All About That Bass – Marble Machine X Keeps Growing

We’re okay if you call out Not A Hack™ on this one, because “hack” really doesn’t do justice to the creations of [Martin] from [Wintergatan]. You’re probably familiar with the Marble Machine that went viral a few years ago, and while it was impressive as-is back then, and most people would have declared the project finished at that point, it has turned into a seemingly never-ending work-in-progress project that has certainly come a long way ever since. Its latest addition: the Cyber Capos as upgrade for the bass, and you can find out all about it in its build video — also embedded below.

If you play a string instrument and ever used a capo — the clamping little helper device to smack the pitch up — you may have found yourself wishing that you could use it on any arbitrary fret on each string. Sure, there are partial capos and the spider capo to select individual strings, but you’re still limited to transpose along a single fret. Well, [Martin]’s Cyber Capos, a mechanical construct of four arms sliding along the neck, serve exactly that purpose, which allows him to free up his hands for other things while the marbles keep bouncing.

But you don’t have to be a bass player, or any musician really, to appreciate [Martin]’s build videos. We praised his general attitude and hacker-like spirit already the first time we mentioned the Marble Machine, and just watching him getting excited about his work and the appreciation for people supporting and assisting in the project, while embracing his mistakes, is a genuine delight.

Needless to say that [Martin] likes some uniqueness in music instruments, and the bass with its separate volume control and output for each string qualifies on its own for that. If you’re curious about more on that, there’s another video about it embedded after the break. And for the really impatient ones, you can see the capos in action in the first video around the 12:35 mark.

23 thoughts on “All About That Bass – Marble Machine X Keeps Growing

    1. How is it not? He took something, broke it down, improved it with components he manufactured, and integrated the final design into an existing machine that he has built over time.

      Isn’t that the literal definition?

      1. Though, he also designed and made the guitar from scratch as well as practically every other component on the whole machine. (There are some exceptions here and there, like the screws are off the shelf, the ball bearings too, as well as some other tidbits.)

        Though, not always personally, it has been a team effort. (Except a large portion that he literally do make himself, or on his CNC router.)

        The term “hack” is usually referring to taking something that one didn’t develop oneself or as a team and making alterations to it.

        So what Martin is doing is more along the lines of product development than what it is hacking.

        1. “Hack” also refers to “a tip or technique for doing or improving something”, so I think this applies. But yeah, “product development” is probably more apt.

          1. No it doesn’t – a hack in that sense is an improvised ad-hoc solution or technique in want of something better. A hack is not an improvement but a stopgap.

    2. Are you serious? The marble machine X is without a doubt the most involved, complex, beautifully designed and crafted, and documented (with the weekly vlog) maker project I have ever seen. And it involves plenty of “hacks”, like that custom bass made out of an off the shelf one milled out with CNC.

  1. Definitely a hack — but a very, very good one.

    His four-way adjustment plates were absolutely brilliant in their simplicity. Sounds fantastic, too! 4-channel bass, crazy!

  2. It’s a great hack and very nice contraption, but the bass sound is somehow, “off” or strange, I cannot describe it but it sounds like the vibration gets somehow restricted at the peaks.

    1. I imagine the delrin “fingers” limit the strings ringing, so the notes are very fast and clinical, resulting in quick decay. I suspect it might be intentional mixing, too.

      That’s just a guess though.

  3. When I saw those sliders, the first thing I thought, those are going to make noise and wear out quick…
    To me it seems so logical.
    Just curious, among all the different ideas, have you thought of delrin wheels (pulleys) rolling over strings?

  4. I have never seen a capo on a bass before. You don’t see people using capo’s a lot playing lead guitar either. The most popular use seems to be to move cowboy chords into a vocalists range. You learn about the darndest things here.

  5. I have been watching the process of him whittling away at this thing for several years now. It is now ‘done’. But lots more hacks will be needed to finish and tune.

    There is one big one I think he is overlooking. How in *the* *world* is he going to move that thing around without it breaking. LTL shipping is not exactly kind to most objects. This one looks finiky and in his last vid he showed how one screw brought the whole thing to a screeching halt. Now take that by 1000x. He is going to make some cool music with it of that I never had any doubt. But taking it on tour may be not be in the cards without tons more work. I have seen him playing with 1-2mm on some items for it to sound correct. When he realizes his ‘must move around’ issue it should be interesting how he works around it.

    1. I’ve been following this since the beginning, and in the beginning he made a point to design it to be modular and easy to dis/reassemble, but as time went on that hasn’t been mentioned… I guess it *could* be dis/reassembled now, but it would take a long time and a lot of work to do this. At least the CAD model of the entire thing could be used as a guide.

      But technically I already have tickets to the world tour (from supporting on YouTube membership for a year) so I’m hoping for the best!

    2. It has been designed from the start to break into separate sections to allow for easier shipping. I think he said recently that he knows he needs to revisit some stuff to make it more robust, but its not fair to say he’s overlooking it. Its been on his mind since the early days.

      1. Oh I know I have watched the vids too and clearly remember the module bits he mentioned. But when he is breaking out a wrench to move something by 1-2mm that does not strike me as something that will take the rigors of road travel. I look forward to how he solves it. Baby steps would involve taking it apart and moving it across the room and see what breaks.

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