Time-lapse synthesizer build will blow your mind

[themonkeybars] recently uploaded a time-lapse video of his DIY synthesizer build. First off the video itself is a pretty neat hack. An iPhone time-lapse app was used to capture one frame every 5 seconds. By the time the build was complete, approximately 46,000 frames had been snapped. This boiled down to over 43 minutes of youtube footage. [themonkeybars] didn’t work full time on the project, so the video covers about a year’s worth of work which we think makes it even cooler. The synth is also featured in much of the video’s soundtrack.

The synthesizer itself would be classified as an analog modular synth, a type we’ve seen before. Modular synthesizers are one of the earlier forms of electronic music. The synthesizer is composed of discrete modules such as oscillators, modulators, and filters. The modules may be housed in the same box, but they are not internally connected. All connections are made via front panel patch cables. This is where the term “Patch” came from. Continue reading “Time-lapse synthesizer build will blow your mind”

Mario plays piano with a little help from Raspberry Pi


[David] has created his own live robot band to play live versions of the music and sound effects of NES games. Most of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s have the music of Nintendo games burned into our brains. While there have been some amazing remixes created over the years, [David] has managed to do something truly unique. Armed with an emulator, some software prowess, and a pair of Raspberry Pis, [Dave] created a system that plays game music and sound effects on analog instruments. A Yamaha Disklavier player piano handles most of the work through a connection to a Raspberry Pi. Percussion is handled by a second Pi.  Snare drum, wood block, and tambourine are all actuated by a custom solenoid setup.

The conversion process all happens on the fly as the game is played. [Dave] says the process has about ½ second of lag when played live, but we’re sure that could be fixed with some software tweaks. Continue reading “Mario plays piano with a little help from Raspberry Pi”

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.

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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? Continue reading “Making a Propane Tank Hank Drum”

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.

Continue reading “Music challenge has you flapping your wrist to make sounds”

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.