See How the Viral Musical Marble Machine Works (and Could Be Improved)

Caleb Kraft

Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at [email protected]

414 Articles

By Caleb Kraft

Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at [email protected]

414 Articles

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Last week, this video of an incredibly whimsical marble based, hand cranked, musical machine swept the internet. From the group Wintergatan, this massive handmade marble machine actually plays the song you hear. If you haven’t yet seen it, or the complete making-of that was shared, go watch it now.

Of course, after watching the music video — and even the construction videos — you may still have questions about how well it works. You may be thinking to yourself, surely it can’t work as well as it appears! Surely it doesn’t sound that clear and beautiful in person! Your thoughts are correct! Martin Molin, makes no effort to hide the shortcomings of the machine, and explains his methods of cleaning the audio for the video. Actually, Molin has gone to great lengths to explain in detail how the machine works in these two videos.

In this first video, we see how the drums and bass function. If you were standing in the room with Molin, it might sound a bit peculiar, but taking the feed from the microphones clears things up a bit. What I found most interesting is that he’s using microphones for the drum bits, not midi triggers as I suspected before. The snare drum is especially fun as he’s using rice to achieve the tinny vibrations you’d get from a snare.

In the second video, he explains how the marble mechanism functions and goes into detail about some of the difficulties he has encountered while actually using the machine. Molin explains that there are a number of random errors that can occur and due to those, the final music video took many separate filmed segments to complete.  Of course, like any inventor he dreams of one day perfecting his work, though if he’s like me in any way, revisiting old projects rarely happens.