Simple Hack Completely Changes The Sound Of This Piano

We’re partial to musical instrument hacks around here, mainly because we find instruments to be fascinating machines. Few are more complex than the piano, and, as it turns out, few are quite so hackable. Still, we have to admit that this ragtime piano hack took us by surprise.

We always thought that the rich variety of tones that can be coaxed from a piano, from the tinny sound of an Old West saloon piano to the rich tones of a concert grand, were due mainly to the construction of the instrument and the way it’s played. Not so, apparently, as [Measured Workshop] demonstrated by installing a “mandolin rail” in a small upright piano. The instrument had seen better days, so step one was disassembly and cleaning. A wooden rail spanning the entire width of the string board was added, with a curtain of fabric draping down to the level of the hammers. The curtain was cut into a fringe in the same spacing as the hammers – marking the hammer locations with cornstarch was a nice trick – and metal clips were crimped to each fringe. The completed mandolin rail can be raised and lowered using a new foot pedal, completely changing the tone as the hammers hit the strings with the metal clips rather than their soft felt heads. It makes the piano sound a little like a harpsichord, or the aforementioned saloon instrument, and at the touch of a foot, it’s back to its original tone.

Most of the piano hacks we offer tend toward the electronic variety, so it’s nice to see a purely mechanical piano hack for a change. And if the hacked piano doesn’t work out as an instrument, you can always turn it into a workbench.

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Personal Soundboard Recounts Years Of Clever One-liners


[Antibore’s] friend was just wrapping up his Ph.D. Degree and he wanted to build him something special to commemorate the accomplishment. After thinking about it awhile, he realized that his friend was quite gregarious and known to make off-the-wall comments at parties and such. A ton of these one-liners were documented on video over a span of 10 years, so [Antibore] got the idea to make his friend a soundboard featuring his own witticisms.

He found a breakout board capable of playing back OGG files and got to work loading it up with his friend’s random sayings. The board was connected to a small amplifier and speaker, then everything was installed into a black plastic case. Four arcade-style buttons were mounted on the front of the case, along with a picture of his friend. Up to 16 different sayings can be played, depending on which combination of buttons are being held at a particular time.

It’s sounds like a really cool project, and certainly makes for a one of a kind gift. Currently there is no video or audio of the box in action, but here’s hoping we’ll see some soon.

SyncMaster, Home Made Modular Midi Controller.

[D.St-Amand] is designing the SyncMaster, a compact modular midi controller, from scratch. The design focuses on a modular build where you can swap out pieces like the one pictured above to achieve different layouts. Not only is it modular, but its very compact. Shown next to some common competitors, it looks very sleek.

Development seems to be moving forward, the pictures have been updated frequently. Lets hope to see a fully functional demo some time soon. Some more detailed information on the build might be nice as well. This may remind you of our story on MachineCollective. While there are similarities in that they’re modular, SyncMaster appears to be a much more polished and portable product. Keep us updated [D.St-Amand].