Watch this giant hand-cranked musical instrument containing 2,000 marbles play music

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A musician by the name of Martin Molin from the Swedish band Wintergatan has created and built an incredible musical instrument which he calls the Marble Machine – and you won’t believe how good it sounds.

The finished product contains 2,000 balls and 3,000 parts, and Molin says it took 14 months to build it. He designed the machine around several musical instruments, including a vibraphone that activates when the balls hit the bars. There is also a built-in electric bass guitar where the machine plucks the strings and then the human operator plays the frets. While the machine is playing music, it recycles the marbles so they can be used over and over again. The machine also contains a built-in Turkish crash cymbal and other percussion, as well as a giant “breakdown” arm that quickly stops the machine at any time.

To create the marble machine, Molin handcrafted all of the wooden parts, routing mechanisms, funnels for catching marbles, and countless other parts. While Molin worked on the project, he posted YouTube videos along the way showing his progress and how parts of the machine were designed, made and refined. I’ve incorporated some of the videos into this post, but they’re all worth watching. If you’re only watching one, check out the final clip below: Even The Song Is Great.

My biggest question while watching the clip, aside from amazement at how beautiful the machine was and how good it “sounded” was exactly that last point: how does Molin get a sound so produced, mixed and mastered? from what must be the world’s largest wood and metal doorbell trap? If you’ve ever recorded a band or your own instrument, you know how difficult it is to get decent live sound in a room. It almost seems wrong, as if the music was produced elsewhere and the video was made to make the machine appear to be playing the different parts of the song when it wasn’t.

Turns out it’s absolutely real. What is happening here is that Molin has set up a series of microphones around the instrument to record the kick drum, vibraphone, room ambience, etc. while he was playing. Each microphone records to a separate track on a computer running Apple Logic Pro. The reason the audio comes out flawless is that it processes the recorded sound of each instrument in real time, so what you hear is the end result “mixed”, again in real time.

For example, as it shows in the video above, the kick drum is processed in Apple Logic Pro with a series of plugins that “mess” (or cut) the background noise that resonates and clicks on the machine every time. once the bass drum is not sounding. Molin also added EQ, compression, overdrive, and other settings to make it sound like a real, highly processed kick drum. In the video, you can see about a minute of it fading out of the camera sound (which has all the marble roll and metal racket you’d expect) and fading into the recorded sound. Then he shows precisely how he removes the background noise of the machine using a noise gate plug-in. The next part of the same video shows an example of how he programs parts; it’s basically like a giant music box, with plastic pegs hitting hammers that then play notes while Molin spins the giant wheel.

This continues throughout; you can see that the machine plucks the strings of the bass guitar, but Molin plays the neck with one hand while he turns the main crank with the other hand.

The finished clip is also clearly polished in the visual department, and for this he brought in Swedish filmmaker Hannes Knutsson. “When we started filming we knew we wanted to shoot the machine on as sharp a background as possible to give the viewer a chance to see how the machine works,” Molin said. They ended up using floor paint protection paper, like you would use to protect the floor in a room when painting, to create the white background. Really, there is too much to cover in a single post, so be sure to watch the completed music video above and the creation recap video below.


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