We have seen electric pianos, electric drums, and even electric violins. However, to my surprise, why is there no electronic wind instrument? With this question, I put forward the idea of making an electronic trombone. Together with Jiewen Wang and Xiangyi Li, we completed this project in 2020 Georgia Tech’s (GT) annual Moog Hackathon.
The e-Trombone was built with PVC pipes sprayed with glossy paint to simulate a metallic look and inserted wind sensors, allowing players to create brass-like sounds through different blowing techniques. The instrument is played like a conventional trombone and the addition of a Moog Werkstatt (a compact analog synthesizer) and Teensy (an Arduino-compatible development board) allows users to play sounds that would be impossible with traditional trombone parts.
All design and construction were completed within 48 hours. In the first half of the hackathon, each of us was in charge of a separate part; on the second day, we put them together and solved many unexpected problems – such as the slide sensors’ damage, two times in a row.
We ended up winning the first place in the GT annual Moog Hackathon. As part of the prize, we also became one of the finalists of GT’s prestigious Guthman Musical Instrument Competition.
During the 2020 Guthman Competition, each finalist was paired with a skilled musician from the Atlanta area. We were glad to have musician Samuel Cape at the stage of Ferst Center for the Arts of Georgia Tech to make the debut of e-Trombone. With Sam’s Moog Mother 32 synthesizer and many other modules in his collection of Eurorack, the expressive power of e-Trombone was further expanded to its full limits.
Check out Samuel’s e-Trombone performance! It’s much more beyond what we thought the e-Trombone can do.
Since I know nothing about trombone before, John Williams loaned me his trombone and gave me some lessons before the hackathon. I also built a CAD model of his trombone, you can download them on both GrabCAD and Thingiverse too.
5 interesting facts about the e-Trombone:
- The e-Trombone starts with the lowercase “e” because it has the feel of a curved pipe of the brass instruments.
- At the end of the first day, we actually blew the e-Trombone without assembling the electronics, and it sound!
- The e-Trombone wasn’t fully functional until the final demo portion of the hackathon.
- During the final assembling, we forgot to mark the positive and negative poles of the microphone. We ended up only find one positive wire, so we connected all other wires to the negative. Fortunately, we fixed this before the Guthman.
- We used some “on-site materials” to make the e-Trombone, such as a salad pot.
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