It’s no secret that we have a soft spot for musical instruments here at Hackaday, especially for the weird and unusual ones. An instrument that definitely fits the unusual category is the four-string tenor guitar, which — as legend has it — originated back in the 1920s by frankensteining a banjo neck and a guitar body together. Despite being around for almost a century, they’re still rarely found outside some niche genres, which makes them an excellent choice when pursuing a unique sound experience. As someone looking for exactly that, [Ham-made] decided to build an electric tenor guitar entirely from scratch, and documented every step of it at great length.
Built from two random chunks of wood, a dissected single coil pickup, and a leftover piece of elk antlers, the result is even more unique than the sound experience itself. While the rather unorthodox, faceted body shape leaves no doubt that this is a handmade instrument, the real eye-catcher has to be the neck and its oddly spaced frets. Counting the frets, the math doesn’t seem to add up either, as the twelfth fret usually creates the octave, and as such should be at half the scale length (i.e. half the string’s length from the bridge at the body’s end to the nut at the neck’s end). Turns out that [Ham-made] went for a diatonic scale instead of the usual chromatic one, essentially leaving out the notes you anyway wouldn’t play in a standard Pop or Rock setup. Using an all-fifths tuning akin to cellos and mandolins, this will work nicely over all four strings.
Aesthetics are certainly a subjective matter, and [Ham-Made] is fully aware that people might feel downright offended by his creation, but as he also wants to “embrace mistakes and promote experimentation”, he encourages everyone with similar aspiration to simply go for it — and he’s certainly no stranger to unconventional instruments and recording equipment. But before the never-tiring tonewood debate sparks up, check out this scrap metal guitar.
Continue reading “Some Strings Attached: Electric Tenor Guitar Built From Scratch”
Convenient and inexpensive, plastic beverage bottles are ubiquitous in modern society. Many of us have a collection of empties at home. We are encouraged to reduce, reuse, and recycle such plastic products and [Kaboom Percussion] playing Disney melodies on their Bottlephone 2.0 (video embedded below) showcases an outstanding melodic creation for the “reuse” column.
Details of this project are outlined in a separate “How we made it” video (also embedded below). Caps of empty bottles are fitted with commodity TR414 air valves. The pitch of each bottle is tuned by adjusting pressure. Different beverage brands were evaluated for pleasing tone of their bottles, with the winners listed. Pressure levels going up to 70 psi means changes in temperature and inevitable air leakage makes keeping this instrument in tune a never-ending task. But that is a relatively simple mechanical procedure. What’s even more impressive on display is the musical performance talent of this team, assisted by some creative video editing. Sadly for us, such skill does not come in a bottle. Alcohol only makes us believe we are skilled without improving actual skill.
But that’s OK, this is Hackaday where we thrive on building machines to perform for us. We hope it won’t be long before a MIDI-controlled variant is built by someone, perhaps incorporating an air compressor for self-tuning capabilities. We’ve featured bottles as musical instruments before, but usually as wind instruments like this bottle organ or the fipple. This is a percussion instrument more along the lines of the wine glass organ. It’s great to see different combinations explored, and we are certain there are more yet to come.
Continue reading “Pouring Creativity Into Musical Upcycling Of Plastic Bottles”
Singing in the shower is such a common phenomenon, rarely anyone ever bats an eye about it. Singing in the toilet on the other hand is probably going to raise an eyebrow or two, and it’s not for nothing that the Germans euphemistically call it “stilles Örtchen”, i.e. the little silent place. But who are we to judge what you do in the privacy of your home? So if you ever felt a lack of instrumental accompaniment, or forgot to bring your guitar, [Max Björverud] has just the perfect installation for you. (Video, embedded below.)
Inspired by the way bicycle computers determine your speed, [Max] took a set of toilet paper holders, extended each roll holding part with a 3D-printed attachment housing a magnet, and installed a Hall-effect sensor to determine the rolling activity. The rolls’ sensor data is then collected with an Arduino Mega and passed on to a Raspberry Pi Zero running Pure Data, creating the actual sounds. The sensor setup is briefly shown in another video.
Before you grab your pitchforks, [Max] started this project a little while back already, long before toilet paper became an object of abysmal desire. Being an artist in the field of interactive media, this also isn’t his first project of this kind, and you can find some more of his work on his website. So why of all things did we pick this one? Well, what can we say, we definitely have a weakness for strange and unusual musical instruments. And maybe there’s potential for some collaboration here?
Continue reading “Rock Out With Toilet Paper Rolls”
The bagpipes, most commonly seen in their Great Highland form from Scotland, are a loud and imposing musical instrument. Known for being difficult to practice quietly, they’re not the ideal thing to pick up in these times of quarantine and isolation. But, if you must, here’s how you can craft your own at home!
A garbage bag is used as the air bag for this design, readily available and easy to work with. A recorder is then installed into the bag to act as the chanter – the part of the instrument with with pitch is controlled by finger position. A second recorder is then installed as a drone, which produces the continuous harmonizing note typical of bagpipes. A pair of pens are used to create the blowpipe which supplies air to the instrument. Everything is then sealed up with tape and you’re ready to go!
While it’s not a great facsimile of an authentic Scottish bagpipe, it does work in the same way and make some noise. It would be interesting to see a talented player handle such a makeshift piece. Alternatively, consider some of the alternative DIY instruments we’ve featured before. Video after the break.
Continue reading “DIY Bagpipes Made From Common Household Items”
A keen-eyed commenter pointed us to a homemade bottle organ that plays like a piano. The complexity gets turned up with foot-powered bellows and custom keys, but the magic of [Mike] and [Simon Haisell]’s garage-built instrument is not lost in the slightest. We also have the video below the break and there is a bottle organ performance by [Coyote Merlot].
The working concepts are explained well in the video, and that starts with the bellows. In the first few seconds of the video, we see an organist swaying as he plays, and it would be accurate to say the music moves him. The wobbling is to pedal a couple of levers that squeeze a pair of air sacs and slide under wheels that look like a hardware store purchase. The spring-return mechanism is a repurposed bungee cord and you know we dig that kind of resourcefulness. Each bellow valve is made with traditional leather flaps of the type that predate bungee cords and camera phones. These air pumps inflate a big reservoir in the back that provides continuous pressure to a manifold where each of the thirty-six keys control a valve responsible for one bottle. The pair built every wooden part we mentioned with the explicit purpose of creating this organ.
Continue reading “Bottle Organ Breakdown”
[Gijs Gieskes] is certainly no stranger to hacked cassette players, but his latest triumph may well be the most approachable project for anyone looking to explore the world of unorthodox tape unspooling. By attaching a fairly simple add-on PCB to a modern portable cassette player, the user is able to modify the playback speed of the tape at will. The skillful application of such temporal distortions leads to wonderfully abstract results.
The board that [Gijs] has come up with uses four potentiometers and matching push buttons to allow the user to set different playback speeds that they can engage with the push of the button. There’s also a fifth potentiometer to augment the “global” speed as well as an override switch. During playback, these controls can be used to arbitrarily tweak and augment the sound of samples contained on a the looping cassette.
If that’s a little hard to conceptualize, don’t worry. [Gijs] has provided some examples of how the the rapid adjustment of playback speed offered by this “Zachtkind” can add a fascinating level of complexity to sounds and melodies. The assembled player is available for purchase ready to go, but he also provides kits and a detailed installation guide for those who’d rather build it themselves.
Going all the way back to 2005, [Gijs] and his incredible creations have been a staple of Hackaday. From the Arduino video sampler to the array of oddly musical analog clocks, we never cease to be in awe of this exceptionally prolific hacker.
Many everyday objects make some noise as a side effect of their day job, so some of us would hack them into music instruments that can play a song or two. It’s fun, but it’s been done. YouTube channel [Device Orchestra] goes far beyond a device buzzing out a tune – they are full fledged singing (and dancing!) performers. Watch their cover of Take on Me embedded after the break, and if you liked it head over to the channel for more.
The buzz of a stepper motor, easily commanded for varying speeds, is the easiest entry point into this world of mechanical music. They used to be quite common in computer equipment such as floppy drives, hard drives, and flatbed scanners. As those pieces of equipment become outdated and sold for cheap, it became feasible to assemble a large number of them with the Floppotron being something of a high-water mark.
After one of our more recent mentions in this area, when the mechanical sound of a floppy drive is used in the score of a motion picture, there were definite signs of fatigue in the feedback. “We’re ready for something new” so here we are without any computer peripherals! [Device Orchestra] features percussion by typewriters, vocals by toothbrushes, and choreography by credit card machines with the help of kitchen utensils. Coordinating them all is an impressive pile of wires acting as stage manager.
We love to see creativity with affordable everyday objects like this. But we also see the same concept done with equipment on the opposite end of the price spectrum such as a soothing performance of Bach using the coils of a MRI machine.
[Thanks @Bornach1 for the tip]
Continue reading “When Toothbrushes, Typewriters, And Credit Card Machines Form A Band”