A View from Brittany Sauser

A Ball-Bearing Drum Machine

A cool new musical instrument is made from engineering tools.

  • January 23, 2009

This weird-looking instrument is proving quite a hit with hardware hackers. The instrument, called BeatBearing, makes drum patterns using ball bearings. It was created by Peter Bennett, a 26-year-old PhD student at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Here’s a video of Bennett’s prototype in action.

According to this release,

The BeatBearing is an example of minimalist modern design created from chrome, transparent Perspex and computer graphics.

It acts as a rhythm sequencer–a red line sweeps across the grid, playing a sound whenever a ball bearing is encountered, “like an updated version of the old piano-roll” according to Bennett.

Bennett has written a “make your own BeatBearing” step-by-step guide that will be published in the magazine MAKE. The instrument is also going to be the subject of a short film.

Here are a few more cool musical technologies we’ve covered recently.

Also, try your hand at creating a music mashup with this interactive graphic.

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