DIY drum triggers & recreating [Bonzo]‘s Vistalites

[Rob] has been working on his drum trigger build, and he’s finally decided to share it with us. His drum heads and triggers don’t look like anything we’ve ever seen, but he’s pretty confident he has a good kit in the works.

The first unconventional of the build is the drum triggers. The triggers are piezo elements folded up or cut down to fit inside highlighter bodies. These piezo/highliter/drum triggers were filled with melted candle wax to make sure the piezo doesn’t rattle around. [Rob] seems to have taken an empirical approach to cutting up piezo elements – smaller elements are less responsive, so they’ll be used for the zones of the drum head.

[Rob]‘s drum heads are made from tennis and badminton raquets. The implementation is actually kind of clever: [Rob] restrings the raquets on the bias to vary the feel and responsiveness of the head. Check out the Flickr photoset of the build here.

The ultimate goal of [Rob]‘s build is a “glass” drum set certainly inspired by [John Bonham]‘s Vistalites. Whenever [Rob] puts up a video playing Moby Dick on his new kit, we’ll be sure to put it up.

ATtiny Hacks: DIY high-speed photography LED lighting rig

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[Tom] wanted to try his hand at high-speed photography and needed some equipment to get things rolling. Not wanting to spend a ton of money on a lighting rig or trigger mechanism, he decided to build his own. In a three part series on his blog, he details the construction and testing of his high-speed setup along with the improvements and lessons learned along the way.

His adventures started out with a small off-brand Cree LED clone and an ATiny15L that was collecting dust in his workshop. He built a simple circuit that would trigger the LED to light his subject, which in [Tom’s] case was a bowl of milk. Rather than using a motion or sound trigger, he opted to mount a small piezo to the bottom bowl, firing the LED any time a droplet hits the bowl’s surface.

The pictures he took were decent, but he knew he could get better results. He purchased a new, more powerful Cree LED, and wrote a small terminal program that allows him to tweak his flash parameters using his laptop. The results he gets now are far better – in fact, he has a whole gallery of pictures you can check out.

If you want to delve into high-speed photography as well, all of the schematics and code can be found on his blog.

ATtiny Hacks: An audio alert for cell phones accidentally left on vibrate

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[John Thomson] usually keeps his phone on vibrate when it’s in his pocket, and he often forgets to turn the ringer back on when setting it down to charge. This typically results in a bunch of missed calls in the meantime, so he had to devise a way to counteract his forgetfulness.

You might remember [John] from the Santa-pede contest we held last December. He wanted to try his hand at yet another competition, the Avnet Dog Days of Summer contest, so he scrambled to come up with a quick fix for his situation. He concocted a simple circuit based on [ChaN’s] design for a “Simple SD Audio Player with an 8-pin IC” that would alert him to incoming calls, even when his phone was on vibrate.

[John] used an ATtiny85, just as [ChaN] did, adding a speaker for sound output and a piezo sensor to detect his phone’s vibrations. When the piezo senses a bit of motion, the audio player kicks in, blaring a series of sounds that are sure to get [John’s] attention.

Building a contact mic using homemade piezo crystals

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[Leafcutter] is big in to making music and has put together all sorts of musical instruments and tools over the years. Recently, he was inspired to make his own piezo crystals, and wrote in to share the results of his experiments with us.

[Leafcutter] is no stranger to messing around with piezo elements, and after seeing [Collin’s] tutorial on making your own piezo crystals at home, he knew he had to give it a try. He stopped by the grocery store to fetch all of the ingredients, then followed [Collin’s] instructions to the letter…well, almost. It seems that he might have cooled the solution too quickly, so he found himself with a jar full of tiny, barely usable piezo crystals instead of larger ones like [Collin] was able to produce.

Undeterred, he decided to see if the stuff was any good, and rigged up a makeshift contact microphone using some conductive foil and a clamp. He piped the output to his amplifier, and wouldn’t you know it…it worked!

He has a small sound clip of what the mic sounded like on his site, and it worked pretty darn well despite the crystal’s tiny size. He is going to give the whole process another go, so we hope to see more experiments with bigger crystals in the near future.

chipKIT Sketch: Mini Polyphonic Sampling Synth

In our hands-on review of the Digilent chipKIT Uno32, we posed the question of what the lasting appeal might be for a 32-bit Arduino work-alike. We felt it needed some novel applications exploiting its special features…not just the same old Arduino sketches with MOAR BITS. After the fractal demo, we’ve hit upon something unique and fun…

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Easter egg hacking

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Spring is upon us and Instructables user [Mischka] decided it was a good idea to combine two flavors we never considered putting together: The Easter Bunny and the A-Team.

He decided to build the egg as an Easter gift for his brother, who is a huge fan of the A-Team. He found a slightly larger than normal plastic egg, and proceeded to paint the shell white, adding a printed picture of Mr. T once the paint had dried.

The guts of the egg are made up of a Picaxe 08M micro controller mounted on a Picaxe protoboard. Rather fond of buzzing, beeping audio, he decided to forgo a normal speaker and opted to use a piezo instead. To activate the music when the egg is shaken, a tilt switch was added to the board as well. He uploaded his software to the Picaxe, sealed up the egg, and called it a day.

We can imagine his brother will be pretty pleased with the creation – who wouldn’t be? We only wish that there was video of the egg in action.

MIDI drum interface helps you step up your game

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[Dan] likes Rock Band, but playing it makes him feel as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking a drumming contest. He says that even using his friend’s ION kit leaves him searching out excuses as to why he’s not as good as he should be on the drums.

Eventually, he decided that he would settle things once and for all. The final excuse he came up with was that it is too difficult to press the drum pedal rapidly without getting tired, as the Rock Band gear does not properly simulate real drum equipment. Bass pedals on professional kits are weighted and balanced to allow the drummer to exert the least amount of work for the most return, resulting in a less tiring experience.

To give him a leg up while playing the game, he decided to rig a trigger to his Yamaha MIDI bass pedal, which is properly weighted. He consulted the Rock Band forums, and after looking at a couple of different circuit diagrams, he designed his own. He etched a PCB, mounted his SMD components, and was well on his way to becoming a drum legend.

He says that the pedal interface works quite well, and despite a couple of tiny soldering setbacks, he has yet to see any errant hits register in-game.

Be sure to check out the video below of his drum trigger undergoing some tests.

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