ServoBender, The Electronic Pedal Steel

You’ve most certainly heard a pedal steel guitar before, most likely in any ‘old’ country song, or more specifically, any country song that doesn’t include the word ‘truck’ in its lyrics. Pedal steels are strange devices, looking somewhat like a 10-string guitar with levers that change the pitch of individual strings. Historically, there have been some attempts to put a detuning mechanism for individual strings in normal electric guitars, but these are somewhat rare and weird. [Gr4yhound] just nailed it. He’s come up with the perfect device to emulate a pedal steel in a real guitar, and it sounds really, really good.

The imgur album for this project goes over the construction of the ServoBender in a bit more detail than the video. Basically, four servos are mounted to a metal plate below the bridge. Each servo has a spring and cam system constructed out of 3D printed parts. The detuning is controlled by an Arduino and a few sustain pedals retrofitted with hall effect sensors. Simple, really, but the effect is astonishing.

[Gra4hound]’s contraption is actually very similar to a B-Bender where a guitarist pushes on the neck to raise the pitch of the B string. This setup, though, is completely electronic, infinitely adjustable, and can be expanded to all six strings. Very, very cool, and it makes us wonder what could be done with one of those freaky robot guitars, a soldering iron, and a bit of code.

Video below, because you should watch it again.

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Have An Unused DIY Instrument? Send It On Tour With [Imogen Heap]

goofys a dog and plutos a dog but goofy can talk whaaa

[Imogen Heap] is well-known for performing with DIY and cobbled-together instruments, and now she’s teaming up with another famous DIY instrument musician for a world tour. That’s the cool part, now here’s the awesome part: they want to take your DIY musical instrument on tour for a scrapyard symphony.

Both [Imogen] and [Leafcutter] are semi-regular Hackaday features, with [Leafcutter] building hydrophones and [Imogen] doing some crazy stuff turning gestures into music. They’re both known for their strange and esoteric sounds that sends Rolling Stone writers scrambling for a thesaurus, and now they want your disused or discarded music machines to use live on their world tour.

The team is looking for video submissions of any musical creatures you’d like to send around the world. The only real guideline on what they’re looking for is, ‘the weirder the better’, with an apparent slight emphasis on physical machines over the purely electronic.

Video of the duo below.

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The Mostly 3D Printed Violin

violin

While Thingiverse is filled with Ocarinas, there’s little in the way of printable instruments for more serious musicians. [David Perry] hopes to change this with the F-F-Fiddle, the mostly 3D printed full-size electric violin.

The F-F-Fiddle is an entry for the LulzBot March 3D Printing Challenge to make a functional, 3D printed musical instrument. Already there are a few very, very interesting submissions like this trombone, but [David]’s project is by far the most mechanically complex; unlike the other wind and percussion instruments found in the contest, there are a log of stresses found in a violin, and printing a smooth, curved fingerboard is quite the challenge.

While there are a few non-printed parts, namely the strings, a drill rod used as a truss rod, some awesome looking tuners, and of course the piezo pickups – the majority of this violin, including the bridge, is 3D printed. It’s an amazing piece of work, and after listening to the video (below), sounds pretty good too.

You can grab all the files on Thingiverse and read up on the build at Openfab PDX.

 

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The Melloman, Mk. II

mello

Way back in the 60s, strange electronic instruments were all the rage. The most famous of these made before the era of the synthesizer was the embodiment of musique concrète, the Mellotron. This instrument had an incredibly complex arrangement of magnetic tape that allowed a performer to play a keyboard and have the sound of any instrument come out of a speaker. This system was prone to failure, and there has been a lot of technological improvements in tape over the last fifty years, leading [Mike Walters] to build a new version of his famous Walkman-based Mellotron, the Melloman.

This build is an upgrade over the previous Melloman made in 2009. Like the original, this build uses 14 portable tape players, each loaded up with a continuous tape for each note. The tapes contain two octaves of the same note, one each on each channel, which are routed to the output whenever a key is pressed.

There are a few improvements over the old Melloman. Instead of transistors, [Mike] is using optocouplers to send the recorded sounds to the output. This build is also a whole lot cleaner, with the wiring looking very professional. As for a sound demo, you can check out the video below.

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X-Labs hackerspace completes a big 2-year Tesla coil build

x-labs-tesla-coil-build

It’s a bit difficult to estimate the size of the Tesla coil from this picture, but look closely at the hand rail on the red-orange wall to the left and that helps. The 10-foot tall musical Tesla Coil project has been on-going for about two years. But the team at X-Labs — a hackerspace affiliated with the University of South Florida — finished it just in time for the University’s engineering expo later in the month. There’s some information about it to be found in the recent student newspaper article on the project. A lot more build details are found on the groups website, although that post is quite old.

You can’t call it a musical coil unless there’s a demo video, and that can be seen after the jump. What better to test the thing than by playing the Super Mario Bros. theme? We’re actually more partial to the Imperial March (it’s also fun to hear played on stepper motors).

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Musical greeting card with minimal parts

We’re all familiar with those musical greeting cards. Give the Hallmark store $10, and you have a card with a microcontroller inside that plays one of several songs available. [Jarv] was playing around with translating MIDI tracks to square wave songs with an Arduino earlier, so he decided to see how cheaply he could reproduce these musical cards. The resulting build allows him to put any song he wants in his card and costs less than the Hallmark offering.

The circuit is extremely minimal – just an ATtiny 85, a battery holder, and two piezo speakers for two-voice harmony. After soldering up the battery and speakers, [Jarv] needed a way to get music on his chip. For this, he used MuseScore, a music notation program that allows [Jarv] to merge multiple voices together.

Once the sheet music was cleaned up, [Jarv] used his XML2H Python script that takes MIDI data and spits out frequencies and delays. In the end, [Jarv] spent less than $5 on his greeting card – almost cheap enough to start thinking about musical throwies to complement the batteries, LEDs and magnets on our window flashing.

Check out the video after the break to hear [Jarv]’s circuit play the theme from Toy Story.

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Why wasn’t this magnetic cello made in the 70’s?

[magnetovore] made himself an electronic cello. Instead of pulling a few cello samples off of an SD card, he did it the old school analog way. The finished build is really impressive and leaves us wondering why we haven’t seen anything like this before.

[magnetovore] uses a permanent magnet to play each ‘string’. A lot of details are in this post and [magnetovore]’s provisional patent (PDF warning). From what we can gather, each string is a resistive ribbon sensor connected to a voltage controlled oscillator. The output of the VCO is sent to a variable gain amplifier that is controlled by a coil of wire and the magnetic ‘bow’.

From the video (after the break), [magnetovore] already has an amazing reproduction of the cello sound. It’s a bit electronic on the lowest parts of the C string, but with a little bit of processing it could definitely pass for an acoustic instrument. We’re left wondering why we haven’t seen anything like this cello before. VCOs and VGAs were the bread and butter of the old Moogs and even the ancient ondes martenot. Ribbon controllers were being attached to electronic instruments back in the 50’s, so we’re really at a loss on why a magnetic cello is new to us. If any Hack A Day readers have seen anything like this before, leave a message in the comments.

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