Hackers in Residence - The ElectricBone

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Contributors: Carlos E. Mello
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Introduction

Before I begin, I'd like to thank SparkFun for having me here and all the nice people that made this Hacker-in-Residence such a great experience. In particular, I'd like to thank Toni Klopfenstein for being there all the time and getting everything I needed for the project. Also, many thanks to Byron Jacquot for all the advice, help and "crash course" on PureData; to Shawn Hymel for introducing me to the RaspberryPi; to Jiffer Harriman (CU) for helping me with PD logic; and of course to Evan Spitler, mech shop wizard, for patiently helping me build my crazy trombone.

The ElectricBone

My idea for this project was to use electronics to create a musical instrument that someone could play like a trombone but would produce synthetic sounds. Like any other brass instruments, a trombone is a long open pipe that is played by buzzing one's lips inside it, through a mouthpiece. The instrument then resonates in response, amplifying and modifying the sound. The length of the pipe determines the pitches that can be produced. These are basically harmonic partials starting from a fundamental frequency for each pipe length. What makes the trombone unique among the other brass instruments is that it uses a slide to change the length of the pipe and reach all possible notes. Thus, in order to implement my "trombone interface", I needed to keep track of two things: lip vibration and slide movement.

Covered in this Tutorial

In this tutorial we will go over:

  • What electronic hardware worked best for this application
  • How to replicate a trombone with mechanical parts
  • How to connect everything together with software and embedded firmware
  • How to put everything together in one complete package

Suggested Reading

If you plan on following along at home, make sure you are familiar with the following concepts before continuing.