The harp is an ancient instrument, but in its current form, it seems so unwieldy that it’s a wonder that anyone ever learns to play it. It’s one thing to tote a rented trumpet or clarinet home from school to practice, but a concert harp is a real pain to transport safely. The image below is unrelated to the laser harp project, but proves that portable harping is begging for some good hacks.
Enter this laser harp, another semester project from [Bruce Land]’s microcontroller course at Cornell. By replacing strings with lasers aimed at phototransistors, [Glenna] and [Alex] were able to create a more manageable instrument that can be played in a similar manner. The “strings” are “plucked” with the fingers, which blocks the laser light and creates the notes.
But these aren’t just any old microcontroller-generated sounds. Rather than simply generating a tone or controlling a synthesizer, the PIC32 uses the Karplus-Strong algorithm to model the vibration of a plucked string. The result is very realistic, with all the harmonics you’d expect to hear from a plucked string. [Alex] does a decent job putting the harp through its paces in the video below, and the write-up is top notch too.
To exclude musical instruments in the overflowing library of possibility that 3D printing enables would be a disservice to makers and musicians everywhere. For the minds over at [Makefast Workshop], an experimental idea took shape: a single stringed harp.
The TuneFast Harp needed enough notes for a full octave, robust enough to handle the tension of the string, a single tuning mechanism and small enough to print. But how to produce multiple notes on a harp out of only one string? V-grooved bearings to the rescue! The string zig-zags around the bearings acting as endpoints that rotate as its tuned, while the rigid PLA printing filament resists deforming under tension.
After a bit of math and numerous iterations — ranging from complete reconfigurations of part placements to versions using sliding pick mechanisms using magnets! — a melodic result!
SparkFun has a new wing of hardware mischief. It’s SparkX, the brainchild of SparkFun’s founder [Nate Seidle]. Over the past few months, SparkX has released breakout boards for weird sensors, and built a safe cracking robot that got all the hacker cred at DEF CON. Now, SparkX is going off on an even weirder tangent: they have released The Prototype. That’s actually the name of the product. What is it? It’s a HARP, a hardware alternate reality game. It’s gaming, puzzlecraft, and crypto all wrapped up in a weird electronic board.
The product page for The Prototype is exactly as illuminating as you would expect for a piece of puzzle electronics. There is literally zero information on the product page, but from the one clear picture, we can see a few bits and bobs that might be relevant. The Prototype features a microSD card socket, an LED that might be a WS2812, a DIP-8 socket, a USB port, what could be a power switch, a PCB antenna, and a strange black cylinder. Mysteries abound. There is good news: the only thing you need to decrypt The Prototype is a computer and an open mind. We’re assuming that means a serial terminal.
The Prototype hasn’t been out for long, and very few people have one in hand. That said, the idea of a piece of hardware sold as a puzzle is something we haven’t seen outside of conference badges. The more relaxed distribution of The Prototype is rather appealing, and we’re looking forward to a few communities popping up around HARP games.
MIDI instruments are cool, but they’re not laser cool. That is, unless you’ve added lasers to your MIDI instrument like [Lasse].
[Lasse] started out with an old MIDI keyboard. The plan was to recycle an older keyboard rather than have to purchase something new. In this case, the team used an ESi Keycontrol 49. They keyboard was torn apart to get to the creamy center circuit boards. [Lasse] says that most MIDI keyboards come withe a MIDI controller board and the actual key control board.
Once the key controller board was identified, [Lasse] needed to figure out how to actually trigger the keys without the physical keyboard in place. He did this by shorting out different pads while the keyboard was hooked up to the computer. If he hit the correct pads, a note would play. Simple, but effective.
The housing for the project is made out of wood. Holes were drilled in one piece to mount 12 laser diodes. That number is not arbitrary. Those familiar with music theory will know that there are 12 notes in an octave. The lasers were powered via the 5V source from USB. The lasers were then aimed at another piece of wood.
Holes were drilled in this second piece wherever the lasers hit. Simple photo resistors were mounted here. The only other components needed for each laser sensor were a resistor and a transistor. This simple discreet circuit is enough to simulate a key press when the laser beam is broken. No programming or microcontrollers required. Check out the demonstration video below to see how it works. Continue reading “MIDI Keyboard with Frickin’ Laser Keys”→
Part of what made the project come together so quickly is that [Adam] had already developed a package called muskit. It’s a C++ toolkit for making music applications. It puts the framework in place what we hear in the video after the break. The weekend of hacking makes use of the positional data from the Leap Motion and handles how your digits interact with the virtual strings. You can watch as [Adam] adds more and more strings to the virtual instrument for his finger to interact with. The distance from the screen is what decided is your finger will pluck or not. This is indicated with a red circle when your fingertip is close enough to interact with the phantom string.
Fresh from the Arduino subreddit comes [dataplex]’s 26 string electromagnetic harp. It’s a very cool, ambient instrument that sounds simply phenomenal through the Space Echo and Fender Twin rig [dataplex] has.
There’s not much in the way of build details, but judging from this post [dataplex] made several months ago the instrument works on the same principles as an Ebow. There’s a great prototype video showing the hardware and software. One small voice coil reads each string. A tiny op-amp sends this to another voice coil and back into the string. There’s tons of feedback, but it’s great for an ethereal ambiance.
The prototype is controlled by an Arduino via a computer, but for the final build [dataplex] moved on to a copper/zinc touch interface on the front of the harp.
It’s a very, very cool instrument and we’re waiting patiently for the build details to be released. You can check out the videos of [dataplex]’s work after the break.
[Jared] had a bunch of lasers left over from a previous project that he put to use by producing this laser harp. The look of it reminds us of a very small Koto or perhaps an Autoharp (although the chords can’t be changed on this model).
We’re so glad that [Jared] spent the time to produce such a fine looking body for the instrument. The strings that would traditionally produce the sound on a harp have been replaced with laser diodes shining at Cadmium Sulfide photo resistors. When a beam of light is broken, an Arduino detects the change via the CdS cell and plays a sound through an Altec Lansing speaker inside of the case.
Unfortunately there’s no video available but we’re pretty sure it makes a “pew-pew” sound. There is a link to download the source code but it points to the overview page instead of downloadable code. From the fritzing diagram the CdS cells are part of a voltage divider which provides digital logic to the Arduino. That should be pretty easy to replicate even without seeing [Jared’s] code and we’re sure you can source other Arduino instrument projects for tips on wave shield or midi functionality.