Keeping Magnetized Marbles From Stopping The Music

Take a couple of thousand steel balls, add a large wooden gear with neodymium magnets embedded in it, and what do you get? Either the beginnings of a wonderful kinetic music machine, or a mess of balls all stuck together and clogging up the works.

The latter was the case for [Martin], and he needed to find a way to demagnetize steel balls in a continuous process if his “Marble Machine X” were to see the light of day. You may recall [Martin] as a member of the band Wintergatan and the inventor of the original Marble Machine, a remarkable one-man band that makes music by dropping steel balls on various instruments. As fabulous a contraption as the original Marble Machine was, it was strictly a studio instrument, too fragile for touring.

Marble Machine X is a complete reimagining of the original, intended to be robust enough to go on a world tour. [Martin] completely redesigned the lift mechanism, using magnets to grip the balls from the return bin and feed them up to a complicated divider. But during the lift, the balls became magnetized enough to stick together and no longer roll into the divider. The video below shows [Martin]’s solution: a degausser using magnets of alternating polarity spinning slowly under the sticky marbles. As a side note, it’s interesting and entertaining to watch a musician procrastinate while debugging a mechanical problem.

We can’t wait to see Marble Machine X in action, but until it’s done we’ll just settle for [Martin]’s other musical hacks, like his paper-tape programmed music box or this mashup of a synthesizer and a violin.

18 thoughts on “Keeping Magnetized Marbles From Stopping The Music

      1. In times where education implied you’re were proficient in Greek Latin Calculus poetry music engineering and science being an inventor was the skill of putting these talents together. Specialized fields today have destroyed that synergistic out of the box intuition. Being a good inventor is being half ass skilled in a lot of disciplines.

  1. While you’re browsing around the Wintergatan youtube channel, also check out the Music Machine Mondays videos, where Martin worked together with Museum de Speelklok in Utrecht to showcase some of their music machines and organs. It’s awesome to see how complex some of these old music machines.

  2. I’ve been a subscriber to his YouTube channel for quite some time. Not only is he rapidly progressing as an engineer and builder, but he’s quite gifted in composition and skilled at virtually every instrument…I hate him so much. Just kidding. If he ever gets a US tour going, I will make the trip to go see them.

  3. I would have thought the sharp blow delivered by dropping them through his contraptions would have been enough. Often, percussive maintenance knocks out the slight magnetization picked up from sticking to a magnet.

    1. Probably would work, but think of the background noise a thousand dropping marbles would add. Yeah, most of the instruments that he’ll be adding to the machine will have electronic pickups, but Martin seems keenly interested look and feel of his builds, and I doubt he wants to add to the clatter any more than necessary.

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