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Live music gigs are always a very special thing, but to produce it, you need humans, and humans are not always available. I occasionally play gigs equipped by my guitar and my voice, but music generally features many others instruments, like percussion, and these instruments tend to only sound when played by humans. This problem could be solved by just using a recording and playing over it, but that would somehow feel against the idea of the “live” concept.

So, I decided to get rid of the human element entirely, and build a robot drummer... The idea would be to make something portable, which could move and play sounds in different rhythms with no use of samples/recordings, that could be played or stopped at will, and that its sound could be amplified in a gig/band situation.

Disclaimer 1: As I said in my previous project, I have no formal electronics education, so I'm sure that many of the circuits described in this tutorial could be arranged in a better and more efficient/effective way. I'm open to suggestions. Btw, the same applies for all the code I wrote in this project.

Disclaimer 2: In order to keep this tutorial as short, easy and useful as possible, I decided to focus in the main functions of the projects. These being, how the sound is produced, how is captured and amplified, and how the arduino keeps everything under control. With this in mind, I simplified many aspect of the project, like the use of a simple tact switch instead of a rotary encoder.

Step 1: Materials

**I did all the wooden pieces by hand, so I don't really have any exact plans for them. I've drawn and explained everything as best as I could though, and I don't think it would be much hard to replicate them, more so if you have a cnc or a 3d printer.

rohr463 months ago
Hey nice project. I hope its not unpolitely to ask, but next year i am going to have a final project in my crafts teach mechatronic. And I am thinking about rebuilding this project. So my question is to you have detailed plans or files of this project that i could use to get through this hard final exam?
thank you in advance

FrancoMolina (author)  rohr463 months ago
Not at all unpolitely! It's awesome you want to make one, thank you!
Unfortunately I don't have any plans o files whatsoever, I built it all by hand and kept redesigning the thing at the same time I built it. That's why I focused on the core elements of the project, so if someone wanted to replicate it, they use their own enclosures. I could take some measures of the sticks and other parts, but for example the enclosure doesn't have to be a cube, that only complicates things even more, I just did it that way because I wanted it to be portable.
I could definitely send you more pictures of mine though, and give you advice while you build yours.
Sorry for the late reply, i hope your a still watching the comment section on this site. Tomorrow i will start building my final project for school. So it would be very nice and awesome if you could send me some more detailed pictures and measures.
arabyshop1 month ago
This is good project
Dumbphone1 month ago
This is a fantastical idea and product!. Wow.
daxpatel2 months ago
Amazing man.see my instructable for cnc wood working.
dafathai2 months ago
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steenoluf3 months ago
Hi- I have saved the pdf with your project just now for inspiration for the coming school year! I teach 19 year old boys the final year before they graduate here at the Tech High School in Thy, Danmark (with the Cold Hawaii surf spot!) I saw James Taylor some years ago on stage with a very big drum machine that hit real drum kit drums! But your drum machine is much easier to get around with - and I think it has so many beautiful aspects of music and working with Arduinos - so I will see if we can get started on this somehow. About battery operation: My students left me 4 12VDC batteries of the type used for lawn mowers. They are sealed Lead acid batteris- and they are not as heavy as a car battery. I figured you could one of these! I notice the suggestions for simple and versatile definition of the different sound effects ("instruments" : Hi hat, snare drum, big drum, etc.) and the ideas for space saving notation. Once you start considering a MIDI interface you will probably want to let everything in the timing and notation emerge from the MIDI notation. I notice the need for "early warning" of the different trigger mechanisms (puzzled how a human drummer percieves this - or rather how this goes unnoticed by human drummers!) - but don't you think you could device some software that put a layer "on top" of the MIDI notation and created timing for these "pre triggers"? Anyway- summer is here, I am off for examination work 5 hours by train from here - so I will say goodbye for now! I will keep an eye on your drum cube project! It's really cool!
ABout the only way to handle delay with MIDI is to have the system do a FIXED delay on everything it play. So the sound comes out exatly 500 milisecond late. As long as EVERY soubd is delayed the same you will not notice.

As for the battey. It is easier to regulate DOWN then up. Four or five of those 18650 batteries in series woud work. Be sure to buy the kind that have internal protection circuits unless you want to firast becaise a battery expert.

The "old school" method works too - get a big lead-acid battery and a dolly to carry it

And do you really need 12 volts? The servos run on 5, Aruino on 5
newbeatle3 months ago
so interesting design i can suggest in a future improvement to add a crash and ride sounds , maybe made with a metal sheet that imitates its sound also you can put a hi and medium toms modules ! if someone plays music with a 1.44 floppy driver why cant be this made with yourr electronic drummer ? congratulations from mexico
djsnowman063 months ago
Does it still show up 45 mins late and drunk? Need that for authenticity...

Great project man. Now I wanna hear it play "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due"
FrancoMolina (author)  djsnowman063 months ago
Sorry, it doesn't do that... it also remains quiet while the band is tuning their instruments, so yeah, is not very accurate lol.
Thank you!
pretty cool
WoodPrix3 months ago
This is a great piece of work. Beautiful ! This is good project !
FrancoMolina (author)  WoodPrix3 months ago
Thank you!!
starlite29913 months ago
What are your
of your box, both top cover, sides and bottom
FrancoMolina (author)  starlite29913 months ago
it's a 20cm cube (:
labdude3 months ago
Wonderful work, artfully realized and beautifully executed. I had one suggestion however. I was thinking that your numbering system for the elements could be replaced by using a single byte, with one bit for each element, eg. Kick = 1 (b0000 0001), snare1 = 2 (b0000 0010), HiHat = 4 (b0000 0100) then Kick & HiHat = 5 (b0000 0101), kick and snare = 3 (b0000 0011) etc.
You can reduce your storage requirements by using byte vs int (more room for tracks) and set up additional elements in the same amount of storage. Or use the High bit (b1000 0000) as your "previous" flag. This would also simplify your code by allowing you to do bitwise logic to select your instruments eg:
"// we check if in this cycle a snare has to be played
if ( (cycleNumber == 9) || (cycleNumber == 4) || (cycleNumber == 6) || (cycleNumber == 1) ) "
can be replaced by:
byte snare = 2; (in setup) then
" if (cycleNumber & snare) {your code here}"
or, by the same token,
digitalWrite(SnarePin, cycleNumber & snare); //make snare output high
Again, it would save you a lot of storage, allowing more instruments or more tracks, etc.
But these are the sorts of things you learn from experience...
FrancoMolina (author)  labdude3 months ago
Mate, great idea!
Such a simple and elegant solution, yet it never occurred to me. I wish I had this pointed out to me when I was all tangled up in my own code.
As you said, I could include the previous flag in that byte, or even other parameters that I needed, like short or long sustain for hihat.
I will definitely be incorporating this solution in my project.
Thanks a lot!
DiPriyaSharma3 months ago
See Hindi - Pronoun - Project - 1 - Sarvanam
Now you just need a robot guitar and you can sit back and have a beer.
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gallegoza3 months ago
Buenísimo!!! Probá enviar midi al ableton, y asi tendrás sonidos reales...
scottie_dog4 months ago
Wow, very nice work. I don't think you need to worry about any lack of formal electronics education: it's clear you know what you're doing in this regard. Now the only thing you need to learn is how to sing.
FrancoMolina (author)  scottie_dog3 months ago
That's not very nice... thanks anyway
julianop554 months ago
Excellent work - a "real-ization" of the famous Animusic concept. Especially impressive for someone with no formal training in electronics or programming. The anticipation timing, in particular, is mind-bending, and finding different solutions would be a great subject for a software design class.
I had to chuckle at "switch-foot" - that's cute :-) Languages can separate us, but music and hobbies link us.
FrancoMolina (author)  julianop554 months ago
Haha! I practiced again and again what I was going to say, but I knew I was gonna mess something up. Always learning. Thank you for your nice words (:
You're welcome, Franco! And don't worry about the language: those of us who speak it every day usually do much worse! The "takeaway" here is that in English the adjectives come before the noun, so "footswitch" is correct. What is difficult is the stressing: if the adjective merely describes an object, the stress is on the noun, e.g. "wooden BOX", not "WOODEN box"; however if the adjective is used to specify WHICH box (i.e. if there are more than one), then we stress the adjective: the "OAK box, not the PINE box". If we are drawing particular attention to the state or condition of the object as we talk about it, we stress them equally: "the OPEN BOX".
There is a fun exercise in learning to speak English out loud: the sentence "I didn't say she stole my money". Try to say it seven times, each time stressing a different word: it means something slightly different each time.
Back to your footswitch: in this particular case, the fact that the switch is explicitly designed to be operated with the foot makes it so special that we stress it "FOOTswitch". Also, because the foot operation is such a fundamental part of the design, the adjective gets incorporated with the noun into a single word. That doesn't happen very often in modern English, but it is very common in German.
One special and amusing case - I learned it when I moved from England to North America - is chicken soup: in England we pronounce it "chicken SOUP", while here we say "CHICKEN-soup" - almost as if it is one word, even though it isn't - yet!
At least we don't have gender in English - the switch isn't a he or a she, it's an "it"!
Good luck with your music, and your electronics/computing. My son has similar mixed interests; I will show him your project in the hope that it will inspire him!
FrancoMolina (author)  julianop554 months ago
This is very helpful! I've learned something here. Someone else pointed out to me that footswitch was the proper word, but I didn't really understand why. I think I have a better understanding know.
I'd say you never finish learning a language, although English seems to be relatively simpler than say, Spanish (my first language). We do have gender for all nouns ):
I hope your son like my project!
Thank you very much for your comments (:
Scumm74 months ago
I use a 12 volt 8AH Lead acid battery for my suitcase boombox. It lasted over 40 hours before summer ended and I charged it again. They cost about $20 US. Or you can use those battery packs that drills and such use for a bit more and they'll be smaller.
If you add it to your enclosure, make sure you add a vent hole or remove it while charging.
Oh and you can wire in a cigarette USB charger to provide 5v power to the Uno.

FrancoMolina (author)  Scumm74 months ago
Thank you, this is very helpful.Couple of questions:
-How do you recharge that 12 volt battery? do you need a special device for that?
-Do all those drill batteries give 12volts?
Thanks again mate (:
tazbat4 months ago
Ingenious! The drum cube compliments your playing so we'll. Patent it man. There are so many coffee house soloists that would love to have one.
FrancoMolina (author)  tazbat4 months ago
Thanks a lot man! I've thought about patent it, but I'm not sure how, the thing is arduino based (open source)
This is good project
FrancoMolina (author)  abbasporyazdanpanah4 months ago
Thank you!
This is a beautifully realised project
FrancoMolina (author)  PeterTheUnGreat4 months ago
Thanks peter!
JosephF764 months ago
Now you just need a robot guitar and you can sit back and have a beer.
FrancoMolina (author)  JosephF764 months ago
The thing is, someone's gotta pour the beer... another robot maybe?
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