Laser Harp

by Rebecca Callaway, Mary Dye, Adam Schoene

Faculty mentor: Laura Dickinson

Musical instruments are often discarded when the cost of fixing an issue becomes an inconvenience. Millions of dollars worth of instruments are thrown away each year while communities around the country struggle with funding art and music programs. This causes music to become a privilege and for certain instruments to be only associated with certain socioeconomic classes. A new system needs to be designed where students and teachers can be exposed to musical instruments without having to worry about financial constraint. Instead of disposing of an expensive instrument and adding to landfills, mass produced electronic components can be used to extend its functionality as an educational tool. Affordable light sensors are used in place of the core sound producing material on the instrument. Software is combined with the light sensors in a manner to reproduce the sound it would make with original materials along with the ability to manually change the tone. Due to an electronic interface, performance can be easily recorded in notation software to keep track of progress and enhance the musicians understanding of music.

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4 Replies to “Laser Harp”

  1. This is such an interesting project! I think the possibilities of re-purposing an instrument like this are endless. As you point out, data on playing can be stored, but I also image that certain beams could be illuminated (i.e. turned on) for a beginning musician (much like the letter stickers on a piano) and that as that musician advances a metronome could be coupled to the instrument. Thanks for sharing your work with us!

  2. Very nicely done! This harp will be a great resource for both the Music and Physics departments to highlight the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration.

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