Steampunk theremin goggles

wearable-theremin-goggles

Lots of people build custom steampunk goggles, but most don’t implement any interactivity – they’re just an aesthetic accessory. [Sarah] recently decided to built a pair that, besides looking cool, would engage the wearer in creating sound. She accomplished this by integrating an optical theremin into their design.

To keep the build both affordable and wearable she researched simplified theremins, and eventually settled on creating a basic model that uses only a handful of components and two 555 timers. The main body of the goggles was constructed using mostly random mismatched pieces of metal and leather.  Mounted on the outer edge of each lens, there is a photo sensor and a corresponding slider control. Adjusting the slider alters the level of resistance, therein changing the pitch of the sound. The theremin will produce different pitches and octaves depending on how much light the sensors receive. So, the wearer, or a nearby friend, waves their hands around the wearers head to control it.

The speaker and volume knob are cleverly disguised as the two ‘lenses’. Rotating the volume knob lens adjusts an internal potentiometer that’s held in place by a custom laser etched piece of acrylic. To top it all off, she even designed her own PCB using Eagle.

Check out a video demonstration after the break.

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Building a Theremincello

building-a-theremin-cello

We totally missed the ball on this project. It should have been run on April Fools’ day and you would have no idea if it were real or a hoax. That’s because the very serious performance given after the break is hard to watch without a least a bit of a chuckle. The instrument shown above is a Theremincello. It’s an instrument in the shape of a cello which functions in a similar way to a Theremin.

The instrument being played in that video clip is the first generation and the one pictured above is its successor. The creator wanted to refine the electronics so that the resulting sound wasn’t so ‘flutey’. The result can be heard on the video embedded in this Theremin World article and we think they’ve accomplished the goal; it sounds much better! In the clip [Thierry Frenkel] demonstrates changing notes on the fingerboard with the left hand. The right hand which would normally bow the strings operates the lever to adjust the volume of the note being played back.

If a single fingerboard isn’t enough for your needs you may consider building this four-track design instead.

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Digital IR Theremin

Digital IR Theremin

This Digital IR Theremin creates tones based on the distance of an object from its IR sensor. There’s no microcontroller here, since the project is part of an Introduction to Digital Electronics course. Instead, it uses a handful of comparators, transistors, AND gates, and a 555 timer to make noise.

The comparators are connected to create window comparators. This configuration will output a digital 1 if the input is between two reference voltages, and 0 if it is not. Using this, the analog output of the IR range sensor can be converted to digital values.

The 555 timer takes care of creating the output waveform. A specific resistor is switched in to the timer’s RC circuit depending on which window comparator is active. This allows for a different tone to be played depending on the distance from the IR sensor.

The result is a square wave, which has a frequency dependant on how close an object is to the IR sensor. By selecting the right resistances for each distance, the theremin can be tuned to play a specific scale.

This is a neat project for people looking to learn digital electronics, and the write up does a great job of explaining the theory. After the break, check out a video of the theremin generating some tones.

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Theremin takes the touch out of multitouch

Multitouch builds are all the rage now, so it’s not surprising someone would come up with a multi-touchless interface sooner or later. [Hanspeter] did just that; his Multi-touchless ribbon controller, a.k.a. Polymagnetophonic Theremin is multi-touch without the touch.

[Hanspeter]’s touchless ribbon controller uses an array of 24 Hall effect sensors that activate whenever a magnet mounted on a thimble is placed near a build. These sensors go to an ARM-equipped Maple Mini to record multitouch events and send them out over Ethernet.

Even though [Hanspeter] is only using his “multi-touchless ribbon sensor” as a theremin, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be put to other uses. It’s entirely possible to place several of these magnetic sensors in an array and build a real Minority Report interface where the user interacts with a computer without touching anything.

After the break is a video demo showing off how much control [Hanspeter] can get with the thimble/magnet setup. There’s also a few demo songs made with SuperCollider showing off a trio of sitar/Moog/harpsichord synths.

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iPhone wielding guitar adds tip of your finger or tip the instrument control

[Rob Morris] has been hard at working improving his guitar augmentation techniques. Here he’s demonstrating the use of an iPhone to control the effects while he plays. This builds on the work he shared a few years ago where he strapped a Wii remote to the body of his ax.

Just like the Wii remote, the iPhone includes an accelerometer. As you would expect the best parts of the older hack made it into this one, but the inclusion of the touch screen adds a lot more. In the clip after the break he starts by showing off the screen controlling a whammy bar functionality. But we really love the octave offset feature that comes next. This kind of sound manipulation simply can’t be done using a purely physical method (like the whammy bar can). But he’s not done yet. The demo finishes with a Theremin feature. You’ll notice he plucks a string but no sound comes out until he starts touching the screen. This turns it into an entirely different type of instrument.

The only info we have about putting this together is the list of packages he’s using:  TouchOSC, Max/Msp, and GuitarRig

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Quick and easy Arduino-powered theremin

[Martin] sent in a great guide to a simple Arduino based theremin. It’s a very small build – just a single common IC and some passive components – and easy enough to build in an afternoon.

The theremin is based on a simple LC oscillator built around a 7400 quad NAND gate IC, a wire antenna, and a few caps and resistors. When a hand moves closer to the antenna, the frequency of the oscillator increases; when a hand moves away, the frequency decreases. On the software side, the oscillator is connected to the internal hardware counter of the Arduino. Every time there’s a change in the voltage output by the oscillator (all the time, varying slightly with the distance from a hand to the antenna), the counter increases by one. This counter is tallied up over 1/10th of a second, and the distance from the instrumentalist to the theremin can be determined. From there, it’s just outputting a frequency to a speaker.

All the code, schematics, and board layouts are available on [Martin]’s guide, and most of our readers probably have the parts to build this lying around their workbench. You can check out a video of [Martin]’s theremin in action on his guide.

Mini IR theremin

[Chris] at PyroElectro sent in a great 8-part write-up of a miniature infrared theremin.

The theremin is based on a PIC microcontroller and an infrared distance sensor.  The build log goes through the theory of operations for the IR sensor and tone generation. [Chris] definitely does a great job showing the math that went into the design.

Although this project isn’t a true theremin because it operates on light like a few other projects we’ve covered in the past, it’s easier to play because of the hard-coded notes. The build does show some promise though – he could likely expand it to use more accurate ultrasonic sensors or use, “two proximity sensors, one for treble and one for bass like an accordion.”

The theremin is usually played with both hands providing a continuous pitch and volume. This project features hard-coded, discrete notes, so we’re wondering about the possibility of implementing MIDI on this IR theremin. The original MIDIbox was based on the same microcontroller as this project, so it’s definitely a possibility.

Check out the video of the theremin in action below.

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