Auto Xylophone Uses Homemade Solenoids

Want to play the xylophone but don’t want to learn how? [Rachad]’s automatic xylophone might be just the ticket. It uses homemade solenoids to play tunes under computer control. Think of it as a player piano but with electromagnetic strikers instead of piano keys. You can hear the instrument in action in the video below.

Since the project required 24 solenoids, [Rachad] decided to build custom ones using coils of wire and nails. We were amused to see a common curling iron used as an alternate way to apply hot glue when building the coils. The other interesting part of the project was the software. He now uses a toolchain to convert MIDI files into a serial output read by the Arduino. Eventually, he wants to train an AI to read sheet music, but that’s down the road, apparently.

Honestly, we were a bit surprised that it sounded pretty good because we understand that the material used to strike the xylophone and the exact position of the strike makes a difference. We doubt any orchestra will be building one of these, but it doesn’t sound bad to us.

The last one of these we saw did have more conventional strikers if you want to compare. Honestly, we might have just bought the solenoids off the shelf but, then again, we don’t make our own relays either.

26 thoughts on “Auto Xylophone Uses Homemade Solenoids

  1. The nail has too little flux path and none elsewhere so it takes a lot of coil and current to lift the striker. Look for soft iron rod and brass tubing with a nice fit in a hardware store or online. To the writer’s easy way most solenoids pull and that makes for linkages or modifications galore. The trick is being hollow and the stop of the core is up to the tone bar not the dead end typical coil.

  2. Nice! The solenoids seem very quiet, so the music isn’t overwhelmed by the clack of solenoids and you can actually hear the instrument! Any tips for others on how you achieved that?

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