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.
[Jake_Of_All_Trades] wanted to take up a new drumming hobby, but he didn’t want to punish his neighbors in the process. He started considering an electric drum kit which would allow him to practice silently but still get some semblance of the real drumming experience.
Unfortunately, electric drum kits are pretty expensive compared to their acoustic counterparts, so buying an electric kit was a bit out of the question. So, like any good hacker, he decided to make his own.
He found a pretty cheap acoustic drum kit on Craigslist and decided to convert it to electric. He thought this would be a perfect opportunity to learn more about electric drum kits in general and would allow him to do as much tweaking as he wanted to in order to personalize his experience. He also figured this would be a great way to get the best of both worlds. He could get an electric kit to practice whenever he wanted without disturbing neighbors and he could easily convert back to acoustic when needed.
First, he had to do a bit of restorative work with the cheap acoustic kit he found on eBay since it was pretty worn. Then, he decided to convert the drum heads to electric using two-ply mesh drum heads made from heavy-duty fiberglass screen mesh. The fiberglass screen mesh was cheap and easy to replace in the event he needed to make repairs. He added drum and cymbal triggers with his own DIY mechanism using a piezoelectric element, similar to another hack we’ve seen. These little sensors are great for converting mechanical to electrical energy and can feed directly into a GPIO to detect when the drum or cymbal was struck. The electrical signal is then interpreted by an on-board signal processing module.
All he needed were some headphones or a small amplifier and he was good to go! Cool hack [Jake_Of_All_Trades]!
While you’re here, check out some of our best DIY musical projects over the years.
[Rob] has been working on his drum trigger build, and he’s finally decided to share it with us. His drum heads and triggers don’t look like anything we’ve ever seen, but he’s pretty confident he has a good kit in the works.
The first unconventional of the build is the drum triggers. The triggers are piezo elements folded up or cut down to fit inside highlighter bodies. These piezo/highliter/drum triggers were filled with melted candle wax to make sure the piezo doesn’t rattle around. [Rob] seems to have taken an empirical approach to cutting up piezo elements – smaller elements are less responsive, so they’ll be used for the zones of the drum head.
[Rob]’s drum heads are made from tennis and badminton raquets. The implementation is actually kind of clever: [Rob] restrings the raquets on the bias to vary the feel and responsiveness of the head. Check out the Flickr photoset of the build here.
The ultimate goal of [Rob]’s build is a “glass” drum set certainly inspired by [John Bonham]’s Vistalites. Whenever [Rob] puts up a video playing Moby Dick on his new kit, we’ll be sure to put it up.