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

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

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

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.

Step 4: Fine Tuning

You need to make sure the vacuum nozzle is close enough to the harmonica to make a noise, yet far enough that it wont attach itself to the harmonica and disrupt the printer. Again, you'll have to experiment with the vacuum nozzle, printer, and harmonica that you have to get results.

Once everything is in place, the real fun part begins!

Try printing a few random images to see what sounds the Self Playing Harmonica will play.

Once you get a feel for the device, try "drawing a song" for it to play.

If I was more musically inclined I would have developed this further, but you can see in the picture the song that I drew. Watch the video in the first and last step to see the Self Playing Harmonica in action and hear what this song sounds like!

Note: I had to cut a piece of Printer Paper in half, so that the printer would still print and that the paper wouldn't interfere with the vacuum and the harmonica.

Step 5: The Self Playing Harmonica Is Complete!


Now you have a fully programmable Self-Playing Harmonica!

Try drawing different songs and see what plays!

P.S. I decided to decorate the Self-Playing Harmonica... consider it one of the Robot Blues Brothers...

I hope you enjoyed this instructable and please rate, comment, and subscribe!


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    49 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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 !!

    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.

    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!

    4 replies

    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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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...)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    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.