into a sculpture by wrapping a marble run around the entire room. It’s big enough, with so many features that finding a banner image was a bit tough. After the break we’ve embedded a video where you’ll see a wagon wheel lifter, plenty of gravity-fed curves, loops, inclines, rockers, a stair-step lifter, and… well you get the idea.

Considering the scope of the project it was remarkably inexpensive; about $70 in wood, $40 for the glass marbles, and around $60 for everything else. We’re glad he shared his building methods with such verbosity. You’ll need a well-stocked shop. Fine work like this requires tools common for woodworkers, but we’d bet the band saw and oscillating spindle sander were a godsend.

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