Pipe Your Way Through The Jams

Playing the bagpipes is an art that takes a significant effort to master, both in keeping a constant air supply through balancing blowstick and bag and in learning the finger positions on the chanter. This last task we are told requires constant finger practice, and a favorite place for this is on the steering wheel as a would-be piper drives. [DZL] therefore took this to the next level, placing touch sensors round a car steering wheel that could be interpreted by an Arduino Pro Mini to produce a passable facsimile of a set of bagpipes via an in-car FM transmitter. It lacks the drone pipes of the real thing, but how many other Škodas feature inbuilt piping?

We’ve covered an unexpected number of bagpipe projects over the years, but never had a close look at this rather fascinating musical instrument. If you are curious, the US Coast Guard pipe band has a short guide to its parts, and we’ve brought you a set of homemade pipes built from duct tape and PVC pipe. They may once have been claimed as an instrument of war, but they seem to also be a favorite instrument of hardware hackers.

Thanks [Sophi] for the tip.

15 thoughts on “Pipe Your Way Through The Jams

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Highland-type pipes being played live that were 100% in tune. The player is usually half unconscious with all the blowing required to notice. Uilleann pipes, in my opinion, sound much less like a cat being tortured, possibly because they don’t need all the blowing and also seem to use a greater range of notes.

      1. They played pipes, while they could have been wielding a weapon instead.

        Steering wheel fingering does cause a distraction. Your mind is occupied with something else. A whole lot of your concentration is going towards hitting the right note instead of paying attention to traffic. Ask any driver if he had a moment when their mind was so occupied with something that they couldn’t remember important details about their driving. They will most certainly answer “More than once.”

        And we haven’t even talked about the issue of holding the wheel just with ones fingertips yet. When someone takes your right of way or someone/something pops up in front of you, every damn fraction of a second counts. If you need to sverve around something or someone, you won’t be able to do so with your fingertips. You’ll need a really firm grip of your steering wheel, which means having to reposition your hands, losing precious time. Time that could make the difference between a scare, a bruise, an injury or death of someone.

        Think of it, having my foot over my brake pedal instead of my throttle once saved me from crashing into an idiot on a DUI tour, taking my right of way and coming to a stop in front of me. There were about 10cm of room between our cars when i stopped after going 80kmh/50mph. 22 meters per second. Even if you manage to get your foot from the throttle to the brake in half a second, you’ve traveled 11 meters during that. Half a second made a difference between two hurt/injured people and two totaled cars at 2AM in the night vs. both drivers and vehicles getting home safely.

  1. Dear Sweet Deity-of-Your-Choice!

    This is actually an idea I had as well!! Not that I was actually going to persue it, as I thought the distracted driving possibility (especially for myself) would be WAY too high. That, and the skills, motivation, time, perseverance were never aligned.

    An offshoot Scottish snare drummers’ version would be easy by comparison, but bonus points for putting one in the passenger dashboard (debatable whether you should alter the passenger airbag depending on your preference to said drummer).

    No crunluath a machs while turning please.

  2. “They may once have been claimed as an instrument of war…”
    Finally, someone just explained bagpipes.

    I’m surprised that no one has used a BLDC controlled fan to create a constant pressure controlled air supply for the bagpipes. That’s what CPAPs use, right?

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