Using 3D Printing to Make Music

When it comes to the arts, there is none more expressive than music. And while the genres may vary, the truth remains that music is perhaps among the top forms of capturing and relating emotions, stories, and deeper concepts which cannot be expressed in words. As such, various instruments have been developed over the years, from David’s Harp to the Electric Guitar. But there is even more to the instruments in modern times. Using 3D Printing, musical artists can re-imagine the physical attributes of their instruments.

Improving the Sound

While there are some instruments which have a shape to maximise the sound it makes, there are other instruments which have, traditionally, proven to be problematic when trying to obtain the perfect harmonics. Firstly, the stringed and brass instruments are subject to both the interior and exterior weather conditions, depending on whether they are played within a building or out in the open. A perfectly tuned guitar may not be tuned the next day due to the weather conditions. Secondly, the temperature of the material of the instrument can shift substantially, during play, changing the sound.

Though the stringed instruments will still require some adjustments, the use of 3D Printing to fabricate such instruments as the saxophone, violin, and flute can help to minimise any differences in sound between venues. Specifically, because the materials used in 3D Printing tend not to expand and contract to the same level of fluctuation as traditional metals, thereby allowing for a more fluid sound.

3d-instrument-1

This 3D Printed saxophone shows that you can get the traditional look of the instrument at a fraction of the cost of the “standard” brass. Image provided by by Sound Morphology.

Restoration and Usability

Apart from the ability to make the traditional instruments, as well as customise instruments to maximise the sound of the music being played, CAD Modeling (along with the use of a Desktop 3D Printer) can help to restore instruments which would otherwise be rather difficult to find replacement parts for. Think about self-playing or antique pianos. On the self-playing piano, many of the models do not have gears and replacement parts readily available. You might be able to find dimensions of the parts needed replacement and then 3D Print the parts. The same replacement process could be used for guitar tuning pegs, accordions, mouth pieces for wind instruments, and even organ pipes. So long as the dimensions are to scale, the part is fitted properly and the material properties match, you should be able to mimic the sound of the original piece.

Antique pianos, typically, have ivory keys. And as ivory comes from elephants, and most people would not wish to use such on their instruments, a solution needs to be made. The 3D Printer allows for the musical artist to simulate the look and the feel of the ivory key without (a) harming any elephants or (b) breaking any import and export laws pertaining to using and obtaining ivory.

Even if an instrument is restored, it must be usable. Where the main problem may occur is when the musical artist has a handicap. For example, if the person is blind or deaf. Thanks to 3D Printing, and various innovations within the CAD world, such obstacles have been overcome. In the image below, you can see that the 3D Printer has been used to make braille toppers for piano keys.

3d-instrument-2

These braille keys are free to download and 3D Print. The model is available through pinshape.

Making Instruments Expressive

Generally, instruments have had iconic and rather standard designs. And, while there is nothing wrong with the look and feel of the traditional instruments, some artists wish to push the envelope. This is a great way in which artists can help to create their branding, establish a look and feel for the genre they are playing, or make a multifunctional musical instrument.

Artists should take into consideration the way in which the material, and the subsequent parts, play together to produce the sound. This is especially true when making a design for an instrument such as a trombone, tuba, or horn where the length of the instrument greatly effects the pitch and tone. You might have to make a few renditions before you have the look as well as the sound that you want.

3d-instrument-3

Although this instrument is beautiful and rather creative, one has to wonder on the functionality of the violin. Ensure that when you design a 3D Printed instrument that you take into consideration the sound as well as the form of the instrument being created. Image provided by Gadgetsin.

Musical artists are encouraged to master the “traditional” designed instruments before making customised instruments. The reason is rather simple. Professionals and Masters of Music will be more apt to be able to assist you if you are using an instrument that he or she is familiar with. Learn and master your instruments on the standard form, and if you so wish, take what you have learned and apply it to your customised musical instrument.

Leave a Reply