How does one describe the notes that come from a ruler that is anchored on one end and then plucked? The best word we can come up with is “wubulation”. So would that make this ruler-plucking synthesizer a “wubulator”? Or perhaps a “wubatron”?
Whatever we decide to call it, [Dmitry Morozov] dubbed it the RBS-20, or “ruler bass synth, 20-cm”, for the 20-cm stainless steel ruler that forms the heart of the instrument. The ruler is attached to a linear slide which varies the length of the sprung section. A pair of servos can pluck the free section of the ruler in two different places, providing notes in different registers, while another pair of servos control metal fingers that can damp the vibration, change the sustain, and alter the notes. There’s no resonator; the sounds are instead picked up by a piezo mic. Twelve keys on the base of the instrument can be programmed for various lengths, and an OLED display gives the musician feedback. The video below shows the instrument wubulating, and brings us back to those desktop jam sessions in our grade school days — at least until the rulers were confiscated.
We’ve covered a ton of similarly unique musical instruments before, like this hybrid synthesizer-violin, a symphony of soda bottles, and inexplicably, a leg guitar.
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Since the first of our ancestors discovered that banging a stick on a hollow log makes a jolly sound, we hominids have been finding new and unusual ways to make music. We haven’t come close to tapping out the potential for novel instruments, but then again it’s not every day that we come across a unique instrument and a new sound, as is the case with this string-plucking robot harp.
Named “Greg’s Harp” after builder [Frank Piesik]’s friend [Gregor], this three-stringed instrument almost defies classification. It’s sort of like a harp, but different, and sort of like an electric guitar, but not quite. Each steel string has three different ways to be played: what [Frank] calls “KickUps”, which are solenoids that strike the strings; an “eBow” coil stimulator; and a small motor with plastic plectra that pluck the strings. Each creates a unique sound at the fundamental frequency of the string, while servo-controlled hoops around each string serve as a robotic fretboard to change the notes. Sound is picked up by piezo transducers, and everything is controlled by a pair of Nanos and a Teensy, which takes care of MIDI duties.
Check out the video below and see if you find the sound both familiar and completely new. We’ve been featuring unique instruments builds forever, from not-quite-violins to self-playing kalimbas to the Theremincello, but we still find this one enchanting.
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