Musical Instruments Week Day 1: The Wild Hurd And The Do-Step (Video)

It's Musical Instruments Week here on the SEAS News & Events page. Each day, we'll feature a different instrument created as part of the course Musical Acoustics & Instrument Design (ENAS344/MUSI371), taught by Larry Wilen, Yale senior research scientist and design mentor in the Center for Engineering Innovation & Design, and Konrad Kaczmarek, a composer and lecturer in the Department of Music. The students presented their instruments May 4, 2016 at the CEID in the John Klingenstein '50 Design Lab.

Today we feature a duet between "The Wild Hurd" and the "Do-Step." Here's how Emil Ernstrom '19, a pianist and composer, describes his instrument: "The Wild Hurd is an instrument modeled after a medieval folk instrument called the hurdy-gurdy. How it works is that I have a wheel that I turn using the crank on the side of the instrument. Over the wheel are three strings, that when pressed against the fretboard of the instrument come into contact with the wheel and vibrate. The wheel is covered in rosin, which helps induce vibrations in the strings."

And here's Domenic Coles '16, a music major studying composition, explaining his invention:
"The Do-Step uses three motors to generate specific frequencies based on the number of rotation cycles of each stepper motor. The motors are controlled by three motor drivers and a Teensy (a USB-based microcontroller development system that allows us to control the motors via MIDI messages that are converted into frequencies, which the motor understands as instructions for the number of rotation cycles to complete). Thus, we can control the pitch produced by each motor (the humming sound native to each one) by inputting specific MIDI pitches. The motors sit atop a bridge affixed to a tri-cone resonator taken from a dobro guitar. The resonators taken from the dobro then resonate through a Helmholtz resonator modeled on the fundamental resonance of a viola. Thus, the mode of resonance for these motors can be understood as a kind of combination of a viola and a dobro."