Making Music with the Wind

[Niklas Roy] built a windmill-powered music box for his backyard, and it was so awesome all the neighbors wanted to take a picture of it. Someone even liked it so much that he stole [Niklas]’s windmill in the middle of the night. (We kind of don’t blame them, it’s a gorgeously clean build.)

In the past few weeks [Niklas] has been mass-producing 20 windmills for the KIKK Festival 2017 to be held in November in Namur, Belgium. The windmills will operate in a cluster, and all play “Für Elise” when the wind blows. However, each one is driven independently and so the music is asynchronous. Since he was building a bunch anyway, he built a replacement windmill for his backyard, and documented how to do it.

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Music Box Plays “Still Alive” Thanks to Automated Hole Puncher

Custom hole punch and feed system

Most projects have one or two significant aspects in which custom work or clever execution is showcased, but this Music Box Hole Punching Machine by [Josh Sheldon] and his roommate [Matt] is a delight on many levels. Not only was custom hardware made to automate punching holes in long spools of paper for feeding through a music box, but a software front end to process MIDI files means that in a way, this project is really a MIDI-to-hand-cranked-music-box converter. What a time to be alive.

The hole punch is an entirely custom-made assembly, and as [Josh] observes, making a reliable hole punch turns out to be extremely challenging. Plenty of trial and error was involved, and the project’s documentation as well as an overview video go into plenty of detail. Don’t miss the music box version of “Still Alive”, either. Both are embedded below.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Dementia-Friendly Music Player

The loss of memory is an extremely difficult situation, not just for those afflicted, but also for immediate family, close friends, and care givers. With no cure available for dementia, providing care is an extremely demanding task for everyone involved – both mentally and physically. Patients are unable to retain recent events and information, but will most likely be able to recall some amount of past memories. This presents serious challenges when they encounter “modern” technology and cannot figure out how to use and operate everyday devices that normal people take for granted.

[rosswesleyporter]’s Dad had trouble using modern iPods and CD players, so he built DQMusicBox — a Dementia friendly music player. It’s very simple interface resembling a radio from half a century ago. There are just two large, clearly marked rotary dials — one for Volume, the other for Songs, and a headphone socket. The inspiration came from a very moving documentary called “Alive Inside” which explores how music brings extreme joy to people with dementia.

The device is built around a Raspberry Pi, enclosed in a laser cut enclosure and requires no soldering — making it easy for anyone to build one for themselves using easily available parts. The Raspberry Pi runs on a lightweight, optimized version of Raspbian called DietPi. The music playback is handled by VLC ensuring support for a large number of music formats. A Python script looks for music files, sets up the VLC-NOX player and handles knob and button events. A bundled image file for the software includes everything needed to get it running, making setup easy and quick. Since Raspberry Pi’s are prone to OS corruption when power is disconnected without performing a proper shutdown, [Ross] uses write protection on the SD-card and walks you through the process of how it works.

Between his Project page, Github and DQMusicBox website, you will be able to get all the information needed to replicate this excellent project. And for his next version, he already has a few ideas for improvement and would like to hear if other hackers have suggestions.

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Ad Hoc MIDI to Music Box Project Shows Power of Hacker Community

Fair warning: when you post a video of you doing an incredibly tedious process like manually punching holes in a paper tape to transfer a MIDI file to a music box, don’t be surprised when a bunch of hackers automates the process in less than a week.

The back story on this should be familiar to even casual Hackaday readers. [Martin] from the Swedish group “Wintergatan” is a prolific maker of unusual musical instruments. You’ll no doubt recall his magnificent marble music machine, a second version of which is currently in the works. But he’s also got a thing for music boxes that are programmed by paper tape, and recently posted a video showing his time-consuming and totally manual process for punching the holes in the tape. Since his source material was already in a MIDI file, a bunch of his fans independently came up with ways to automate the process.

The video below shows what he learned from his fans about automating his programming, but also what he learned about the community we all work and play in. Without specifically asking for help, random strangers brought together by common interests identified the problems, came up with solutions, sorted through the good and the bad ideas, and made the work publically available. Not bad for less than a week’s work.

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Paper Tape Drive for a Live Performance Music Box

Music is a mystery to some of us. Sure, we know what we like when we hear it, but the idea of actually being able to make it baffles us. And the idea of being able to build new instruments to create it, like this paper-tape programmable music box (YouTube, embedded below), is beyond impressive.

You’ll no doubt remember [Martin Molin] of the group “Wintergatan” and his astounding marble madness music machine. This instrument is on a much more modest scale and is centered around an off-the-shelf paper tape music box. But the cheap plastic drive gears kept failing under performance conditions, so [Martin] headed to what appears to be his cave-based workshop and started grinding. He prototyped a new paper drive from Lego Technics, and while it worked, it needed help to pull the paper. What followed was an iterative design process that culminated in a hybrid of plastic and metal Technic parts that drive the paper reliably, and a musical instrument that’s much more than just a tinny wind-up music box. Hear it in action below with another new instrument, the Modulin, which sounds a little like a Theremin but looks like – ah, just watch the video.

The build video hints at more details to come, and we’re hoping for a complete series like that for the marble machine. We’d also love to see details on the Modulin too – if there ever was a hacked musical instrument, that’s it.

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Motorized Music Box Cranks Out Stairway to Heaven

[Bokononestly] found a lil’ music box that plays Stairway to Heaven and decided those were just the kinds of dulcet tones he’d like to wake up to every morning. To each his own; I once woke up to Blind Melon’s “No Rain” every day for about six months. [Bokononestly] is still in the middle of this alarm clock project right now. One day soon, it will use a *duino to keep track of the music box’s revolutions and limit the alarm sound to one cycle of the melody.

stairway-musicbox-alarm-clock[Bokononestly] decided to drive the crank of the music box with a geared DC motor from an electric screwdriver. After making some nice engineering drawings of the dimensions of both and mocking them up in CAD, he designed and printed a base plate to mount them on. A pair of custom pulleys mounted to the motor shaft and the crank arm transfer motion using the exact right rubber band for the job. You can’t discount the need for a big bag ‘o rubber bands.
In order to count the revolutions, he put a wire in the path of the metal music box crank and used the body of the box as a switch. Check out the build video after the break and watch him prove it with the continuity function of a multimeter. A clever function that should at some point be substituted out for a leaf switch.

We’ve covered a lot of cool clock builds over the years, including one or two that run Linux. And say what you will about Stairway; it’s better than waking up to repeated slaps in the face.

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Incredible Marble Music Machine

We tried to figure out how to describe the band [Wintergatan]. It took a lot of googling, and we decided to let their really incredible music machine do it for them. The best part? Unlike some projects like this that come our way, [Wintergatan] documented the whole build process in an eight part video series.

The core of the machine is a large drum with two tracks of alternating grey and black Lego Technic beams and pins. The musician sequences out the music using these. The pins activate levers which in turn drop ball bearings on the various sound producing devices in the machine. The melody is produced by a vibraphone. At first we thought the drum kit was electronic, but it turns out the wires going to it were to amplify the sound they made when hit. At the end of their travel the bearings are brought up to the hopper again by a bucket conveyor.

The final part count for the machine sits at 3,000 not including the 2,000 ball bearings rolling around inside of it. If you’ve ever tried to make a marble machine, then you’ll be just as impressed as we were that the machine only appeared to lose a few marbles in the course of a three minute song. Aside from the smoothness of the machine, which is impressive, we also enjoyed the pure, well, hackiness of it. We can spy regular wood screws, rubber bands, plywood, bits of wire, and all sorts of on-the-spot solutions. Just to add bonus cool, the whole project appears to have been built with  just a bandsaw, a drill press, and a few hand power tools.

The machine is great, but we also really appreciate the hacker spirit behind it. When a commenter on a YouTube video told him he was a genius, he replied, “Thank you for that! But I do think, though, that it is mostly about being able to put in the time! I mean the talent of being stubborn and able to see things through are more important than the abilities you have to start with. If you work hard on anything, you will learn what you need and success! Its my idea anyway! So happy people like the machine!”. Which we think is just as cool as the machine itself. Video of the machine in action and part one of the build series after the break!

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