Many musicians have been 3D printing instruments and we’ve seen 3D printed guitars, trumpets and even MIDI controllers. However, the overall problem with 3D printed instruments so far has been that the quality of their sound hasn’t reached a level a high level yet. Even a manufacturer of 3D printed ukuleles was sure that “nothing beats the beauty of a hand-made instrument”. However, a London-based composer did something no-one would have expected. He 3D printed a melodica and managed to make it sound better than the original version.
Daren Banarsë is a succesful composer, who has written music for popular TV shows, such as Top Gear, Horizon, Coast and Apprentice. On one day he fell in love with a toy melodica he saw in a store, and decided to buy one himself. A melodica is that kind of instrument that is half piano, half flute. Even though The Coral uses it, it is not a very sexy instrument. Nevertheless, Banarsë had some fun with the instrument initially, but he soon found out about its limitations. When he was playing fast notes, some of them dropped out. In addition to the musical misery, the instrument had a very shrill tone.
So what does a professional musician do, then? Create one himself, is what Banarsë would answer. But how could one do something like that? Yes, by using 3D printing technology. The Londoner, however, was unexperienced in this field and took some CAD lessons to figure out a way to use the technique. However, his own 3D printing experiments didn’t lead to proper results, so he decided to let a professional company – 3D Alchemy – print his 3D model.
They printed the instrument in nylon, but because of that material, the keys started to bend after he started pressing them. So in order to strengthen up the keys, he coated them in a few layers of acrylic sealant. To make the melodica look more professional and appealing, he covered the black keys and other parts of the instrument with wood plates. “So there you have it, a 3D printed melodica,” he concludes in his YouTube video about the project. Looking good, doesn’t it?
And the interesting thing about it is that it also sounds great. Better than his initial toy instrument, so much is for sure. This, however, is not an indication that 3D printed instruments are about to replace their handcrafted counterparts, because of their ‘sudden ability to sound better’. No, let’s put things in perspective here: a professionally 3D printed instrument made by a professional musician will likely sound better than a traditionally manufactured toy instrument. Nevertheless, Banarsë did a great job printing his own melodica and improving it. Not convinced, yet? Watch his video below and decide yourself:
Credits images: Daren Banarsë.