A Violin Bow Lightsaber

[Bithead942]’s ten-year-old niece is a huge Star Wars fan, and also a violinist. Which of course has led her to learn to play some of the music from the film franchise, and then to ask her uncle to make her violin bow light up like a lightsaber.

His solution might seem fairly straightforward at first sight, simply attach a strip of DotStar addressable LEDs to a bow and drive them from an Arduino Pro Mini to gain the required animation of a saber power-up. But of course, there’s another dimension to this project. Not only does the bow have to do its lightsaber trick, it also has to be a playable bow. The electronics must not impede the musician by being too heavy or intrusive, but the result must have enough power in reserve to keep the lights burning for the duration of a performance.

After experimentation with AAA cells and CR2032s the power requirement was satisfied by a tiny Li-po cell attached to the top of the end of the bow with industrial Velcro, and the LED strip was glued and further secured using tiny rubber bands of the type used by orthodontists.

A short demonstration of the bow’s lightsaber action is shown below the break, we’re sure it’ll impress the young violinist’s audience.

Continue reading “A Violin Bow Lightsaber”

World’s Tiniest Violin Uses Radar and Machine Learning

The folks at [Design I/O] have come up with a way for you to play the world’s tiniest violin by rubbing your fingers together and actually have it play a violin sound. For those who don’t know, when you want to express mock sympathy for someone’s complaints you can rub your thumb and index finger together and say “You hear that? It’s the world’s smallest violin and it’s playing just for you”, except that now they can actually hear the violin, while your gestures control the volume and playback.

[Design I/O] combined a few technologies to accomplish this. The first is Google’s Project Soli, a tiny radar on a chip. Project Soli’s goal is to do away with physical controls by using a miniature radar for doing touchless gesture interactions. Sliding your thumb across the side of your outstretched index finger, for example, can be interpreted as moving a slider to change the numerical value of something, perhaps turning up the air conditioner in your car. Check out Google’s cool demo video of their radar and gestures below.

Project Soli’s radar is the input side for this other intriguing technology: the Wekinator, a free open source machine learning software intended for artists and musicians. The examples on their website paint an exciting picture. You give Wekinator inputs and outputs and then tell it to train its model.

The output side in this case is violin music. The input is whatever the radar detects. Wekinator does the heavy lifting for you, just give it input like radar monitored finger movements, and it’ll learn your chosen gestures and perform the appropriately trained output.

[Design I/O] is likely doing more than just using Wekinator’s front end as they’re also using openFrameworks, an open source C++ toolkit. Also interesting with Wekinator is their use of the Open Sound Control (OSC) protocol for communicating over the network to get its inputs and outputs. You can see [Design I/O]’s end result demonstrated in the video below.

Continue reading “World’s Tiniest Violin Uses Radar and Machine Learning”

The Hovalin: Open Source 3D Printed Violin Sounds Great

[Matt and Kaitlin Hova] have created The Hovalin, an open source 3D-printed violin. Yes, there have been 3D-printed instruments before, but [The Hovas] have created something revolutionary – a 3D printed acoustic instrument that sounds surprisingly good. The Hovalin is a full size violin created to be printed on a desktop-sized 3D printer. The Hovas mention the Ultimaker 2, Makerbot Replicator 2 (or one of the many clones) as examples. The neck is one piece, while the body is printed in 3 sections. The Hovalin is also open source, released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license.

A pure PLA neck would not be stiff enough counter the tension in the strings, so [The Hovas] added two carbon fiber truss rods. A handful of other components such as tuners, and of course strings, also need to be purchased. The total price is slightly higher than a $60 USD starter violin from Amazon, but we’re betting the Hovalin is a better quality instrument than anything that cheap.

The Hovalin was released back in October. There are already some build logs in the wild, such as this one from [Emulsifide]. Like any good engineering project, the Hovalin is a work in progress. [Matt and Kaitlin] have already released version 1.0.1, and version 2.0 is on the horizon. Hearing is believing though, so click past the break to hear [Kaitlin] play her instrument.

Continue reading “The Hovalin: Open Source 3D Printed Violin Sounds Great”

Ro-Bow, The Violin Playing Robot

There are robots that will vacuum your house, mow your lawn, and keep their unblinking electronic eyes on you at all times while hovering hundreds of feet in the air. How about a robot that plays a violin? That’s what [Seth Goldstein] built. He calls it a ‘kinetic sculpture’, but there more than enough electronics and mechatronics to keep even the most discerning tinkerer interested.

There are three main parts of [Seth]’s violin-playing kinetic sculpture. The first is a bow carriage that draws the bow across the strings using an electromagnet to press the bow against the strings. The individual strings are fingered with four rubber disks, and a tilting mechanism rotates the violin so the desired string is always underneath the bow and mechanical fingers.

As far as software goes, the Ro-Bow transforms MIDI files into robotic mechanization that make the violin sing. From what we can tell, it’s not quite as good as a human player; only one string at a time can be played. It is, however, great at what it does and is an amazing mechanical sculpture.

Video Below.

Continue reading “Ro-Bow, The Violin Playing Robot”

One Man’s Mini Symphony of Many Strings

If you don’t get along with your orchestra, screw ‘em. [Vladimir Pliassov] proves that you can play each of the virtuosic string instruments yourself, all at the same time (with the exception of the double bass of course).

For the life of me, I can’t imagine how long it took to get situated in this spider’s web of moving parts, but it’s impressive. With the help of this unique mechanical invention all his own, [Vladimir] is able to finger not only the neck of a violin and viola, but also a cello hoisted at an angle below his desk so that he can execute chords with his FEET. To help with the actual sound-making, a complex series of resinous fibers turn on a continuous mill of wooden beams and are tensioned ever so carefully over the bridge of each instrument. [Vladimir] controls which string is making contact with the turning fibers with a pulley wrapped around his thigh that rocks the body of the instrument back and forth.

[Vladimir] gives us an overview of his machine and how it works in the video below. If you’re itching to see it used for the purpose it was created for, well… there’s a video for that too. Even though the quality of the performance suffers a little due to the complicated nature of the setup, [Vladimir] is playing of all things, a piece for the pipe organ by J.S. Bach. Bach being hard mode in any case, let alone the one where you’re playing all the instruments yourself.

Thanks [tinkartank] for pointing out this unique invention. It’s definitely worthy of some awe!

Continue reading “One Man’s Mini Symphony of Many Strings”

Restoring a Violin with 3D Printed Parts



Every family has an heirloom. It might be a watch, a book, or a stuffed pet. [Mike’s] family heirloom was an antique violin. Well, not an entire violin. This particular violin consisted of a detached neck, a body, and one tuning peg. As far as [Mike] knows, no living member of his family has heard it played.  [Mike] decided to restore it to playable condition.

[Mike’s] violin had been brought over to America when his family emigrated from France. The primary reason it has been saved is because it bears the name Stradivarius.  Stradivarius copies and tributes are plentiful in the wild. Many of the copies are now antiques and good playing instruments in their own right, though not nearly as revered as the real thing. [Mike’s] first step was to determine if his violin was a real Strad, or a copy. Luckily he was able to get in touch with the caretaker of a real Strad in Milwaukee. It turns out that the label on his violin marks it as a copy. According to the caretaker, genuine Stradivarius instruments were signed directly on the wood. The caretaker was further able to identify that [Mike’s] violin was about 100 years old, and a relatively cheap model for the time.

While it wasn’t a real Stradivarius, the violin was still an important part of [Mike’s] family history, and deserved to be played again. Rather than re-create the missing parts to perfectly match the originals, [Mike] decided to use the resources of the Milwaukee Makerspace to create 3D printed parts.

Similar violin parts were scanned at the Makerspace. The final .stl files were sent to Shapeways for printing. [Mike] sent all the parts to a luthier for final fitting and assembly. [Mike’s] family heirloom is no longer an item to be hidden away, but a living breathing instrument for a new generation to enjoy.



The Mostly 3D Printed 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.


Continue reading “The Mostly 3D Printed Violin”