Hurdy-Gurdy Gets Modernized with MIDI Upgrades

If you’ve never heard a hurdy-gurdy before, you’re in for a treat. Not many people have, since they’re instruments which are uncommon outside of some eastern European communities. Think of a violin that replaces the bow with a hand-cranked wheel, and adds some extra strings that function similar to drones on a bagpipe. The instrument has been around for hundreds of years, but now it’s been given an upgrade via the magic of MIDI.

All of these new features come from [Barnaby Walters] who builds hurdy-gurdys by hand but has recently been focusing on his MIDI interface. The interface can do pitch-shifting polyphony, which allows the instrument to make its own chords and harmonies. It also has a hybrid poly synthesizer, which plays completely different sounds, and can layer them on top of one another. It can also split the keyboard into two instruments, where the top half plays one sound and the bottom half another. It’s an interesting take on an interesting instrument, and the video is definitely worth a look.

The hurdy-gurdy isn’t a commonly used instrument for hacking compared to something like drums or the violin, of course. In fact we had to go back over ten years to find any other articles featuring the hurdy-gurdy, the Furby Gurdy. It was an appropriately named instrument.

Thanks to [baldpower] for the tip!

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Modular Violin Takes A Bow

They say the only difference between a violin and a fiddle is the way you play it. If that’s so, this modular violin will need a new name, since it can be broken apart and changed in ways that make it sound completely different, all within a few minutes.

The fiddle is the work of [David Perry] and has 3D printed body, neck, pegbox, and bridge. While it might seem useful on the surface as a way to get less expensive instruments out in the world where virtually anyone has access to them, the real interesting qualities are shown when [David] starts playing all of the different versions he’s created. The sound changes in noticeable ways depending on the style of print, type of plastic used, and many other qualities.

Of course you will need a bow, strings, pegs, and a fingerboard, but the rest is all available if you have a 3D printer around. If you’re already a skilled violinist this could be a very affordable way to experiment with new sounds. It’s not the first time we’ve seen 3D printed violins, but it is the first time we’ve seen them designed specifically to alter the way they sound rather than their physical characteristics. If you want to make your own, all of the .stl files are available on the project’s site.

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Students Hack an Unusual Violin

[Sean Riley] is a violinist who had a problem. He wanted to play one particular piece, but he couldn’t. It wasn’t that he lacked the skill — he a doctoral student at the University of Texas and has two degrees in violin performance from The Julliard School. The problem was that “The Dharma at Big Sur” by [John Adams] is made for an instrument with six strings, while most violins only have four. So he did what any of us would do. He stopped by the local hackerspace and fabricated one. You can hear (and see) [Sean] performing with the instrument in the video, below.

The University of Texas operates “The Foundry” which is a hackerspace with all the usual items: laser cutters, 3D printers, and the like. It is open to all their students and staff. [Sean] needed some help with the engineering, and was lucky to find a mechanical engineering senior, [Daniel Goodwin], working at The Foundry.

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Self-Playing Violin: Eighth Wonder Of The World

[Martin], of the YouTube channel [WinterGatan], recently uploaded a video tour of the Phonoliszt Violina, an orchestrion, or a machine that plays music that sounds as though an orchestra is playing. The interesting thing about this one is that it plays the violin. At the time of its construction, people weren’t even certain such a thing would be possible and so when [Ludwig Hupfeld] first built one around 1910, it was considered the eighth wonder of the world.

The particular one shown in the video is at the Speelklok Museum in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The bow is a rotating cylinder with 1300 horsehairs. To get the sound of a single violin, it actually uses three of them. Rather than the bow being moved to press against the strings, the violins tilt forward to make their strings contact the rotating bow. Only one string is used per violin, hence the reason that three violins are needed. The volume is controlled by making the bow rotate faster for more volume, and slower for less. Mechanical fingers press against the strings with cork to more closely imitate the human fingertip.

The machine consists of both the mechanical violin and piano under the guidance of two paper rolls, with one roll playing at a time. See and hear it in action in the video below.

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A Violin Bow Lightsaber

[Bithead942]’s ten-year-old niece is a huge Star Wars fan, and also a violinist. Which of course has led her to learn to play some of the music from the film franchise, and then to ask her uncle to make her violin bow light up like a lightsaber.

His solution might seem fairly straightforward at first sight, simply attach a strip of DotStar addressable LEDs to a bow and drive them from an Arduino Pro Mini to gain the required animation of a saber power-up. But of course, there’s another dimension to this project. Not only does the bow have to do its lightsaber trick, it also has to be a playable bow. The electronics must not impede the musician by being too heavy or intrusive, but the result must have enough power in reserve to keep the lights burning for the duration of a performance.

After experimentation with AAA cells and CR2032s the power requirement was satisfied by a tiny Li-po cell attached to the top of the end of the bow with industrial Velcro, and the LED strip was glued and further secured using tiny rubber bands of the type used by orthodontists.

A short demonstration of the bow’s lightsaber action is shown below the break, we’re sure it’ll impress the young violinist’s audience.

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World’s Tiniest Violin Uses Radar and Machine Learning

The folks at [Design I/O] have come up with a way for you to play the world’s tiniest violin by rubbing your fingers together and actually have it play a violin sound. For those who don’t know, when you want to express mock sympathy for someone’s complaints you can rub your thumb and index finger together and say “You hear that? It’s the world’s smallest violin and it’s playing just for you”, except that now they can actually hear the violin, while your gestures control the volume and playback.

[Design I/O] combined a few technologies to accomplish this. The first is Google’s Project Soli, a tiny radar on a chip. Project Soli’s goal is to do away with physical controls by using a miniature radar for doing touchless gesture interactions. Sliding your thumb across the side of your outstretched index finger, for example, can be interpreted as moving a slider to change the numerical value of something, perhaps turning up the air conditioner in your car. Check out Google’s cool demo video of their radar and gestures below.

Project Soli’s radar is the input side for this other intriguing technology: the Wekinator, a free open source machine learning software intended for artists and musicians. The examples on their website paint an exciting picture. You give Wekinator inputs and outputs and then tell it to train its model.

The output side in this case is violin music. The input is whatever the radar detects. Wekinator does the heavy lifting for you, just give it input like radar monitored finger movements, and it’ll learn your chosen gestures and perform the appropriately trained output.

[Design I/O] is likely doing more than just using Wekinator’s front end as they’re also using openFrameworks, an open source C++ toolkit. Also interesting with Wekinator is their use of the Open Sound Control (OSC) protocol for communicating over the network to get its inputs and outputs. You can see [Design I/O]’s end result demonstrated in the video below.

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The Hovalin: Open Source 3D Printed Violin Sounds Great

[Matt and Kaitlin Hova] have created The Hovalin, an open source 3D-printed violin. Yes, there have been 3D-printed instruments before, but [The Hovas] have created something revolutionary – a 3D printed acoustic instrument that sounds surprisingly good. The Hovalin is a full size violin created to be printed on a desktop-sized 3D printer. The Hovas mention the Ultimaker 2, Makerbot Replicator 2 (or one of the many clones) as examples. The neck is one piece, while the body is printed in 3 sections. The Hovalin is also open source, released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license.

A pure PLA neck would not be stiff enough counter the tension in the strings, so [The Hovas] added two carbon fiber truss rods. A handful of other components such as tuners, and of course strings, also need to be purchased. The total price is slightly higher than a $60 USD starter violin from Amazon, but we’re betting the Hovalin is a better quality instrument than anything that cheap.

The Hovalin was released back in October. There are already some build logs in the wild, such as this one from [Emulsifide]. Like any good engineering project, the Hovalin is a work in progress. [Matt and Kaitlin] have already released version 1.0.1, and version 2.0 is on the horizon. Hearing is believing though, so click past the break to hear [Kaitlin] play her instrument.

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