Why you should read this article: Often looking for amazing, practical things to print, we’re taking a look at the musical section of the 3d printed world in this article.
There are many news online claiming to feature the most amazing 3d printed guitar or violin (All3DP reported on this). Just as an example, Professor Olaf Diegel of Lund University, Sweden, made the headlines with the first live concert of a band of exclusively 3d-printed instruments (see video below). It’s just that a case for a keyboard and the bodies for electric guitars aren´t functional parts of the instruments, and the other components were regular, store-bought parts.
There are many cases like this and because 3d printed anything makes the headlines. I haven’t spotted any major announcements of 3d printed instruments this year yet… but Music Fair in Frankfurt has just started…
All of these awe-inspiring instrument designs face another common problem: Your household 3d printer can’t print them. And if you let them get made, you’re spending a small fortune that would better be used on a handcrafted instrument or music lessons. The goal now was finding instruments that are cheap, playable, consist of mainly 3d printed functional parts, lastly, they must be doable on home 3d printers, maybe even with children or a school class.
But before we go on, I’ like to point out to a service that can help you print out all of these instruments. This Chrome plugin, provided by All3DP, adds a “Print this Thing”-Button to Thingiverse. It helps you out if you do not own a 3D printer.
Rattle, Croak, Hum: 3D printed Percussion
Percussive instruments can be virtually anything that makes a noise, right? This is easy. Make a rattle that can be printed with peas already included. Or you try and 3d print a football fan-style rattle. GO, MAKERS!
A much more understated but still cool sound comes from this croaking frog that should live up to it’s name when stroked right. With kids, this may be a better choice of an instrument than the annoying fan rattle.
I’m not too sure if this is still a percussive instrument or if the section of mouth percussion exists, but my favourite instrument in this section is the Dan Moi, a Vietnamese instrument similar to a mouth harp, an instrument I got to know in the “Peanuts” cartoons, played by much-loved uber-dog Snoopy. It’s simpler shape makes it 3D printable and its interesting sound should be worth a try. From the looks of the model, this should be a quick one.
The answer, my friend: 3D printed wind instruments
3d printing wind instruments seems way harder than printing percussive instruments. Still, if you step up your print quality or are willing to refine your prints, the results can get sonorous.
We start with instruments that are almost impossible to misprint them on your home 3d printer, as there’s not much precision is needed. First, a whistle as you may have seen hundreds in your life. A small pipe containing little beads, rather a signal device than a musical instrument. This is great when an Olympics themed children’s birthday is coming, and you can’t find your whistle an hour before. Quickly print it and the day is saved.
Another one that should be every child´s favourite is the 3d printed kazoo, which only needs a small piece of wax paper or similar besides the 3d printed parts.
When the Ocarina works, you should try and get fancy with your wind instruments. Thingiverse features a rash of different flute models on its site. First, try a pan flute. They have a design simple enough to work easily to print but need some practice playing them. I found a design based on ancient Viking/Roman artifacts and another freestyle panflute that also seems to work.
Recorders for Pros
Once all that works, the last chapter of instruments to print yourself looks a bit more sophisticated. We’re going to make classic instruments. Printable in four parts, this flute (correctly called a recorder) can play more than just a few notes. Of course, the quality is not fit for an orchestra, but it´s a cheap start. Located to the lower end of the tonal spectrum, but not a plump instrument to make, is the Great Bass Recorder. It is so big, parts of it come out of your 3d printer, and combined with standard PVC pipes, make up the instrument. I applaud the person that came up with that idea, a fully capable instrument for about 30-40$.
Oh, and a final fun fact: I played a didgeridoo that consisted only of a PVC pipe when I was a child, and it wasn´t bad at all.
License: The text of "3D Printed Instruments For Little Money" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.