Today the technology has advanced at accelerated steps compared to that of past centuries, creating development platforms on a hardware electronic board such as the Arduino. This means that if you want to turn a toy xylophone into something electronic and novel, it will not be impossible to achieve it.
In addition, you only need to have basic knowledge, for which you can consult the Internet or read this article, where you will find tutorials and tips that will be very useful.
Also, the materials required to carry out a project of this type are inexpensive. You don’t even need to have the best xylophone to be able to turn it into an electronic instrument, just buy a compact toy. Next, we mention several elements that you will need to carry out this project.
A solenoid is used to apply mechanical force, responding to the passage of current through the winding.
The solenoids will be needed to make the electric xylophone, as they will hit the bars of the instrument, sounding each note. It is important to make a glass structure, so that it serves to position the solenoids in the direction of the xylophone bars.
In this sense, each solenoid will work like a piston, but electric. Imagine the pistons of a trombone, but instead of pressing it with your fingers, they will activate themselves thanks to the electrical signal they receive.
Although we started talking about solenoids, the Arduino is no less important. It is a free and easy-to-use hardware board. The fact of being a free board means that you can give it the use you want and even merge it with other hardware elements. This opens the way for the user who wants to create new appliances.
Arduino works with microcontrollers and these in turn have a certain storage capacity. They are like the brain in the human body, since it stores and sends orders to the extremities, the eyes, the mouth, etc. That is to say, the microcontrollers save the data you want, so that later they give signals to the different hardware elements connected on a board.
Simply put, an Arduino’s microprocessor will give the necessary signals to the solenoids, so that the notes or melodies are produced in the xylophone.
Therefore, making an electric xylophone means that the instrument will sound on its own, without having to touch each bar with your hands and sticks.
It is important to note that Arduino boards come in different models and sizes, so that you can use the one you require, depending on the project you are doing. However, the Arduino board that will be used for this project will be Adafruit Grand Central M4, as it offers the necessary features.
MOSFET and diodes
Other things that will be used to make the electric xylophone are 8 model 1N4001 diodes and 8 N channel power MOSFET transistors.
The diodes will serve to block power, preventing the solenoids from reversing. In addition to this, the MOSFETs will be in charge of turning each solenoid on and off, in turn reducing the amount of energy consumption.
These hardware elements are small and are soldered onto the Arduino board, so they are not complicated to install.
It is a small board through which it is possible to connect a computer and from this program the Arduino board. In this case we mean programming the Adafruit Grand Central M4, so that the solenoids play the notes of the xylophone in an orderly manner.
For its part, Python is a programming language created to make electronics projects easier. Also, it should be noted that when you connect the CircuitPython to the computer, you can use the Mu editor to program the commands you want to give the Arduino. The Mu editor is free software, like the Arduino, so you can program with it to your liking.
This is how you manage to finish the electric xylophone, only a few details and tests remain; in a few minutes you will enjoy the result of your work.
Like almost any electronics project, you will need to use cables of different colors and sizes. Of course, try to ensure that the assembly of all the cables in the Adafruit Grand Central M4 is in an organized and precise way.
For example, the cables that you are going to place from the plate to the solenoids must have a similar length to each other, you can even mark them according to the number of each bar.
The xylophone and electronics
Although they are two very different things, music and electronics have come together in an authentic experiment and worthy of ovations. Furthermore, they have not only merged, but have marked the history of technology. Previously, no one could create electronic equipment so easily, now it is possible to make an electronic xylophone from the comfort of our home.
As technology continues to advance, the time will come when anyone can make a robot that plays the xylophone in the living room.
Educational projects with Arduino
The intention of making an electric xylophone can inspire the creation of other projects. Also, this sets an example for students to make new electronics in their school and university courses.
The Arduino offers great possibilities in the world of electronics, since it is free hardware and comes in different models of boards. For example, there are people who have created gumball machines, digital alarms, toys, and other gadgets with Arduino boards. This is how some people make a living today. Perhaps, by making this xylophone, you can discover your vocation to dedicate yourself to electronics.
In addition, the Arduino can be very well suited to music education, as it would be very entertaining to see a teacher giving a class on musical scales with a homemade electric xylophone. Additionally, an Arduino could help create musical instruments that have never been seen before, so luthiers can enjoy its benefits too.