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    Simple Music Maker

    Enter Your Electronics & Design Project for Your Chance to Win a Fog Machine and a $100 Shopping Cart!

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    3 First Place Winners Receive a Fog Machine and a $100 Shopping Cart


    "The discovery of song and the creation of musical instruments both owed their origin to a human impulse which lies much deeper than conscious intention: the need for rhythm in life… the need is a deep one, transcending thought, and disregarded at our peril." - Richard Baker


    "I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours. But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places. Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality." - H.A. Overstreet


    “Music is an art that expresses the inexpressible. It rises far above what words can mean or the intelligence define. Its domain is the imponderable and impalpable land of the unconscious.” - Charles Munch


    The theme for this month is Simple Music Maker and it comes from DAB .  Music is something close to many people's hearts, including yours truly.  Use whatever electronic components you like to create a device that plays music.  It can be an instrument or an electronic device that plays music.


    You can create any electronics device for musical instrumentation using electronic components such as a Raspberry Pi, a Beagleboard, Arduino, stepper motors, microphones, light sensors, speakers, and more.  Or you can create a device for the consumption of music using electronics components.


    Just for the fun of it we're also giving away Fog Machines to each of the First Place Winners:



    They just happened to be lying around and no one knew what to do with them...


    The origins of music is shrouded in mystery. Music was likely present in ancestral populations before their dispersal around the world. Some research suggests that music may have allowed our ancestors to communicate before the invention of language.  It's also been linked to the establishment of monogamy and it helped provide the social glue that allowed the emergence of pre-human societies. Some question whether or not music originated with humans at all. Some monkeys can discern sound similarly to how humans can recognize slight differences between melodies.


    The earliest known musical instruments are said to be flutes, make from bird bone and mammoth ivory, and were found in Southern Germany.  Carbon dating shows these flutes to be between 42,000 and 43,000 years old.  The date and origin of the the first device of disputed status as a musical instrument dates as far back as 67,000 years ago.  Its also a flute and the only known musical instrument associated with the Neanderthals.  Music may have evolved alongside language as a way for early humans to communicate their emotional state to others.  Or, its possible that both music and language both evolved out of the same need for early humans to communicate their emotional state to each other or other members of the group.


    Sound is basically a type of energy vibrating through a medium (such as air or water) within a certain frequency and interpreted by the human ear as sound.  The range of frequencies the human ear can hear ranges from 20 to 20,000 Hz.  This is the reason that some people think that 24K Hi-Def audio is pointless, because it goes beyond the range that the human ear can detect.  The elements of sound include frequency or how fast the vibrations are occurring, intensity or how loud the sound is, and timbre which refers to the sound's quality.  Timbre differentiates two sounds that have the same frequency (or note).  The Do note (C) on a guitar sounds different from the Do (C) played on a keyboard because these instruments have different timbres.


    Each sound wave depends on the instrument used to produce it and this is what defines sound timbre.  The complex wave pattern known as timbre occurs when overtones (aka harmonics) are present along with fundamental frequency. These sound signals are converted into electrical signals by microphones while speakers take electrical signals and convert them into audible sound signals.


    Using Electronics to Make Music


    The most commonly used electronic instruments are synthesizers.  They are called synthesizers because they artificially generate sound using a variety of techniques. All early circuit-based synthesis involved the use of analogue circuitry, particularly voltage controlled amplifiers, oscillators and filters.


    In 1970, Moog designed the Minimoog, a non-modular synthesizer with a built-in keyboard. The analogue circuits were interconnected with switches in a simplified arrangement called "normalization." Though less flexible than a modular design, normalization made the instrument more portable and easier to use.


    A microphone and a speaker both convert sound signals differently.  A microphone converts sound signals into electrical signals while a speaker is used to convert electrical signals into audible signals. By 1976 affordable polyphonic synthesizers began to appear, notably the Yamaha CS-50, CS-60 and CS-80, the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 and the Oberheim Four-Voice.


    The increasing power and availability of microcontrollers such as the Arduino and single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi have given rise to new platforms for artists to create musical instruments and given people new possibilities for interactive audio. Many approaches involve combining two or more of these electronics components together to produce a device that can be used as a musical instrument. For instance, an Arduiino can be used to handle analog and digital sensor input while communicating though USB serial to a Raspberry Pi that is used for audio processing.


    The reason you would want to combine an Arduino with an SBC like Raspberry Pi is that while it's an accessible way to provide low level connectivity to analog and digital sensors, the AVR microcontroller does not allow audio on-board audio processing. Something like the Cortex M4 from Infineon would be a better option if you were looking for an audio-oriented, self contained embedded platform.



    The latest Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ now offers a quad-core 1.4 gHz 64 bit CPU. The Satellite CCRMA Satellite  was develeoped to provide an efficient audio environment for the Raspberry Pi.  The Beaglebone Black is also a popular platform for creating musical instruments and was part of the open source Music Tech design challenge held in the community a few years back.


    If you're looking for inspiration on what type of music instrument you want to create, the Music Tech Fest is a good place to go to see what's possible.  It's a three-day arts festival and creative space that dubs itself the "festival of music ideas" and if you take a look at some of the projects and technologies that people use to create music, it can expand your idea of what's possible when creating your own musical instrument:



    The Music Tech Fest was first launched in London in 2012 by the Scientific Director of the Roadmap for Music Information ReSearch (MIReS), an EU FP8-funded 18-month project that focused on the future impact of music technology on academia and industry.  It included contributions from EMI, BBC, Spotify, Soundcloud, and Shazam along with academic researchers, makers, developers, and artists.


    You're also free to make your own music device that plays music like this guy:




    Your Chance to Win


    Be Original
    Stick to the Theme
    • You could come up with a clever name that make's your project memorable!
      • This project is your baby! Part of the fun of bringing something new into the world is coming up with a name.
    • Your project could introduce something new or that is not commercially available or affordable!
    • If you have an idea for a project that doesn't fit the current theme then submit your idea in the comments section of the monthly poll.
    List the Steps
    Submit Video Proof
    • Provide the steps you took to complete your project (text, video, or images).
      • This could be a step by step how-to-guide, vlog, schematics, coding, napkin drawings, voice narration, or whatever you think will be useful!
    • If it doesn't work that's fine, this is more about the journey than the end product.
    • A short video is all that is required but you can shoot as much video as you like.
    • You are encouraged to be creative and have as much fun as possible!

    Your Project Examples


    The Theme You Voted For:
    Vintage Toy SynthesiserProject Outline: LaserScope Music




    Simple Music Maker


    Your Project, Your Ideas!



    About Project14

    Every month you'll have a new poll where you'll get to decide an upcoming project competition, based on your interests, that will take place a couple of months in advance. Themes are broad in scope so that everyone can participate regardless of skill set.


    What are Monthly Themes?

    • Every month (around the 14th of each month) a new theme will be posted on Project14.
    • Submit your ideas (proposals) for your projects to get feedback from the rest of the community.
    • Submit a project entry in the Theme space once you start working on it.


    What are Monthly Theme Polls?

    • Every month (around the 14th of each month) there is a project theme poll.
    • Vote on which project competition you want to see for the following upcoming theme.
      • The themes voted on during the previous poll decided the upcoming theme.
      • If you submit an idea for a theme that is not used then it can still be used in a future poll.
    • Themes comments and ideas from the comments section of the project theme poll.

    Step 1: Log in or register on element14, it's easy and free.

    Step 2: Post in the comments section below to begin a discussion on your idea. Videos, pictures and text are all welcomed forms of submission.

    Step 3: Submit a blog post of your progress on your project by the end of the month.  You are free to submit as many blog entries as you like until the beginning of the next theme.


    Be sure to include video proof of your project!






    You have until June 14th, 12:00 AM CDT to submit your completed project!


    A jury consisting of your peers will judge project submissions!





    * This theme is dedicated to Ben Heck and everything he has brought to the element14 community over the years!  Thank You, Ben!


    Give Us Your Simple Music Maker Ideas in the Comments Below!