Instructables

Episode 18: The Self Playing Harmonica

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Picture of Episode 18: The Self Playing Harmonica
There are lots of different types of Self-Playing Instruments, but we here at Stupid Inventions wanted to create something new!

So we decided to build the Self Playing Harmonica!

Made from an old printer and a vacuum cleaner, the Self-Playing Harmonica will play different songs based on the image you print!

Watch the video to see it in action!



What you'll need to make this device:
1x Printer
1x Vacuum Cleaner
1x Harmonica
Tape, Scissors, Sharp Knife, and a computer.

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Step 1: Preparing The Printer

Picture of Preparing The Printer
This step will vary based on the printer and harmonica your using.

Basically what you want to do is make sure there's enough room for the harmonica to be able to go from right to left while attached to the ink cartridges.

I didn't take a picture of the printer before I cut parts of it off, but you could see where the main cuts were. I only had to cut pieces of plastic in order to fit the harmonica, so the printer should work perfectly despite the cosmetic surgery...

Be careful with whatever knife or scissor you use to remove the plastic parts.
This is the only hard part to this Stupid Invention

Step 2: Adding The Harmonica

Picture of Adding The Harmonica
Once you've cleared a path for the Harmonica, attaching it to the printers Ink Cartridges should be a snap!

Just make sure its attached as securely as possible, and try not to cover up any of the air holes of the Harmonica.

Once attached, turn the printer on and give it a test run to make sure the printer can fully function even with all the modification.

Step 3: Adding The Vacuum Cleaner

Picture of Adding The Vacuum Cleaner
Depending on your Vacuum Cleaner's nozzle, you may need to attach it to something heavy to keep it in place.

I had to attach it to a weight to keep it sucking in the same spot.

Choosing where to place the nozzle is entirely up to you, but you may want it to be near the middle so you can be sure the complete harmonica will pass by the vacuum cleaner.

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usl523 years ago
Instead of putting solenoids, blowers, dryers etc... why don't you just use your plain old mouth.....you just might end up playing the harmonica better !!
REA4 years ago
NOW IM ONE STEP CLOSER TO BUILDING MY ROBOTIC BOB DYLAN! THANX!!!!11!!!
spectacular REA3 years ago
LOL!
StupidInventions (author)  REA4 years ago
happy to help!
usl524 years ago
If you like to play the Harmonica that way...so be it !
StupidInventions (author)  usl524 years ago
it can play the harmonica better than ican..
same
rimar20004 years ago
This is not a STUPID Invention!. Very clever.
StupidInventions (author)  rimar20004 years ago
thanks! glad you liked it!
I am doing it, I want to play the Beto's Ninth Symphony. But in black and white only, because my printer hasn't color ink.
StupidInventions (author)  rimar20004 years ago
lol, good luck! Beto's 9th sounds way better in black and white! :)
Doesn't everything?
spectacular3 years ago
LOL love the sunnies and hat. They just give it so much more character
possum8884 years ago
Reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8W2AxXfbvM

The stepper motor moves so it plays Ode to Joy!
There is nothing wrong with the music being made by this invention... It is the demands of inappeasable ( my spell checker chose this word :P) listeners that are expressed here... don't listen to them, just rock on and enjoy the rich variation that creativity can bring to music. It SHOULD sound like nothing else ever heard before. Good one!
Thank you very much for the kind words! Believe me, compared to comments I've gotten on other sites, even the worst comments here on Instructables are a welcome relief.. At least on Instructables people take the time to explain the technical difficulties they have with a project, and that's why they don't like it. Also, as you said, the people hear can also spell correctly, which is another plus. So thanks everyone for your comments and feedback, whether positive or otherwise! I hope to make and post more Stupid Inventions in the future! Zachary Stupid Inventor
Are we referring to the comment trolls on hackaday, perhaps? Those guys are brutal (and yet, have yet to prove that they've built anything of value themselves...)
I don't know about that site, but I did retire from a very exciting idea group, due to the "it'll never work" mentality. Wonder why pop music still uses the same three chords Beethoven used? Do they all eat the same food every day? For me, originality is essential to good music. On the other hand, all original ideas may not work so well! I really liked the printer's music!
Heh, if you get a chance, do a bit of research into how many times Pachelbel's Canon appears in pop music!

EDIT: I did the work for you, when I was looking up how to properly spell "Pachelbel." Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Paravonian#Pachelbel_Rant
kmpres4 years ago
Good start but needs work, obviously. I'm sure you're aware that a harmonica has in and out reeds every other note meaning that you need to reverse airflow rapidly to get it to play all its available notes. A vacuum cleaner is clearly one direction only, and overkill at that. Good luck refining this project into somethiing that can actually play a tune.
StupidInventions (author)  kmpres4 years ago
You should know that I actually did do a little more work then i mention in this instructable.... A way to get the "exhale" notes on the harmonica would be to have a blow dryer blowing into a funnel... I was able to get this to work, but the heat from the blow dryer would melt the plastic... So if i had the money, time, and skill, i would have taken out the heating coils and tried to add that to the Self-Playing Harmonica.... but alas i only used the vacuum... im still quite happy with the result :)
Your results so far are good, and it's an interesting project. Except for the programming function, you've essentially followed the path automaton makers did over 100 years ago, and the printer takes care of most of the mechanics. Regarding the hair blower idea,most hair blowers have a heat-off, blower-only function which would require little or no hacking, but it yours doesn't, disconnecting the heater element shouldn't be difficult.. Just be careful, because you'll be working with line-voltages. You could regulate the fan speed with an ordinary light dimmer (about $10 at a hardware store) as long as the heating element is not part of the circuit. A solenoid could also reverse the airflow direction on command from the computer/printer giving you the full range of notes in your harmonica. A bigger problem, though, is how to keep the noise from your air blower and printer from drowning out the relatively small sound the harmonica makes.
jeff-o kmpres4 years ago
Yeah, a solenoid to direct airflow is definitely what's needed. Something to rapidly turn on and off the airflow, since you can't spin up a blower motor fast enough.
yay a new way 2 bug the hell out of my parents!!! keep at it....
lol thanks... my parents were bugging me to "clean that mess up" so i guess itll work
Awesome. When I saw the first pic, I imagined that you would interface with the printers stepper motor using a microprocessor etc - I thought it seemed like more work than fun... But your method of 'printing' the music using the existing windows print driver is simple and elegant - truly creative! :-)
StupidInventions (author)  Trigger_Happy4 years ago
hahhaha thanks! Don't have such high expectations when you see it's from Stupid Inventions, lol. Glad you enjoyed it!
5 stars!
um, did you actually rate it 5 Stars? because it says my only rating is a 3, lol
I did. They do this weird thing where if only one person rates it 5, it won't actually be 5. I've always wanted to figure out how it works.
lol, ok thanks for rating!
Warlrosity4 years ago
OM&(*&)_&_)* I needed this, I wanna make a sefr blowing saxaphone
StupidInventions (author)  Warlrosity4 years ago
good luck with that!
Thanks
if you ever make one for a tuba or ukulele, contact me.
lol, i will keep you posted...
It has potential as an idea, but I'm not sure if it's evolved far enough to really be called a 'self-playing' harmonica, being that it's just moving air over the reeds in a static motion-there's no music being made, just a whole lot of noise. A fully-capable one would involve solenoids, air tubes to each reed on the harp, and a microprocessor, as well as the software to control it. At least, it sounds good on paper.
StupidInventions (author)  guitarman63mm4 years ago
very true, and i would love to build a fully capable one! Unfortunately, as this is Stupid Inventions, my supplies and skills are limited.. so this is the best I could make right now... I'm actually in school now for Electrical Engineering, so maybe after I graduate I'll go back and retweak and revamp some of these Stupid Inventions... Either way, thanks for watching and commenting! I hope you at least go a good laugh out of the video!
Yes, yes I did laugh profusely. It's almost as goofy as Bleep Labs's noise-maker, the http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFaU6Euuytg&feature=channel_page!

In all seriousness, kudos on the idea. I've tried playing diatonic harps, but it always manifests itself into some sort of Bob Dylan-esque blow/draw game...
StupidInventions (author)  guitarman63mm4 years ago
well then mission accomplished! wow, that is a cool yet pointless device... thanks for the kudos! ha, it's funny how many Bob Dylan comments im getting
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