Popsicle-Stick Piano Sounds Sweet

Wooden sticks sound good if you clamp them down at one end.

Technically, this is a kalimbaphone, and not a piano or even a chordophone since there are no strings. But this handcrafted instrument doesn’t just sound sweet, it’s also mellow, and it’s much nicer than you’re probably imagining. Go check out the short build video, which starts with a demo.

[Mash] started by drilling a bunch of holes into a rectangular piece of wood, and then twisted in wood screws far enough to stay in. Then [Mash] laid Popsicle sticks between each set of screws and tuned them one at a time, starting with middle C. The Popsicle stick version didn’t sound so great, so [Mash] upgraded to tongue depressors and moved the black keys up to their own layer. Unfortunately, the owner has turned off embeds for the video, so you’ll have to watch it on YouTube.

We’d love to see [Mash] figure out a way to make the sticks resonate. In the meantime, check out this 3D-printed grand piano mechanism. And if this build has you in the mood to listen to Popcorn on a homemade instrument, well, we’ve got you covered there.

Thanks to [Keith] for the tip!

12 thoughts on “Popsicle-Stick Piano Sounds Sweet

  1. “The Popsicle stick version didn’t sound so great, so [Mash] upgraded to tongue depressors…”

    So contrary to the article title, the popsickle-stick piano *didn’t* sound sweet.

  2. There is too much mass in the boards. Make them slim but able to hold the screws, then attach to stiff cardboard or even foam board like those speakers on YouTube that have a mass driver and a lightweight panel instead of a paper cone. The worst thing to do is to place what you have on a dampening sofa cushion. Try placing it on a big cardboard box for starts.

    Sound travels best in a low mass high rigidity medium. The standard is the close gain spruce soundboard of a good piano. Now they’re free for the moving sometimes. Speed of sound in air is Mach 1, speed of sound in spruce Mach 10! Faster than the latest missiles. The vibrations get everywhere fast to move the air efficiently.

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