This mechanical drum machine uses discs and magnets


Maker creates an interactive drum machine that makes music using sounds from one’s environment.


If you’ve ever wanted to combine the sounds of everyday life, like the refreshing pop of opening a soda can, the fizzing of an Alka-Seltzer tablet, or even the obnoxious crunch of biting a piece of celery, you’re in luck. That’s because Maker Axel Bluhme recently created an interactive drum machine that combines an analog interface of spinning discs and magnets to produce music using sound samples from one’s environment.

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Dubbed the XOXX Composer, the machine transforms digital processes like looping, sequencing and sampling into a more tangible act. The device itself is comprised of a plywood body sitting on a pair of angled legs, while a pole resting between two docks runs through the center of eight discs. Embedded magnets are used to trigger the various sounds.

Each set of discs are color coded, with each individual disc assigned to a specific sound. This means a user can layer up to eight beats at a time. Every disc also has sixteen indents along its outside edge marked with an X or an O to signify where the magnets can be attached. The neodymium magnets embedded within the discs allow an indent to be filled with a small metal ball, thereby enabling the user to explore a variety of different music styles and degrees of complexity.

An Atmel based Arduino with a WAV Trigger is used to record, store and play the audio samples used by the XOXX Composer. Each disc comes with its own volume slider and effects knob to customize the mix. Meanwhile, an additional dial in the lower righthand corner is tasked with handling the rotation speed of the discs. As the discs turn, the balls create a connection with the device’s hidden electronic interface that ultimately activates the desired tune.

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According to its Bluhme, the machine can be connected to a computer via USB as well, and used with a digital audio program to create more complex musical arrangements. When finished with a beat, a user can simply lift off the discs and replace them with a fresh set.

“This project started with a curiosity to understand when and why people take their first steps into producing music and how we relate to rhythmic composition and construction in an electronic environment,” its creator writes. “The goal is to inspire and allow exploration even though there might be lack of confidence or knowledge. Capture sounds from your surroundings or sample records, simply let curiosity and creativity lead the way to quickly create unique beats.”

Intrigued? Head over to the project’s official page to learn more, and be sure to watch it in action below!

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