Mattress-made MIDI Device Plays Exotic Tunes

Ever heard of a handpan? If not, imagine a steel drum turned inside out, and in case that doesn’t help either, just think of a big metal pan you play music with by tapping your hands on its differently pitched tone fields. But as with pretty much any musical instrument, the people around you may not appreciate your enthusiasm to practice playing it at any time of the day, and being an acoustic instrument, it gets difficult to just plug in your headphones. Good news for the aspiring practitioners of Caribbean music though, as [Deepsoul77] created a MIDI version of this rather young and exotic instrument.

Using the foam salvaged from an old mattress as the core of the handpan, [Deepsoul77] cut a couple of plywood pads as tone fields that will be attached to the foam. Each plywood tone field will then have a piezo element mounted in between to pick up the hand tapping. Picking up the tapping itself and turning it into MIDI signals is then handled by an Alesis trigger interface, which is something you would usually find in electronic drums. From here on forward, it all becomes just a simple USB MIDI device, with all the perks that brings along — like headphone usage or changing MIDI instruments to make anything sound like a trumpet.

Turning what’s essentially a drum kit into a melodic instrument is definitely neat, and to no surprise, we’ve also seen the actual home made drum kit with piezo elements. Of course, using MIDI to quiet down an acoustic instrument isn’t new either, though it also works somewhat the other way around. But then again, it doesn’t always have to be MIDI either.

Big Time Character LCD Clock

While the SSD1306 OLED has somewhat become the go-to display for up-to-date projects, the good old character displays with their Hitachi HD44780 controller don’t seem to be disappearing just yet either. And why would they, especially if you want to show just text, having a built-in font has certainly its perk compared to worrying about integrating your own characters — which you can still do on top as well. Or perhaps you can combine both worlds, which is what [oldmaninSC] did with his digital clock that takes an entire 16×2 LCD to show each single digit.

The whole clock uses 16 individual, upright rotated 16×2 LCDs that are arranged in two rows of eight LCDs each, turning the entire construct sort of into a giant 8×2 display itself. For some additional information such as the date, there’s also a smaller font available that uses only half the height, allowing up to four total rows of information. To communicate with each LCD via I2C, two TCA9548A I2C multiplexers are connected to an Arduino, along with an RTC to keep track of the time and date itself.

As the TCA9548A has three pins dedicated to define its own address, the entire clock could be scaled up to a total of 64 LCDs — so how about a 16×4 display made out of 16×4 displays? Sure, adding smooth scrolling might become a bit tricky at some point, but imagine playing Tetris on that one!

Turning GitHub Into A URL Shortening Service

URL shortening services like TinyURL or Bitly have long become an essential part of the modern web, and are popular enough that even Google killed off their own already. Creating your own shortener is also a fun exercise, and in its core doesn’t require much more than a nifty domain name, some form of database to map the URLs, and a bit of web technology to glue it all together. [Nelsontky] figured you don’t even have to build most of it yourself, but you could just (ab)use GitHub for it.

Using GitHub Pages to host the URL shortening website itself, [nelsontky] actually repurposes GitHub’s issue tracking system to map the shortened identifier to the original URL. Each redirection is simply a new issue, with the issue number serving as the shortening identifier, and the issue’s title text storing the original URL. To map the request, a bit of JavaScript extracts the issue number from the request, looks it up via GitHub API, and if a valid one was found (and API rate limits weren’t exceeded), redirects the caller accordingly. What’s especially clever about this is that GitHub Pages usually just serves static files stored in a repository, so the entire redirection logic is actually placed in the 404 error handling page, allowing requests to any arbitrary paths.

While this may not be as neat as placing your entire website content straight into the URL itself, it could be nicely combined with this rotary phone to simply dial the issue number and access your bookmarks — perfect in case you always wanted your own website phone book. And if you don’t like the thought of interacting with the GitHub UI every time you want to add a new URL, give the command line tools a try.

Climbing Everest One Hill At A Time – And Keeping Track Of It

The internet is full of self-proclaimed challenges, ranging from some absolutely pointless fads to well-intended tasks with an actual purpose. In times of TikTok, the latter is of course becoming rarer, as a quick, effortless jump on the bandwagon is just easier for raising your internet points. Cyclists on the other hand love a good challenge where they compete with one another online, testing their skills and gamifying their favorite activity along the way. One option for that is Everesting, where you pick a hill of your choice, and within a single session you ride it up and down as many times as it takes until you accumulated the height of Mount Everest on it. Intrigued by the idea, but not so much its competitive aspect, [rabbitcreek] became curious how long it would take him to reach that goal with his own casual bicycle usage, so he built a bicycle computer to measure and keep track of it.

While the total distance and time factors into the actual challenge, [rabbitcreek]’s primary interest was the accumulated height, so the device’s main component is a BMP388 barometric pressure sensor attached to a battery-powered ESP32. An e-paper display shows the total height and completed percentage, along with some random Everest-related pictures. Everything is neatly packed together in a 3D-printed case that can be mounted on the bicycle’s handlebar, and the STL files are available along with the source code in his write-up.

Of course, if you’re actually interested in the challenge itself, you probably have an assortment of sports tracking equipment anyway, but this is a nice addition to keep track as you go, and has a lower risk of ransomware attacks. And in case [rabbitcreek] sounds like a familiar name to you, he’s indeed become a Hackaday regular with his environmental hacks like the tide clock, a handheld particle sniffer, or logging temperatures in the Alaskan wilderness.

Axe Hacks: Spinning Knobs And Flipping Switches

From a guitar hacking point of view, the two major parts that are interesting to us are the pickups and the volume/tone control circuit that lets you adjust the sound while playing. Today, I’ll get into the latter part and take a close look at the components involved — potentiometers, switches, and a few other passive components — and show how they function, what alternative options we have, and how we can re-purpose them altogether.

In that sense, it’s time to heat up the soldering iron, get out the screwdriver, and take off that pick guard / open up that back cover and continue our quest for new electric guitar sounds. And if the thought of that sounds uncomfortable, skip the soldering iron and grab some alligator clips and a breadboard. It may not be the ideal environment, but it’ll work.

Continue reading “Axe Hacks: Spinning Knobs And Flipping Switches”

Fail Of The Week: Putting Guitar Strings On A Piano

The piano is a bit of an oddball within the string instrument family. Apart from rarely seeing people carry one around on the bus or use its case to discretely conceal a Tommy Gun, the way the strings are engaged in the first place — by having little hammers attached to each key knock the sound of of them — is rather unique compared to the usual finger or bow movement. Still, it is a string instrument, so it’s only natural to wonder what a piano would sound like if it was equipped with guitar strings instead of piano wire. Well, [Mattias Krantz] went on to actually find out the hard way, and shows the results in this video.

After a brief encounter with a bolt cutter, the point of no return was reached soon on. Now, the average piano has 88 keys, and depending on the note, a single key might have up to three strings involved at once. In case of [Mattias]’ piano — which, in his defense, has certainly seen better days — a total of 210 strings had to be replaced for the experiment. Guitars on the other hand have only six, so not only did he need 35 packs of guitar strings, the gauge and length variety is quite limited on top. What may sound like a futile endeavor from the beginning didn’t get much better over time, and at some point, the strings weren’t long enough anymore and he had to tie them together. Along with some inevitable breakage, he unfortunately ran out of strings and couldn’t finish the entire piano, though it seems he still managed to roughly cover a guitar’s frequency range, so that’s an appropriate result.

We’re not sure if [Mattias] ever expected this to actually work, but it kinda does — there is at least some real sound. Are the results more than questionable though? Oh absolutely, but we have to admire the audacity and perseverance he showed to actually pull through with this. It took him 28 hours just to get the guitar strings on, and another good amount of time to actually get them all in tune. Did it pay off? Well, that depends how you look at it. It definitely satisfied his and other’s curiosity, and the piano produces some really unique and interesting sounds now — but check for yourself in the video after the break. But that might not be for everyone, so luckily there are less final ways to change a piano’s sound. And worst case, you can always just turn it into a workbench.

(Thanks for the tip, [Keith])

Continue reading “Fail Of The Week: Putting Guitar Strings On A Piano”

Raspberry Pi Crazy Guitar Rig Turns You Into A Hard ‘N Heavy One-Man Band

It’s a common problem: you’re at a party, there’s a guitar, and your plan to impress everyone with your Wonderwall playing skills is thwarted by the way too loud overall noise level. Well, [Muiota betarho] won’t have that issue ever again, and is going to steal the show anywhere he goes from now on with his Crazy Guitar Rig 2.0, an acoustic guitar turned electric — and so much more — that he shows off in three-part video series on his YouTube channel. For the impatient, here’s video 1, video 2, and video 3, but you’ll also find them embedded after the break.

To start off the series, [Muiota betarho] adds an electric guitar pickup, a set of speakers, and an amplifier board along with a battery pack into the body of a cheap acoustic guitar. He then dismantles a Zoom MS-50G multi-effect pedal and re-assembles it back into the guitar itself with a 3D-printed cover. Combining a guitar, effect pedal, amp and speaker into one standalone instrument would make this already an awesome project as it is, but this is only the beginning.

Touch screen and controls closeup
RPi touch screen running SunVox, plenty of buttons, and integrated multi-effect pedal on the left

So, time to add a Raspberry Pi running SunVox next, and throw in a touch screen to control it on the fly. SunVox itself is a free, but unfortunately not open source, cross-platform synthesizer and tracker that [Muiota betarho] uses to add drum tracks and some extra instruments and effects. He takes it even further in the final part when he hooks SunVox up to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins. This allows him to automate things like switching effects on the Zoom pedal, but also provides I/O connection for external devices like a foot switch, or an entire light show to accompany his playing.

Of course, adding a magnetic pickup to an acoustic guitar, or generally electrifying acoustic instruments like a drum kit for example, isn’t new. Neither is using a single-board computer as effect pedal or as an amp in your pocket. Having it all integrated into one single device on the other hand rightfully earns this guitar its Crazy Guitar Rig name.

(Thanks for the tip, [alex]!)

Continue reading “Raspberry Pi Crazy Guitar Rig Turns You Into A Hard ‘N Heavy One-Man Band”