Hydrocrystallophone Probably Won’t Make You Insane

[Fish] is really proud of his newest creation, the Hydrocrystallophone. This new instrument reminds us of an even more steampunk version of [Benny Franklin]’s glass armonica – an instrument that reportedly plunged the player into a, “dark and melancholy mood.”

The build is based around a 1920s hand-cranked phonograph motor. The phonograph motor spins a wine glass filled with water. The water level (and thus tone produced by the wine glass) is varied by a brass tube inside the glass connected to a hydraulic cylinder. Pushing and pushing on the handle of the hydraulic cylinder causes the water level in the glass to change.

We’ve all seen wine glass music before, but this is the first time we’ve seen it with just one glass. [Fish] is working on modifying the phonograph’s governor to get rid of the effects of 78 RPM on the water. He hasn’t quite mastered his new musical invention yet, but we can’t wait to see what [Fish] is able to play with some practice.

In case you’re keeping track of the musical instruments featured on Hack A Day that fall into the “why didn’t I think of that” bin, The Hydrocrystallophone would be the second such instrument in as many months. It’s a very simple but really ingenious device. Check out the video of the Hydrocrystallophone after the break.


27 thoughts on “Hydrocrystallophone Probably Won’t Make You Insane

  1. Hydrocrystallophone probably will make you insane


    Neat idea, nice implementation, but I don’t see any actual music ever coming out of it… Since the water is just changing the amount of crystal allowed to vibrate, couldn’t you use some other kind of dampener that could be placed at various places around the outside of the glass? Maybe some felt pads on little arms that can swing out of the way in response to a keyboard? You’d probably want to replace the wet finger with some rosin and horsehair, or something, too.

    Still, keep working on it, [Fish]!

  2. I don’t get the name. Sure, hydro and phone, but where’s the crystal? I mean, the point of glass is that is not a crystal at all; it’s the perfect example (and one of few) of a solid which is not a crystal.

    1. The finer glass you use, the better the sound. As it happens, “lead crystal” is some of the finest glass you can purchase. Hence, high-end glasses tend to be known as “crystal-ware.”

  3. The motor needs more torque. The friction from the finger is slowing down the motor and changing the tone even when the water level is stationary. This thing needs a constant speed, and constant coefficient of friction between the “finger” and the glass before the water level will be the only thing influencing the tone. The first problem would be solved by ditching the record player for something with a stepper motor.

  4. nice idea!
    using 7 different tubes controlled by 7 different cylinders of different diameter u r implementing a 7 notes keyboard and with different pressure u can have different octaves.

    1. I was going to say that, electric record player, piston controled by midi controller and violin bow on control arm replacing finger and you have somthing really bizare! Great job though.

      1. Developed in 1919 I see elsewhere, so that’s pretty spot on.

        And I would not be surprised somebody made a rotating glass device too back then, there are so many patents, with many that never panned out to popular products.

  5. Seems the water is transfered rather slowly. Maybe a better exchange of water would make it more practicle to play music on.

    doesn’t seem current design allows him to drasticly change notes.

    Maybe no water exchange at all but something that ocupies the space. fill it 1/4 of the way with water and then have something plunge into it to displace the water. would need to be almost the same size as the inside of the glass.

  6. maybe if an artificial “finger was made maybe out of an small piece of damp leather or similar and then attached to the horn from the phonograph to amplify the sound. Then using lots of small diaphragm pumps in parallel to move a large volume of water at a very fast rate and yet still be accurate instead of the hand pump. maybe having 256 diaphragm pumps and an eight bit binary to decimal converter to play the music straight from the parallel port on an old pc — just an idea

  7. Very cool device. Very original. And a very good example of what I consider “good steampunk” (as opposed to just gluing gears to stuff). I have a couple of cosmetic suggestions though.

    The nylon straps look out of place. Leather would give a more authentic look to it. Also the clear plastic hose could be replaced with black rubber, like from a bicycle pump.

    Some kind of lever attachment might make the pump easier to operate, like you’d find on an old hand-operated water pump, to give finer control.

  8. An ingenious hack. Using a larger diaphragm, rather than a cylinder, should all for faster and more precise control of the water level in the glass. That combined with intermittent application of the finger to the glass may allow individual notes to be played. I don’t know if fish is musician that hacks mechanical thing or not, but if not put this in t he hands of a musician, to see what kind of sound they can coax out of it. Respectfully as demonstrated, this is as musical as kids slide whistle being played by someone with no intention of producing a melody.

  9. beautiful build! I love when projects are completely case-ified with only minor amounts of assembly, it makes it feel like you’re getting more complexity per unit volume than if everything was just in a permanently portable format (true or not).

  10. Hydraulics is my field of expertise.

    Great idea, but what are you planning to do with this. and other thing, if you use pressurized air in a tank and a manual air directional valve you can control the frecuency of the sound easy and faster. Congratulations!!

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