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This weekend I went down to Palo Alto to check out the DIY Musical Instrument Tailgate Party, hosted by Thingamajigs and the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).

The fun, welcoming event was an amplified (pun intended) meetup, where makers could show off their projects and prototypes to each other. The public was invited to interact with the makers and the instruments and there were several performances throughout the afternoon as well.

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The Shambler, below, created by Eric Strauss, consists of of two traffic cones, a ShopVac, and PVC.  The drums are built by Strauss himself.

The project is “a series of blown idiophones which incorporate large diameter drum heads excited by a compressed air driver. By varying position and pressure of the heads and/or drivers, various harmonic effects are produced. When two are played together they share a common air supply and become pneumatically and tonally interactive with each other.”

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Zombie Taxa Zero 1, by John Granzow, Denton Fredrickson, and Chris Chafe, combines ancient music science with modern 3D printing technology to an eerie effect. Says Granzow: “Motorcycle tanks, when flipped, have the required U-shape for whistling vessels, an instrument inspired by ancient Andean ceramics. In this version, 3D printed fipple-flutes sing as the air pressure changes in the rocking tank.”

These are motorized via Arduino, so each tank rocks back and forth slowly in its own rhythm. As the water shifts back and forth from one side of the “U” to the other, air is sucked in through the flutes and pushed out on the other side, creating mournful whistling sounds.

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Tapewarp, by Bryan Day, is a simple, yet very satisfying, instrument made of amplified measuring tape of differing lengths.  Each tape is in contact with a piezo sensor affixed at the base, which connects to an amplifier. He told me that this project was born as an accidental discovery while he was busy exploring the sonic properties of the helping hands tool.

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This invented instrument by Bart Hopkin is made up of a menagerie of metal and wooden parts, each struck in time by the player and bouncing, vibrating, and warbling at their own individual frequency.
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The Interactive Mechanical Drum Machine, by Tim Phillips, is visually arresting in its simplicity, and equally enjoyable to play with. Users are invited to interact with the various wooden cogs, adding and removing binder clips at different intervals. As the cogs rotate, the clips lift and then drop a drumstick, which bounces to sound on a nearby drum. Participants had a fun visual interface with which to experiment with different rhythms.

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The amplified bicycle wheel, a pet project by Myles Borins, was fun to play with an assortment of hand tools and other everyday objects.

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Casey Rodarmor brought his Rodadoor, a flexible drum pad made of silicone rubber embedded with conductive fabric. To accompany the pad, Casey created a touch-sensor glove; each finger on the glove correlates to one note, and each separate square on the pad to a different octave.

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Ashley Bellouin presents her take on one of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions with her Glass Armonica, below. The armonica is made of thirteen glass bowls of different diameters and pitches, rotated around a central rod, and then touched with a moistened finger, similar to the “singing wine glass” trick. The drone-like sounds in the background are from Ashley’s harmonium, a hand-pumped reed instrument.

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