Trinket project: clarinet lights

Originally posted in october last year, from the vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

This may fit better on my sax actually…I’ll have more room…

Anyway, I was at band today and had a sudden brainwave for what to do with my new trinket, which I should be getting this weekend when I’m at home (had it sent there just in case post came when no one was home). I was just sat counting my bars rest, looked at my clarinet and was thinking about christmas. It’s tradition that if you play an instrument, and wind instruments are best for this as there’s usually space *somewhere* to do it, that you decorate your instrument with a bit of tinsel at the xmas concert. My mum adores this tradition, of course, as we manage to get sprinklings of tinsel all around the house after cutting it…

Anyway. My idea is to attatch trinket (or FLORA, or GEMMA, or Lilypad would probably work equally well. Or an ATTiny4313…) to my clarinet, along with a battery pack, a microphone (probably with an ADC chip…) and a lot of LEDs to my clarinet. Yah. this is why I might have to use my tenor sax…anyway, so the microphone will read in the pitch and volume (heh, as microphones are meant to do…), trinket will read it and output a colour and an amounts of lights to switch on to the RGB strip.

Further additions could be to use this to tune instruments: in general at band, there’s 2 methods to tuning – 1 is to pass around a tuner/play a note on a piano/find one perfectly in-tune player and compare everyone to that (in general, that’s the oboeist) – takes ages, isn’t always perfect. Alternatively, people forget about being pitch perfect and just compare the pitch to each other, so you go section by section, detecting by ear if one person is off from another. This method, and all those listed above other than the tuner which will be the only one with a high level of accuracy, has the issue that humans aren’t the perfect sense readers, and when your pitch is off by let’s say, a quater of a tone, it’s very hard for a person to tell which way you’re out (sharp or flat), who is out and whether you’re out at all. It’s possible of course to train your ear, and all musicians get better at this with practice, but imagine if every instrument had a colour as well as a soundwave – it tends to be much easier to tell a slight difference in shade to the eyes than it is to the ears. Stand two clarinets, or saxes, or bassoons next to each other, one of them has a slightly darker blue than the other – far easier than making them play over and over again to try and guess.

I’m still figuring out the bumps on my TwitterLCD project, but that’s very close to finishing. I will be making sure I’m done with that before starting my new one, however, so look out for a final post on that little guy.


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