Self-Playing Kalimba V2 Thanks To Readers Like You

Would you like to know the great thing about this community we have here? All the spitballing that goes on every day in the comments, the IO chat rooms, and in the discussion threads of thousands of projects. One of our favorite things about the Hackaday universe is that we help each other out, and because of that, our collective curiosity pushes so many designs forward.

[Gurpreet] knows what we’re talking about. He’s back with version two of his self-playing kalimba, driven as strongly as ever by the dulcet tones of the Avatar theme. Now the robo-kalimba is rocking two full octaves, and thanks to your comments and suggestions, has relocated the servos where they can’t be picked up by the soundboard.

We gasped when we saw the new mechanism — a total of 15 rack and pinion linear actuators that make the kalimba look like a tiny mechanical pipe organ. Now the servos float, fixed into a three-part frame that straddles the sound box. [Gurpreet] melted servo horns to down to their hubs rather than trying to print something that fits the servos’ sockets.

Thumb your way past the break to check out the build video. [Gurpreet] doesn’t shy away from showing what went wrong and how he fixed it, or from sharing the 3D printering sanity checks along the way that kept him going.

Plucking kalimba tines is a difficult problem to solve because they’re stiff, but with timbre sensitive to many degrees of pressure. A slightly easier alternative? Make a toy player piano.

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Plucky Kalimba Plays Itself

[Gurpreet] fell in love with the peaceful, floaty theme from the Avatar series and bought a kalimba so he could hear it resonate through his fingertips. He soon realized that although it’s nice to play the kalimba, it would be a lot cooler if it played itself. Then he could relax and enjoy the music without wearing out his thumbs.

After doing a bit of experimentation with printing tine-plucking extensions for the servo horns, [Gurpreet] decided to start the design process by mounting the servos on a printed base. The servos are slotted into place by their mounting tabs and secured with hot glue. We think this was a good choice — it’s functional and it looks cool, like a heat sink.

[Gurpreet]’s future plans include more servos to pluck the rest of the tines, and figuring out how feed it MIDI and play it real time. For the demo after the break, [Gurpreet] says he lapel mic’d the kalimba from the back and cut out the servo noise with Audacity, but ultimately wants to figure out how to quiet them directly. He’s going to try lubing the gears and making a sound-dampening enclosure with foam, but if you have any other ideas, let him know down below.

We don’t see too many kalimba projects around here, but here’s one connected to a Teensy-based looper.

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