Inspired by Wintergatan’s Martin Molin, iSax set out to create a MIDi-controlled robotic trombone of his own. Although the aptly named RoboTrombo may not replace professional trombone players any time soon, it’s nonetheless an impressive musical hack.
The instrument is controlled by an Arduino Nano running Firmata, along with a host computer, and employs a variety of pneumatic and electrical actuators to produce the tunes.
When played, air flows through the mouthpiece via artificial lips, and turned on and off with a trumpet valve and servo. The lips can be manipulated for different sounds using a stepper motor setup. A slide mechanism is driven by a pneumatic actuator, with a linkage system that pushes it in an out, and a potentiometer provides positional feedback.
Slide whistles and recorders can be great for learning music, and perhaps a bit of fun, but what about teaching a robot to play such a wind instrument? The Mixed Signal’s MIDI-controlled system could be used for just that.
The project is comprised of a 3D-printed fipple and piston that go into a PVC tube, while air input is via a centrifugal blower fan. A plunger with a rack-and-pinion gear are used to move the piston back and forth, changing the note being played.
A keyboard provides the user interface here, though any number of digital audio workstation devices should be able to duplicate this human task if needed. It’s hooked up to an Arduino Due with a CNC shield, which controls the single stepper motor.
You can find more details on the fipple flute on Hackster and Hackaday, and see a demo of it in action below.
Redditor Mark Hank missed the tactile experience of vinyl records so he removed the insides of an old Sonos Boost to turn it into a Raspberry Pi- and NFC-powered music player. Yes, this really works:
The Sonos Boost was purchased for just £3 on eBay. Mark pulled all the original insides out of it and repurposed it as what they call a ‘vinyl emulator’ to better replicate the experience of playing records than what a simple touchscreen offers.
The Boost now contains a Raspberry Pi 3A+ and an ACR122U NFC reader, and it plays a specific album, playlist, or radio station when you tap a specific NFC tag on it. It’s teamed with Sonos speakers, and NTAG213 NFC tags. The maker recommends you go with the largest tags you can find, as it will improve read performance; they went with these massive ones.
One of the album covers printed onto thick card
The tags are inside printouts mounted on 1mm thick card (those album cover artwork squares getting chucked at the Sonos in the video), and they’re “super cheap” according to the maker.
You’ll need to install the node-sonos-http-api package on your Raspberry Pi; it’s the basis of the whole back-end of the project. The maker provides full instructions on their original post, including on how to get Spotify up and running on your Raspberry Pi.
The whole setup neatened up
Rather than manually typing HTTP requests into a web browser, the maker wanted to automate the process so that the Raspberry Pi does it when presented with certain stimulus (aka when the NFC reader is triggered). They also walk you through this process in their step-by-step instructions.
How the maker hid the mess under the display table
The entire build cost around £50, and the great thing is that it doesn’t need to sit inside an old Sonos Boost if you don’t want it to. The reader works through modest-width wood, so you can mount it under a counter, install it in a ‘now listening’ stand, whatever — it’s really up to you.
Take a musical trip down memory lane all the way back to the 1920s.
Sick of listening to the same dozen albums on repeat, or feeling stifled by the funnel of near-identical YouTube playlist rabbit holes? If you’re looking to broaden your musical horizons and combine that quest with a vintage-themed Raspberry Pi–powered project, here’s a great idea…
Alex created a ‘Radio Time Machine’ that covers 10 decades of music, from the 1920s up to the 2020s. Each decade has its own Spotify playlist, with hundreds of songs from that decade played randomly. This project with the look of a vintage radio offers a great, immersive learning experience and should throw up tonnes of musical talent you’ve never heard of.
In the comments section of their reddit post, Alex explained that replacing the screen of the vintage shell they housed the tech in was the hardest part of the build. On the screen, each decade is represented with a unique icon, from a gramophone, through to a cassette tape and the cloud. Here’s a closer look at it:
Now let’s take a look at the hardware and software it took to pull the whole project together…
Have all of y’all been hoarding toilet roll over recent weeks in an inexplicable response to the global pandemic, or is that just a quirk here in the UK? Well, the most inventive use of the essential household item we’ve ever seen is this musical project by Max Björverud.
Ahh, the dulcet tones of wall-mounted toilet roll holders, hey? This looks like one of those magical ‘how do they do that?’ projects but, rest assured, it’s all explicable.
Max explains that Singing Toilet is made possible with a Raspberry Pi running Pure Data. The invention also comprises a HiFiBerry Amp, an Arduino Mega, eight hall effect sensors, and eight magnets. The toilet roll holders are controlled with the hall effect sensors, and the magnets connect to the Arduino Mega.
In this video, you can see the hall effect sensor and the 3D-printed attachment that holds the magnet:
Max measures the speed of each toilet roll with a hall effect sensor and magnet. The audio is played and sampled with a Pure Data patch. In the comments on his original Reddit post, he says this was all pretty straight-forward but that it took a while to print a holder for the magnets, because you need to be able to change the toilet rolls when the precious bathroom tissue runs out!
Max began prototyping his invention last summer and installed it at creative agency Snask in his hometown of Stockholm in December.
Vintage typewriters are truly amazing pieces of technology, but unlike modern keyboards, they are decidedly one-purpose machines. William Sun Petrus, however, had other ideas for his 1920s-era Remington Portable typewriter, augmenting hammers with wires as inputs to an Arduino Mega.
Input signals are produced when each key strikes a metallic “live plate” in the center, completing a circuit. This info is passed along as MIDI signals to a computer running Ableton digital audio software, allowing him to create the excellent beat seen in the video below.
Typewriter code is available on GitHub, where you’ll certainly notice the lines from Green Eggs and Ham that are output on an LCD screen at the base of the almost 100-year-old device.