Credit cards as musical instruments

If you’ve ever held a credit card or a ruler against a counter, with a bit overhanging the edge and turned it into a musical instrument, you’ll have an idea of what this is all about.

The project above project was a promotion for local Austrian banks, but it’s also a great demonstration of what you could do if you wanted to make some DIY instruments out of bank cards.

Vienna-based composer Dr. Richard Eigner describes the project::

Mario Wienerroither, Gernot Ottowitz (Audiobakery) and me have been approached by Young & Rubicam with a very intriguing idea: build instruments out of cash cards and write a musical piece with the freshly assembled sonic devices for their client »Erste Bank & Sparkasse«. Challenge accepted! You can see the result above. The video was shot by our dear friends from Jenside. This page features my very own cash card instruments designs.

Here are a few of the instruments that the team created and played in this video:

  1. Musicbox Cash Cards
  2. Cash Card Duochord
  3. Cash Card Kalimba
  4. Cash Card Laserbass
  5. Cash Card Monochord
  6. Cash Card Ratchet Snare
  7. Cash Card Ratchet Shaker


The dude in the center, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib made his first guitar out of a tin can, a bicycle chain, and a stick. They were forced to fight in Muammar al-Ghaddafi’s army, have been living as nomadic refugees through out the Sahara, and recorded their first album in a makeshift studio. They’re probably one of the most badass bands of all time.


Here’s a sample:

Drum kit light fixture

Matt Ludwig created this light fixture for JJ’s Red Hots restaurant.  JJ’s used to be called “The Drum”, so the owner thought it would be appropriate to pay hommage to the old business by installing a drum kit as a chandelier.  You can see more pictures and the “in progress” photos of the build right here.

Disappointingly, Matt Ludwig is not related to Ludwig drums in any way.

78rpm art

Australian artist Scott Marr took some old shellac 78rpm discs and went to town on them with a dremel. In fact, it’s a pretty delicate (and time consuming) operation, as the old shellac disc are extremely fragile.

I think that these are absolutely stunning. Click on each to see larger versions.

The Sonovox, circa 1940

Created over 60 years ahead of Daft Punk, the Sonovox is an amazing device that gives voice to musical instruments. The Sonovox consists of one or two louspeakers placed on the throat that play the source sound. The performer whispers the words while the speakers stand in for the voice box.

Used for the talking train in Disney’s Dumbo, uncountable radio promos, a modified tube-in-the-mouth version “Talk Box” was used by Peter Frampton to make his guitar sing, and all-electronic “Vocoder” versions are still used in current pop music.

You can find out how to make one yourself right here.

Fader automation groove

So many times I’ve played around with the faders on my Mackie control surface, just for the sake of pushing them around & having them bounce back. Well, FJTeaBone & StressKind have taken things a few steps forward, and have used the flying faders on a Yamaha 01V96, coupled with some home-made percussion, to create a groove with the mixing board.

You hear all the time that the mixer is to be played like a musical instrument in it’s own right, such as in dub reggae, but I’m not sure this is what they mean.

Vinyl amplifier

Paul Cocksedge is a designer from London, and has created a fantastic device that’s part art, part gear. He uses discarded vinyl records to create amplifiers for smartphones by forming them into mathematically-calculated forms. He calls the project “Change the Record.”

He heats the vinyl records, and moulds them into a funnel shape – they amplify the music coming from a phone just by the way they are shaped. He debuted the amplifiers at a live performance at the Roundhouse in London, where he heated an moulded old LPs “live”, and encouraged visitors to bring their own 12” record.

A great way to amplify music from your smartphone, and it doubles as a beautiful, recycled conversation piece.

Here’s a video that shows how it works:

He sells them for £29.17.

Homemade headphone amp is a work of art

Rupert Hirst is an electronics hobbyist from West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. He’s put together a project that is absolutely stunning in it’s simplicity and elegance – a top-notch-beautiful headphone amplifier.

The headphone amp doesn’t use a PCB or circuit board of any type, all the connections are made via direct connections. The whole thing is self-supporting due to the stiffness of the leads and wires that connect the components together. There’s a nice bright LED in the circuit to add that little bit of bling, and attached to the circuit is  an input and an output jack, and that’s it.

Instead of going the traditional route and putting the whole mess in a plastic box, Rupert decided to show off the beauty of the circuit itself, and encased it all in clear resin. The resin gives the amp some structural integrity, and also acts as a great insulator. After the resin had set, he polished it up with a belt sander and turned it into a beautiful piece of art.

Check out the pictures below, click to enlarge. Wow, who said that electronics couldn’t also be art?

Absurdly huge bass subwoofer

A bunch of University of Wisconsin PhD engineering students decided to build a massive 6000 Watt ‘bass cannon’for the UW-Madison Engineering Expo.

The cone of the speaker is made of polycarbonate and is 6 feet in diameter, with the cabinet measuring 8ft x 8ft x 2ft or 128 cubic feet. Very disappointingly, I sortof doubt this would fit in my car.

The whole thing was custom made, including the voice coil, magnet assembly, cone, surround and case. The speaker works best in the 5Hz – 50hz range, and unfortunately the video below doesn’t do it much justice.

We found the resonant frequency of the building it was in which caused “annoyance” for people several floors above us in the opposite side of the building. We were partially inspired by Doc Brown’s speaker from Back to the Future.

I’m not sure what ‘annoyance’ meant, but I wonder if it had something to do with the brown note.

Here’s a video of the Giant Speaker in action:

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