Unique Instrument Plucks Out Notes On A Ruler

How does one describe the notes that come from a ruler that is anchored on one end and then plucked? The best word we can come up with is “wubulation”. So would that make this ruler-plucking synthesizer a “wubulator”? Or perhaps a “wubatron”?

Whatever we decide to call it, [Dmitry Morozov] dubbed it the RBS-20, or “ruler bass synth, 20-cm”, for the 20-cm stainless steel ruler that forms the heart of the instrument. The ruler is attached to a linear slide which varies the length of the sprung section. A pair of servos can pluck the free section of the ruler in two different places, providing notes in different registers, while another pair of servos control metal fingers that can damp the vibration, change the sustain, and alter the notes. There’s no resonator; the sounds are instead picked up by a piezo mic. Twelve keys on the base of the instrument can be programmed for various lengths, and an OLED display gives the musician feedback. The video below shows the instrument wubulating, and brings us back to those desktop jam sessions in our grade school days — at least until the rulers were confiscated.

We’ve covered a ton of similarly unique musical instruments before, like this hybrid synthesizer-violin, a symphony of soda bottles, and inexplicably, a leg guitar.

18 thoughts on “Unique Instrument Plucks Out Notes On A Ruler

    1. Too bad the robots are renderings.

      The company wouldn’t let someone so close to industrial robots operating at full speed, because one program glitch or a loose wire could make them slap the guy’s head clean off. That’s no joke – there’s a reason why in factories these robots are surrounded with mesh fences and optical tripwires to stop the line.

      1. I was thinking while watching it that it would have been cheaper to render it than deal with the breakages, I wasn’t expecting the ending where literally everything was broken.

  1. Somehow there are many things to like about this project, but the sound isn’t exactly my cup of tea. The looks and compactness of the device really appeals to me. What a fun project! Thanks for posting.

  2. Great build indeed.
    I can’t help thinking there are better sounds in there though.
    Like changing the length while vibrating, and much more.
    With Evey instrument, new or old, you want to listen for it’s sound and bring it out.
    Really nice build, love the keys, but could also be used in a theremin style, perhaps.
    Fun when more time can be spent on working with a project compared to building it.

      1. The end is fixed/pressed by motors. And to me, it sounds pretty clean/optimal. It took me while to find best position for the pickup and longest sustain option. Maybe this is the best what you can get out of this kind of ruler.

  3. You know that de-tuned mechanical clunk you get when you press a piano key, or pluck a guitar string, or blow a flute?
    Me neither.

    Great project, but once again a servo/solenoid powered instrument is flawed by the noise of the actuators being as loud as the notes. I think if he could remove the noise of the robot, there’d be some good sounds in there.

    1. I kinda like all these extra sounds and don’t mind to let them be there. It’s because I’m not really interested in making a clean conventional instrument but a crazy, strange, robotic useless machine. It is more a question of aesthetics and philosophy of modern experimental music / sound art. But I completely understand what and way you say.

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