Toddlers Can Play Their Favorite Music With Song Blocks Sonos system

Number 5 is alive! Actually, the wooden block is a music ignition switch of sorts thanks to Sonos.

Number 5 is alive! Actually, the wooden block is a music ignition switch of sorts thanks to Sonos.


Toddlers are inquisitive by nature. Everything must be touched, poked and tasted in order to get a full understanding (at least for them) of what things are. Sound also plays a big role in their lives, the sound of parents voices, giggling keys and music bring smiles and incoherent ‘gurgling’ sounds of delight.

The wooden blocks hallowed out for the NFC tags and magnet placements.

The wooden blocks hallowed out for the NFC tags and magnet placements.


Combining both touch and sound is a no-brainer when it comes to a child’s learning experience and Shawn Kahandaliyanage did just that with his Song Blocks toddler-friendly Sonos controller. Seeing how his son had an interest in the hi-fi wireless audio system, Shawn devised a way that would allow his son to interact with the platform and thus Song Blocks was born.

The Raspberry Pi B+ and NFC controller board run the show and can be placed out of reach from little inquisitive hands.

The Raspberry Pi B+ and NFC controller board run the show and can be placed out of reach from little inquisitive hands.


The platform consists of 12 numbered wooden blocks, each outfitted with a magnet and NFC tag. When a block is placed on a particular drawer, each backed by a series of magnets and an NFC controller board, a Raspberry Pi B+ reads the tag and plays a corresponding song. It also sends out a tweet of both the song and the artist to @songblocks for those interested. To see more visit Shawn’s GitHub breakdown.

A Working 3D Printed Guitar


Have you ever wondered if a working guitar could be 3D printed? That question has now been answered by Jeff Kerr’s beautifuly printed model.  Not only does it look great, it sounds very good too, as seen in the video below.

The design may seem a little strange if you’re expecting a wooden body, but once the initial shock is overcome, the translucent body of the guitar is quite beautiful. To support the thin shell, there are a number of fractal-inspired supports that don’t conduct light as readily, providing an interesting effect.

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Everything on the guitar is 3D printed, with the exception of the metal parts like strings and tuning keys. In addition to making this guitar, Jeff actually designed the printer that made it. The printing area is reportedly quite large, which, given the size of the guitar, would be quite helpful!

The original Foundry Makerspace source states that this guitar is not for sale, but if you’ve got a big enough printer, the models are available here. Happy printing!

Somehow I have this image of an early 90’s hair metal band smashing their guitars onstage, only to melt them down and have them printed into axes for the next show. Maybe I’ll propose this if I ever become a roadie.

Electro Noise Ensemble Designs, And Rocks, Their Own Theremins

Photo: Aleš Rosa

Photo: Aleš Rosa

On Monday nights — most of them — the nine members of the Ljubljana, Slovenia, based Theremidi Orchestra get together to practice. Rehearsal, loosely defined, can mean practicing for an upcoming gig, building new instruments, or working on production. “It’s a cat-like ensemble and it’s a known fact that you can’t herd cats as one does sheep,” explains Dare Pejić, one of the founding members.

The “electro noise ensemble,” founded in 2011, plays Theremins and similar electromagnetic instruments for audiences at workshops, galleries, festivals, and even in theaters. Practice is held at Ljudmila, the Ljubljana Digital Media Lab, a hack lab, build space, and art center that has been in Slovenia’s capitol for around 20 years.

Not only did the members teach themselves to play, they designed and built the instruments. (Several members were on hand at World Maker Faire New York to demonstrate instruments, and even teach fairegoers how to build their own.)

Photo: Theremidi Orchestra

Photo: Theremidi Orchestra

A standby in sci-fi theme songs, Theremins use interference from a player’s hand, placed near the instrument’s antennae, to create sound. The Theremidi Orchestra offers instructions and a kit for one of their simpler designs, and two others: TouchTone (a feedback amplifier system) and Micronoise (a two-channel light sensitive oscillator).

But the group builds other instruments as well, experimenting with DIY electric instruments based on electromagnetics, light, and touch. “It’s a continuous process of learning, exploring, and co-working,” says Pejić. “I don’t think we’re there yet, there is so many things we’d like to try in future.”

Theremidi Orchestra – “Sound Happens!” from Lukasz Antkiewicz on Vimeo.

Photos: Aleš Rosa

Vancouver Maker George Rahi on Playing and Making Gamelan Bike Bike

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Vancouver maker, George Rahi of Publik Secrets, and members of the Gamelan Gita Asmara, here in BC (yep, that’s in Canada!) created quite the spectacle at this year’s Vancouver Mini Maker Faire. Not only did they make beautiful sounds, but George and others built all of their own instruments out of old bicycle tubes, bike parts, and pots and pans. The sound and craftsmanship are quite incredible, and I invite you to learn more about both building instruments and playing in a Balinese orchestra in my interview with George below. (Oh! and don’t forget to watch the videos for the full experience).

1. What is gamelan? And how did you get involved in the orchestra?

Gamelan refers to both the musical tradition that dates back centuries in Indonesia and the collection of instruments themselves, ranging from gongs, drums, metallophones, and flutes. The music is intimately bound up with all manner of community gatherings and spiritual rituals for the Hindu and Muslim cultures of Java and Bali. Ensembles can range from a few people to over 30 players in size. It is an immensely rich musical tradition quite unique with its own practices of tuning and composition, and most excitingly, gamelan music is constantly transforming itself through experimentation and revolution.

I became involved in Gamelan music through a community group that has been based at the University of British Columbia under the direction of ethnomusicologist Michael Tenzer and visiting Balinese teachers, most recently, I Wayan Sudirana. The group, Gamelan Gita Asmara, strives to faithfully represent the traditional and contemporary music of Balinese gamelan. In 2013, we took our entire ensemble to Bali for a tour, playing 8 shows. Our home-made bike gamelan project came out of our experience with the “real” instruments and our love and enthusiasm for the music.

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2. How did you come up with the idea to make instruments out of bike parts and pots and pans? 

We definitely did not start out with any specific idea around making a gamelan from salvaged and found materials. Rather, the whole thing kind of morphed out of an altogether different project entirely. Myself and two musicians from the Gamelan group were working on a bicycled operated music box for Burning Man in 2012. We experimented on a trial and error basis for a while trying to figure out how to pull it all together, testing out a lot of different materials such as steel bars, pots, and pans. There was a distinct aha moment when we cut out a section of steel tubing from the frame of a bicycle and it sounded wonderful, resonating for a long time with a shimmering tone. After this we couldn’t help but see more potential in making the bicycle tubes into a gamelan that could be played by multiple people, rather than by a music box that had a fixed arrangement.

Gamelan Bike Bike - promo June 2014

3. Can you describe a bit about how you made the instruments?

At the beginning was a long process of collecting discarded bikes. We would look for steel-frame bikes in the scrap bins at community-bike shops in Vancouver and pick out ones that had appealing colors and qualities. Bikes from the 1960s and 70s sounded particularly good due to the heavier, straight-gauged steel tubing that was commonly used in manufacturing. Starting with the triangle of tubing in the middle of a bike frame, we would cut out each steel tube one by one. Each rough cut tube was then tuned by ear by shortening the length of the tube with a metal chop-saw, thus raising the pitch of each tube. To hold the tubes up in the air so that they would resonate freely, we cut the end of a bike’s fork blade, with the drop outs pointing up into the air. Brake cable housing was weaved through holes drilled in each bike tube which then rested in the drop outs, creating a suspended row of tuned bike tubes. Every choice of materials was limited to what we could salvage and repurpose, making for a very unique home-made gamelan. Guiding us along the way was the basic design of the ‘gangsa’ instrument found in a Balinese gamelan, whose elegant design has continually been refined over centuries by instrument builders in Indonesia.

Gamelan Bike Bike - Promo June 2014 - 2

4. What was it like playing in Bali?

Before going to Bali, our group spent countless hours rehearsing our repertoire of traditional and contemporary gamelan. It was a very taxing ordeal and perhaps as a result, the experience of performing for people in villages that had likely never seen a western gamelan group perform before felt all the more special. We played eight shows in the “mebarung” format, which means two groups share the stage, trading off one piece after another. This meant we got to play alongside many incredible ensembles that repeatedly blew our minds with their precision and sense of togetherness. Having that exchange and a dialogue with the musicians in Bali, many of whom are pushing the boundaries of gamelan itself, was a tremendously rewarding experience.

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5. What’s up next for you? 

We are keeping busy composing new music and shadow – plays for Gamelan Bike Bike as well as performing at many community events around Vancouver. An exciting new collaboration this year is with Miscellaneous Productions, a local theatre company that will be using our custom instruments in an upcoming production! We are also experimenting with new types of instruments. This fall we started making a MIDI-controlled pipe organ in progress as part of a musical playground installation. Check out more of our upcoming projects at


Crouching Phoenix, Flying Dragon

Many people “find their tribe” at Maker Faire, and there’s just no end to the variety of interests and backgrounds of the makers you will meet. Last year I met husband and wife makers Caipei and Hanfang Cao, who had come to Maker Faire for the very first time. They brought their quadcopters, some decorated in phoenix and dragon paper craft designs, to perform musical and aerobatic demonstrations. The windy weather conditions limited what they could do outside, and another maker group let them use their premium space just inside the main entrance to the NY Hall of Science on Sunday afternoon.

Caipei and Hanfang really showed their stuff. Caipei had designed spherical frameworks out of lightweight carbon fiber rod, safely sealing the spinning blades of the quadcopters away from unintended contact with the audience. They performed aerial tricks in what they describe as a sort of competitive sport intended to promote health and happiness. I think Hanfang was somewhat ahead of her husband on points. Caipei also flew his beautifully crafted paper creations, serenading the colorful phoenix as he guided it in a graceful dance.


After Maker Faire last year, the couple went on to audition for the television show, “America’s Got Talent”. They successfully passed several local rounds, but in the end were not selected for the live show. They are planning on auditioning for “China’s Got Talent” and seeing how far they can go. Caipei and Hanfang will be back at World Maker Faire in New York this September. They’ve added a flying Jesus, accompanying angel, and a flying wizard (not to be confused with Harry Potter) to their menagerie of creations this year. It sounds a bit crazy and maybe it is, but I loved it last year and I’m sure I’ll love it again this year.

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Bass Cannon – The Portable Party


Adam’s Science Website puts it like this: Bass Cannon is a party on your shoulders. A weapon of mass destruction. A thing to make your neighbors angry.

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Bass Cannon is a mono audio system with a pair of x-pass filters, a powerful amplifier and suitable drivers. It’s composed of an AirZooka, a pair of voice coils, epoxy, some miscellaneous analog parts, a class D amplifier, a lithium-polymer battery, birch plywood, and a threaded rod, and assembled with a soldering iron and a laser cutter. There are two potentiometers for the pair of first order filters, and a Pyle PLPW8D voice coil fits perfectly inside the AirZooka case, leaving just enough room for the range driver with a threaded rod support to be placed in front of it. Adam states there is no battery management or protection circuitry, but that it would be simple to add if wanted.

Here is a schematic:


Build A 3D Printed Wearable Daft Punk Helmet

When my daughter was not more than 4 years old, she came up to me, tiny voice and hair in lopsided pigtails from the days activities, and said “Mommy, when I grow up, I wanna be Daft Punk.” She loved them! We’d watch Interstella 5555 every day, over and over and over again. And I was completely OK with this. Thrilled even. Every minute of it. Because I wanted to be Daft Punk too. Now I get to tell my almost 10-year-old daughter that with a 3D printer and some supplies, that we can have our very own Daft Punk helmet. Wearable, lighted and everything. I think this is a dream come true inside all of us.

The project by Adafruit includes a guide, lists of tools and supplies, and helpful prerequisite guides so that you know just what completing the project will take. You’ll need a soldering iron and solder, a few other things, and a very large 3D printer, but basically the project involves downloading the design file, resizing the helmet to fit your head, and printing it out in transparent/translucent PLA filament. In a few more steps, you’ll cover the helmet with tape and spray paint it with metallic paint and add the programmable LED strips by soldering them into the front of the helmet.

Voilà! You can be Daft Punk too.


Come Jam with Burnkit2600

Justin Emerson, Brett Marshall Lefferts, and Thom Uliasz are out to shatter the mystery of electronic music making. The trio perform, run workshops and make and modify electronic instruments under the name Burnkit2600.


Last year at World Maker Faire in New York Burnkit2600 laid down the jams, keeping the crowds entertained all day. The trio of electronic gurus will be at World Maker Faire again this year, and running an official jam session. Show up with your own circuit bent electronic instrument or try out some of theirs.

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You can contact Burnkit2600 at their website or visit their Facebook page.

Rune wirelessly rocking Maker Faire Trondheim

Maker Faire Trondheim This post is coming to you live from Maker Faire Trondheim being held in the town square here in Trondheim, Norway, all weekend.

Rune wirelessly rocking Maker Faire Trondheim

Rune wirelessly rocking Maker Faire Trondheim

There are some makers that are hard to miss, they might bring fire breathing dragons that loom over the faire, or the could just be loud. Aalberg Audio makes loud sound good, they’re here a the faire showing their wirelessly controlled effects pedal.

Originally prototyped using an Arduino Mega for the pedal, and an Arduino Mini for the controller, the form factor of the both devices has radically shrunk since the first prototype.

Going from a prototype to a product

Going from a prototype to a product

I talked to Rune Aalberg Alstad—one of the co-founders of Aalberg Audio—about their Ekko delay pedal and Aero wireless controller, their current crowdfunding campaign, and how they went from prototype to product.

Rune talking about prototyping and producing a product

Rune demonstrating the wireless controller

The Trondheim Maker Faire is a two day faire being held in the Trondheim town square. It opened yesterday, and is open again today between 10am and 4pm. It is free to attend.

Nepchune's Noise Circus: Learning with Noise at Maker Faire Orlando

No one learns by memorizing- they learn by doing. – Chuck Stephens

nepchune3Chuck Stephens is an artist, musician, hardware hacker and small boat builder who specializes in the use of recycled, repurposed and salvaged materials. He’ll be exhibiting at Maker Faire Orlando September 13 & 14 as Nepchune’s Noise Circus . Chuck’s a regular on the maker circuit, and always happy to share what he learns, as he did back in May when Nick Normal took a look at the Optical Tremolo FX Box .

I asked him to tell us a bit more about what he does and why he does it, and Chuck gave us some sound bites.

What’s a “Noise Circus”?

The Noise Circus is the result of my experimentation with electronic noise circuits and generative music. My goal is to build machines that use sensors or internal logic to create evolving rhythmic and melodic patterns. I use simple circuits like building blocks to build more complex devices capable of a wide variety of musical possibilities.

This year I’ll have my Lunetta open patch CMOS based sound machine. This device uses very simple logic circuits to create complex rhythmic and melodic patterns by manually rewiring circuits with alligator clip lead wires. Once it’s wired up it can create amazingly complex and evolving sounds- from repeating musical patterns and beats to atmospheric sounds and horror/scifi sound effects. I’ll also have my Medusatron optical sequencer, circuit bent toys, an Arduino based synth and some other fun projects. I’ll have things hooked up so folks can play around and I’ll turn it up and do a few jams throughout the day.


Why do you do it?

Noise circuits provided my Eureka! moment in electronics. I had tried repeatedly over the years to ‘learn electronics’. I would periodically pick up a book and decide to get serious, studying for days until I would inevitably arrive at the conclusion that I’d never ‘get it’. I decided that electronics wasn’t for me and went on with my life.

One day I was reading the Make magazine blog and I saw a post by Collin Cunningham about the Atari Punk Console, or stepped tone generator. I watched the demo video and looked at the schematic and parts list. It didn’t seem that hard. After a quick trip to Radio Shack and an hour of carefully connecting everything on a circuit board, I had a circuit with two knobs that made cool sounds when I turned them. I saw all kinds of simple mods for this circuit online so I bought a breadboard and a small variety of components and started playing around and experimenting with that one simple circuit. I found other circuits that used similar components and was soon combining these simple circuits into more complex prototypes. After a few months of this ‘play’ I started to have a basic understanding of what was going on. My knowledge and confidence has grown quite a bit since then and I’m finally able to produce the kinds of circuits and devices that I dreamed of.

I realized that my entire approach to electronics (and learning in general) had been flawed all those years. No one learns by memorizing- they learn by doing. I also realized that we need to find our passion first and our vocation second. No matter how badly I wanted to learn electronics, it wasn’t until I had a goal to apply the knowledge to that I finally began to make progress. Having a goal in mind for my electronics studies also gave me a structure and order to my learning. By focusing on sound and timing circuits, I learned a lot of basic principles without being distracted by information that I had no immediate use for. This allowed me to make quick progress and achieve tangible results right away, reinforcing the desire to learn more. Rinse and repeat, over and over.

Why do we need it?

I think that what I do is pretty representative of the maker experience. I saw something on a blog post, used the internet to expand my understanding, used online communities to address specific questions and shared what I discovered through online forums, videos and instructional content. I think this two way access to the information economy is what defines the maker movement- we learn from and teach each other simultaneously.

By bringing my projects to maker events I not only get to directly network with like minded folks but I also get to show young people what I do and explain how I learned it. Kids tend to assume I went to college to

Chuck showing students the joys of noise at the University of South Florida Engineering Expo

Chuck showing students the joys of noise at the University of South Florida Engineering Expo

learn electronics. It’s important to let them know that knowledge is there for the taking. Education doesn’t need to be a financial concern.

What do you like about Maker Festivals?

Aside from the aforementioned networking and outreach, I also love the social aspect. I tend to spend days at a time sitting at my bench working on my projects. While I share things and interact with other makers through Hack-a-Day, Vimeo and Instructables, It’s a blast to get out and see what folks are doing in real life. From my first event I started meeting amazing people who were doing the kinds of things I wanted to do- in the workshop and the community. Whether it’s Maker Faire, Roboticon, Gulf Coast MakerCon, the St. Pete Science Fest or Bar Camp Tampa Bay, I walk out of these events refreshed and inspired. It’s like a tent revival for geeks!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’ve been doing some recordings lately. Here are some videos for your viewing enjoyment. All of what you hear is recorded directly from my Lunetta live in one take. The machine makes the music. There was no editing or multi-tracking except for a small part on Confidence is High.

You can get an earful of Nepchune’s Noise Circus at Maker Faire Orlando all weekend long September 13 & 14!