The Fork-o-drumbot


Let´s make something with Arduino

I have learnt programming microcontrollers in high school, with assembler and an 8-bit ZiLOG Z8 microcontroller. I have done something with PIC84 series in the past, but nothing really finished and working. I was waiting for the right opportunity to start using Arduino.

Initial project

At first I wanted to make a desktop milling machine like this so that I could etch my PCB and make some interesting objects. After retrieving some information on internet I found some issues:

  • price: high with tendency to explode
  • time: very long with tendency to infinte
  • complexity: high with tenedency to impossible

I have only few spare time now, a complex project for starting with Arduino is not a good idea.

So I decided to do something that sounded easier for me. A robot drummer! But not a simple soul-less drum machine, a real one made with wood and sticks!

Why Fork-o-drumbot?

Because eventually I had successfully connected the MIDI interface and powered a solenoid for my first prototype… And I wanted to see it in action immediately!

So I took what I had around in the room to build my first drumbot: a wooden fork, an empty coil drum made of cardboard, an elastic band, a plastic box, and some tape. The main issue was to provide to the solenoid a spring effect to come back, an end-of-run (the spindle would come completely off without that) and invert the movement of the solenoid (which is a pull-type) (more detail about the mechanics here!). I come up with this solution and when I saw this fork moving back and forth, I laughed for tens of minutes, it was so hilarious!

After that, I decided to apply this approach of recycling things, and that characterized my project. It´s *SO* satisfying and when something unexpectedly comes to life, you have the feeling that you could build anything with only the stuff you have around! And that adds more gas and more motivation to go on! 😀

Yes, but what´s a drum machine?

A drum machine is an electronic or software interface which allows to play repetitive drum patterns with pre-recorded or synthetized drum sounds. I would like to phyiscally produce these sounds instead of playing recorded ones.
I wanted to use the MIDI interface, and then maybe developing a stand-alone interface. Some specific MIDI notes received by the Fork-o-drumbot (sent by the computer sound card or every other external MIDI interface) would trigger a specific solenoid. The solenoid will drive a specific stick make it hit one of the percussions.

Getting started

I have decided to build the projects with steps, minimzing the risks:

  1. Getting the Arduino and try to program it in order to receive MIDI data. For the beginning it will be ok to light up different leds according to the received note.
  2. Once MIDI in interface is working, connect the solenoids and play with PWM and build some kind of drum set to be played with it.
  3. Find a way to make it stand-alone
  4. Conquer the world!

2 thoughts on “The Fork-o-drumbot

  1. You have to get the intro drumbeat to “Lowrider” – bonus points for the rest of the rhythms which will take quite a few more drums.

  2. Yes I have to try! I only need the MIDI file of it. I will need to use the hi-hat instead of the cowbell. I hope in future I will be able to add a couple of toms and a cymbal!

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