Doodlestation Is Beautifully Musical Furniture

Whether you’re a modular synth enthusiast or simply love the idea of rad electronic jams, we can all get behind the idea of crazy electronic instruments with buttons, dials, and patch cables galore. The Doodlestation is a wonderful example of that, built by [Love Hulten].

There’s a custom 37-key keyboard that lets one input musical notes in the typical way, along with a hilarious animated MIDI visualizer with a man that uses his mouth to shoot rainbows. There’s a theremin built into the chassis, too, allowing your hands to control the sound via the magic of the æther. Even better, there’s a custom-built tape echo in the upright section, and you even get to see the mechanical parts working and the mag ribbon wiggling about. That’s fun.

The custom hardware is joined by a series of off-the-shelf devices that add their own functionality to the mix. It includes a Sequential OB-6 analog synthesizer, a Moog DFAM drum module, and a Hologram Microcosm loop & glitch box for more noodling possibilities.

We love a good musical project around these parts; we’ve featured some great other projects for live electronic jams before, too. Video after the break.

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Making Windshield Wipers Rock To The Beat

When you’re driving around, you might occasionally notice your indicators or windscreen wipers sync up fortuitously with the music. [Cranktown City] wanted to ensure his wipers would always match the beat, however, and set about making it so. 

After disassembling the wiper motor, The original controller PCB is ripped up, used solely for its home position contacts that help determine the position of the wipers. The battered board is then drilled out to fit a rotary encoder to track the wipers throughout their full motion.

An Arduino is used to read the signal coming from the wiper stalk in order to know what mode the wipers should be in, and uses a motor controller to drive the wipers thusly. It also reads the encoder and home position contacts to track the wiper movement, and uses a proportional controller to control the wiper position. An MSGEQ7 spectrum analyzer is used to track the bass of the music to determine the beat to sync up to.

The final build does work, though in a different way to other designs we’ve seen. Rather than measuring BPM and syncing on a four-to-the-floor pulse, it simply tracks the lower band output and thus is more reactive to funky drum beats.

It’s a fun way to modify your car, even if it did require cutting a chunk out of the hood. If you’re cooking up your own cheeky automotive hacks, be sure to drop us a line. Video after the break. Continue reading “Making Windshield Wipers Rock To The Beat”

A wooden xylophone with electronic contraptions for robotic playback

Robotic Xylophone Makes Music With MIDI Magic

The MIDI format has long been used to create some banging electronic music, so it’s refreshing to see how [John P. Miller] applied the standard in his decidedly analog self-playing robotic xylophone.

Framed inside a fetching Red Oak enclosure, the 25-key instrument uses individual solenoids for each key, meaning that it has no problem striking multiple bars simultaneously. This extra fidelity really helps in reproducing the familiar melodies via the MIDI format. The tracks themselves can be loaded onto the device via SD card, and selected for playback with character LCD and rotary knob.

The software transposes the full MIDI music spectrum of a particular track into a 25-note version compatible with the xylophone. Considering that a piano typically has 88 keys, some musical concessions are needed to produce a recognizable playback, but overall it’s an enjoyable musical experience.

Perhaps most remarkable about this project is the documentation. If you want to build your own, everything you need to know is available online, and the no-solder approach makes this project very accessible. Most of the write-up happened some years ago, and we’re really interested to see what improvements have been made since.

The robotic xylophone is reminiscent of these automatic tubular bells from some time ago. These musical hacks can be particularly inspiring, and we can’t wait to see more.

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A Sympathetic Nail Violin

As a hacker community, we are no strangers to beautiful and unique musical instruments. A sympathetic nail violin built by [Nicolas Bras] is a welcome addition to the eclectic family. Working up from the simple idea of a nail in a piece of wood and adjusting the pitch by hammering the nail farther into the wood, [Nicolas] expanded the idea. With careful planning and tuning, the nails can have sympathetic properties. These properties mean that when one nail is played via a bow, it causes other nails to sound, creating harmonies and sustains.

With a bit of careful woodworking and a scant touch of metalwork, an instrument was crafted. It offers vast flexibility as it can be played by bow, by plucking with your finger, or by strumming. There are several levels of nails, each level having a paired sympathetic nail. This allows for a diverse and versatile instrument.

Here at Hackaday, we seem to have a thing for tiny violins, whether physical or virtual. While the nail violin may not look like your traditional violin, we can certainly appreciate the wonderful music it creates.

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MIDISWAY Promises To Step Up Your Live Show

If you like to read with gentle music playing, do yourself a favor and start the video while you’re reading about [Hugo Swift]’s MIDISWAY. The song is Promises, also by [SWIFT], which has piano phrases modulated during the actual playing, not in post-production.

The MIDISWAY is a stage-worthy looking box to sit atop your keys and pulse a happy little LED. The pulsing corresponds to the amount of pitch bending being sent to your instrument over a MIDI DIN connector. This modulation is generated by an Arduino and meant to recreate the effect of analog recording devices like an off-center vinyl or a tape that wasn’t tracking perfectly.

While recording fidelity keeps inching closer to perfect recreation, it takes an engineer like [Hugo Swift] to decide that a step backward is worth a few days of hacking. Now that you know what the MIDISWAY is supposed to do, listen closely at 2:24 in the video when the piano starts. The effect is subtle but hard to miss when you know what to listen for.

MIDI projects abound at Hackaday like this MIDI → USB converter for getting MIDI out of your keyboard once you’ve modulated it with a MIDISWAY. Maybe you are more interested in a MIDI fighter for controlling your DAW. MIDI is a robust and time-tested protocol which started in the early 1980s and will be around for many more years.

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How To MIDI Interface Your Toys

There’s a great number toys in the world, many of which make all manner of pleasant or annoying noises for the entertainment of children. If you’re a musician, these toys may be of interest due to their unique or interesting sounds. However, due to their design being aimed at play rather than performance, it may be difficult to actually use the toy as a musical instrument. One way around this is to record the sounds of the toy into a sampler, but it’s not the only way. [little-scale] is here to demonstrate how to MIDI interface your toys. 

[little-scale] starts out by discussing the many ways in which one can interface with a toy. The article discusses how a simple button can be replaced with a relay, or a multiplexer, and be interfaced to all manner of other devices to control the toy. This is demonstrated by using a mobile phone toy which makes sounds when buttons are pressed.

A Teensy 3.6 is used to run the show, acting as a USB-MIDI interface so the toy can be controlled by music software like Abelton. It’s connected to the toy’s buttons through a multiplexer. The toy’s speaker is cut off and used as an audio output instead, allowing the toy to be easily connected to other audio hardware for performance or recording. It’s also fed through a digital pot so MIDI commands can control the volume. A resistor is used to control pitch in the toy, so this too was replaced with a digital pot as well, to allow sample pitch to be controlled.

The project is incredibly well documented, with [little-scale] first tearing down the toy and highlighting the points of interest, before stepping through each stage of interfacing the toy to the digital world. We’ve seen some of [little-scale]’s work before, too – namely, this MIDI DAC for controlling vintage synthesizers. Video after the break. Continue reading “How To MIDI Interface Your Toys”

12-Foot Guitar Takes The Stage

Musical festivals are fun and exciting. They are an opportunity for people to perform and show-off their art. The Boulevardia event held this June in Kansas City was one such event, where one of the interactive exhibits was a 12-foot guitar that could be played. [Chris Riebschlager] shares his experience making this instrument which was intended to welcome the visitors at the event.

The heart of this beautiful installation is a Bare Conductive board which is used to detect a touch on the strings. This information is sent over serial communication to a Raspberry Pi which then selects corresponding WAV files to be played. Additional arcade buttons enable the selection of playable chords from A through G, both major and minor and also give the option to put the guitar in either clean or dirty mode.

The simplicity of construction is amazing. The capacitive touch board is programmed using the Arduino IDE and the code is available as a Gist. The Raspberry Pi runs a Python script which makes the system behave like an actual guitar i.e. touching and holding the strings silences it while releasing the strings produces the relevant sound. The notes being played were exported guitar notes from Garage Band for better consistency.

The physical construction is composed of MDF and steel with the body and neck of the guitar milled on a CNC machine. Paint, finishing and custom decals give the finished project a rocking appearance. Check out the videos below for the fabrication process along with photos of the finished design.

This project is a great example of art enabled by technology and if you love guitars, then go ahead and check out Brian May’s Handmade Guitar. Continue reading “12-Foot Guitar Takes The Stage”