MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, has been the standard for computer control of musical instruments since the 1980s. It is most often associated with electronic instruments such as synthesisers, drum machines, or samplers, but there is nothing to stop it being applied to almost any instrument when combined with the appropriate hardware.
[phearl3ss1] pushes this to the limit by adding MIDI to the most unlikely of instruments. A harmonica might seem to be the ultimate in analogue music, yet he’s created an ingenious Arduino-powered mechanism to play one under MIDI control.
The harmonica itself is mounted on a drawer slide coupled to a wheel taken from a pool sweeper and powered by a motor that can move the instrument from side to side with a potentiometer providing positional feedback to form a simple servo. The air supply comes from a set of three bellows driven via a crank from another motor, and is delivered by what looks like a piece of PVC pipe to the business end of the harmonica.
The result is definitely a playable MIDI harmonica, though it doesn’t quite catch the essence of the human-played instrument. Judge for yourselves, he’s posted a build video which we’ve placed below the break.
Harmonica header image: Grassinger [CC BY-SA 3.0].