Using MIDI and Magnets to Produce Tones with Tines

Normally you’d expect the sound of a pipe organ to come from something gigantic. [Matthew Steinke] managed to squeeze all of that rich melodic depth into an acoustic device the size of a toaster (YouTube link) which uses electromagnetism to create its familiar sound.

[Matthew ’s] instrument has a series of thin vertical tines, each coupled with a small MIDI controlled electromagnet. As the magnet pulses with modulation at a specific frequency, the pull and release of the tine causes it to resonate continuously with a particular tone. The Tine Organ is capable of producing 20 chromatic notes in full polyphony starting in middle C and can be used as an attachment to a standard keyboard or a synthesizer app on a smart phone. The classic style body of the instrument is made out of mahogany and babinga and houses the soundboard as well as the mini microcontroller responsible for receiving the MIDI and regulating the software oscillators sending voltage to the magnets.

[Matthew’s] creation is as interesting to look at as it is to listen to, so I’d recommend checking out the video below to hear the awesome sound it produces:

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Quit your job and build a pipe organ

[Raphi Giandiulio] grew tired of designing expensive things for Texas Instruments, so he quit his job and built this organ. Now there is some back story here, [Raphi’s] dad was a professional musician and [Raphi] played trumpet through college. He is a mechanical engineer by trade and that’s where a lot of the expertise for the instrument design came from. The project and the website that documents it are very large in scope, detailing the design process (including CAD drawings), the build, and a tour of his woodshop. The instrument includes 250 pipes and took about four years to finish, concluding in 2007. We weren’t surprised to learn that [Raphi] now has a new job… building organs.

Perhaps you’d be more interested in hacking an existing pipe organ?

[Thanks M]