Mechanical Tremolo Does Things The Old-School Way

The word “tremolo” has a wide variety of meanings in the musical lexicon. A tremolo effect, in the guitar community at least, refers to a periodic variation in amplitude. This is often achieved with solid state electronics, but also recalls the sounds created by Hammond organs of years past with their rotating Leslie speakers. [HackaweekTV] decided to do things the old fashioned way, building a mechanical tremolo effect of his own (Youtube link, embedded below).

Electronically, the signal is simply passed through a linear audio potentiometer. The effect is generated by rapidly cycling this potentiometer up and down. The motion is achieved through a geared motor salvaged from a Roomba, which turns a cam. A sprung follower sits on top of the cam, and is attached to the potentiometer.

There were some challenges in development. Rigidity of the frame was an issue, and the follower had issues with snagging on the cam. However, with some careful iteration they were able to get everything up and running. The final project sounds great, and with the amplifier turned up, there’s no need to worry about the sound of the moving parts.

Naturally, you can always build a tremolo with a 555 instead. Video after the break.

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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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Fabbing A Guitar Tremolo Stompbox

There’s a lot of builders around whose first foray in electron manipulation was building effects pedals for guitars. It looks like [Dino] might be getting back to his roots with his tremolo effects box how-to.

Last week, [Dino] found an old 5-watt tube amp in someone’s trash and decided to bring it back to a functional state. With his new trem effect, it looks like [Dino] might be getting the band back together.

Apart from tiny boost circuits, a tremolo is generally the simplest effect pedal you can make. All you’ll need to do is vary the amplitude of the guitar’s signal at regular intervals. After that, it’s only a matter of pretending you’re playing through a rotating Leslie speaker.

To get his trem working, [Dino] set up a 555 circuit to flash a LED at regular intervals. This LED is encased in heat-shrink tubing along with a photocell. This setup controls an LM386 amplifier. The build is really simple, but from the video after the break we can tell it sounds great.

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