Completely analog electronic music box

For the Ottawa Mini-Maker Faire this year, [Steven Dufresne] created an electronic take on the classic mechanical music box.

A typical music box uses a sequence of bumps on a rotating drum to pluck the tuned teeth (called lamellae) of a metal comb. Steven ditched the drum and comb and replaced them with a strip of paper and a single 555 timer.  The timer is configured as an astable oscillator with a fixed capacitor and charging resistor.  The discharge resistor is selected via a series of 13 shaped wires that drag along the strip of paper.  When a wire drags over a hole, it is connected to a copper pad below that is soldered to a specific resistor.  This completes the circuit and generates a tone specific to the resistor selected.

While the electrical aspects of the project are fairly simple (not even requiring a circuit board), the mechanical parts are much more sophisticated.  Steven had problems getting the dragging wires to make good contact and keeping the paper roll pulled tight.  He outlines all of these challenges and how he solved them in his very thorough video summary (embedded after the break).  With all of his incremental improvements to the design, the finished music box stood up to a whole 14 hours of abuse at the Faire.

[Read more...]

Making a Propane Tank Hank Drum


A [Hank Drum], as explained here, is a steel drum-type instrument made out of a propane tank. The name comes from the [Hang] or [Hang Drum] which is significantly more expensive than that $40 or so an empty propane tank costs. Of course, you’ll have to do some work to get it to play beautiful music, which can be seen in a time-lapse construction video after the break.

The details of how this instrument was made can be found here, including how to lay everything out and cut out eight relatively neat “tongues” for producing different tones. I used a Dremel tool, but this can also be done using saber saw for a curved top. This method is explained here with a template, but the results may not be as neat.

If you want to try this yourself, make sure to use an empty, unused propane tank. This is extremely important. For another entirely different homemade instrument, why not check out the [Whamola] that we made a year or so ago? [Read more...]

Music challenge has you flapping your wrist to make sounds


This glove controller let you play a musical game. The challenge is to perform the correct wrist motions at the right tempo to play the intro to the song Where is my Mind by the Pixies. This is demonstrated in the video clip after the break.

We often see flex sensors used on the fingers of glove projects, but this one does it all with an accelerometer. That module, along with the Piezo buzzer used for playback are affixed to the small breadboard on the back side of his hand. Rubber bands connect the Arduino to his third and forth fingers. The tempo and rhythm are pre-programmed but the tone generated is based on the gravity reading at the start of each note. If you don’t have your hand positioned correctly the wrong tone will be played.

The code was published in link at the top. It would be fun to see this altered as a hacked Simon Says game.

[Read more...]

Giving the iPod Nano a home on a Honda dashboard

[Hyeinkali's] iPod Nano looks right at home on the dashboard of his 2001 Honda Accord. He got rid of the simple LCD clock and the buttons that were used to set it. The hack holds the iPod securely in place, but it remains easy to remove and take with you.

He started by popping out the bezel that holds the clock module and hazard light button in place. The original display was about the same width as the Nano, but he wasn’t interested in mounting the mp3 player under the dash. Since he needed to be able to take it with him to sync his music library he made a space near the bottom of the bezel to accept the connector end of the USB cable while keeping the device accessible. After connecting the other end to power he covered the hole in the bezel with mesh and put everything back together. We’re not sure if audio is piped into the car stereo via a cable or through Bluetooth, but it does feed to the head unit.

[via Reddit]

Toorcamp: Banana Piano

Banana Piano

[Michael] built his own clone of the popular MaKey MaKey Kickstarter project. His implementation uses an ATMega328 and the V-USB stack to connect as a USB Human Interface Device. He was showing it off at Toorcamp wired up to a banana piano, which captured the interest of kids and adults alike.

The digital inputs are pulled to ground with a large (10 Mohm) resistance. The user holds a supply voltage in one hand and completes the circuit by touching a conductive object like a banana, which is connected to a digital input of the ATMega328. Since the internal resistance across your body is typically around 1 Mohm, this pulls the input high and corresponds to a key being pressed on a normal keyboard.

We featured banana pianos before, and it’s a great demo of the interfaces that can be built with this project. This implementation is very simple, and works well if your internal resistance is low enough. [Michael] taught a workshop at Toorcamp to show people how to build their own. He has found that the ‘magic’ of playing music with bananas is a great way to get children interested in electronics.

Musical light show is far less complex than you might think


[Matt and Jason Tardy], who make up the musical performance duo known as AudioBody, were recently featured on Make: explaining how they put on one of their trademark segments. The most popular portion of their show features color changing tubes of light which the pair spin and fling around not unlike a higher-tech version of the Blue Man Group. While the visuals are pretty slick, the technique behind it is far simpler than most people initially imagine.

As you can see in video below, the tubes look to be nothing more than simple white lights. As the brothers work through their performance however, the tubes switch from white to blue and back again with a liquid-like transition between the colors.

The [Tardys] say that most people peg a microcontroller or other complex electronics as the source of their light wizardry, but the real answer is much simpler. Embedded in the end of each tube is a bright LED flashlight. A sliding blue filter positioned inside the tube provides the silky smooth transition between colors – no fancy electronics required.

If you would like to see how they were built, be sure to swing by the AudioBody web site for a how-to presentation by the [Tardys] themselves.

[Read more...]

Tunes in the icebox

A couple of years back [Bryan's] iPod went on the fritz. It wasn’t completely broken, as long as he kept it really cold it still worked. So what was he to do with the crippled device? We’ve all heard of elevator music. [Bryan] decided to invent refrigerator music.

First he needed some speakers. A trip to the Goodwill store netted him a pair for under $5. They need A/C power, and the project depends on sensing when the door to the refrigerator is open. He killed two birds with one stone by adding a light socket outlet adapter. This provides a place to plug in the speakers’ power adapter, and it only gets juice when the door is opened. The gimpy iPod just constantly loops through the tracks stored within, but you’ll only hear it when the door is open and the speakers receive power. Of course the iPod will eventually run its own battery down so [Bryan] ran an extension cord out the side of the door to a wall outlet. This interrupts the door seal and we wish there were another way to keep it contained within.


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