Music Hack Day : My percussion machine

July 19th, 2009 by Alistair MacDonald Leave a reply »

Last week we all turned up at the Guardian offices for Music Hack Day not quite knowing what to expect but prepared for most eventualities. I still did not know what to hack together and no one I knew had any real ideas yet.

There was not really an opportunity to find anyone else to do something with so I decided to do something with my old WaveFinder DAB radio, possibly doing something with RadioDNS and linking it to some of the sponsoring online services. Unforchantly a couple of hours later I still could not get the hardware working on my laptop so decided to play with the Arduino and make some kind of music machine as a learning exercise.

After a lot of fiddling, scavenging, stripping wires, battling with wifi, messing around with hardware, lots of chatting, a late night visit to Avenue Q, some Geocaching, three hours sleep, and drinking lost of tea the percussion machine was born.

At the end of the event I had the device using a couple of servos to play some bottles, a cup, a bottle-top maracas-tamborine-like-thing, and a can. The creation was not a practical hack, but something to learn from while I was creating it, and an excuse to be a little silly. I think the Guardian article sums it up well. I quote…

Come 2pm on Sunday, we gathered to see what people had come up with. Now, some of the presentations were a little – how can I put this – impenetrable for a non-techie like me. Others, however, seemed happy to admit they’d spent the night messing around on a project for no other benefit than their (and our) own amusement (step forward the Percussion Machine, a hardware hack using an Arduino microcontroller that involved turning some empty beer bottles into a drumkit).

I did not take the presentation overly seriously but everyone appeared to enjoy the stupidity of the creation. There were also a lot of great hacks that I enjoyed and are worth a look though. In the end I was awarded a prize by for being so creative in using things around us to build the machine with, that was nice. :-)

i love Quidco GreenWhite


  1. zazi says:

    Indeed a really funny application that you've created. I enjoy the video.

    Cheers zazi

  2. laurie01 says:

    Whew! This is so cool. I enjoyed watching the video. I also love percussion instruments and infact, I am now in a music school and I'm learning how to play bongos as part of my curriculum. Good luck and more power to your team.:D

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