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March 2019 · Musical Instrument · For: Myself

Music Box

→ A replica of the music box made by Martin Molin from the band Wintergatan. This project was mainly for learning various basic modelshop skills and to record authentic chime sounds.

Not my Idea.

After being inspired by the work of the swedish musician and hobby engineer martin molin, I decided to build my own version of his "music box". A electrically driven roller pulls a strip of hole-punched paper through a mechanical music box.

rendering of a wheel
Wheel holding the music-strip

Analog MIDI

At first, a "digital version" of the music box was created by recording all individual notes (music-box is hard wired to the key of C-Major) into the DAW of my choice. Then I created a track with MIDI and printed the result on templates. The pattern was then transferred to the deliberate musical strip intended for use with the music-box. A «to-lasercut» script would be a nice side-project for the future.

punched cards
MIDI punched into paper strips


The finished music strip (approx. 3.5 m long) was spooled onto a wooden wheel and passed through the actual music box, which was spusepnded over rubber bands and picked up by a contact microphone, into a feed mechanism made of four stainless steel, steel, rubber-coated rollers. The power was supplied by a speed-controlled 12 V DC motor. I attached a 6.3 audio jack on the back to route the signal into an amplifier / audio interface.

Card feeding mechanism
music box
Music box from above
output cables
DC supply and output cable
music box
finished music box

Improvements and Afterlife

While the constructions did what they should, some things are definitely in need of improvement. The signal-to-noise ratio is nowhere near where it should be, and the suspension mechanism is a bit too loose, resulting in a lack of timing precision. That being said, the custom-made music box has been used extensively ever since. It is just a very authentic recording of the bell sound of a music box.