Wintergatan’s Marble Machine

Wintergatan’s Marble Machine is a fantastical alternative to electronic sequencing – part Dr Suess instrument and part Rube Goldberg device. 

Marble Machine is built and composed by Martin Molin of Wintergatan. It uses human power and thousands of marbles to play percussion, bass guitar, xylophone and more.

via Prof. [glazzy]


26 thoughts on “Wintergatan’s Marble Machine

    1. Erm….he was playing the bass as is evident in the video. They are at least three mics dotted about. The timing isn’t perfect.

    2. Did you not watch it? It shows how the bass is played and several mics. It doesn’t show that the kick and snare are piezo triggers that are processed heavily in Logic (but another video on their channel does).

      How gears work is up to you.

    3. They have videos documenting how it works. They use a flywheel design to stabilize the timing if I’m not mistaken. Watch the other videos and you’ll understand each of the components that go into it.

  1. There are mics. But the bass seems to be looped? He takes his fingers off and the bass still plays?
    Why didn’t we hear that much metal ball sounding? They seem to hit the xylophone with not much metallic ball sound.

    1. The balls are hitting the bass strings (see beginning of song) and he is tapping the strings to hit the notes. Also, he’s mixing sound from the room and recorded and midi triggered sound. I thought it might be fake until I watched the building videos, this is an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE machine! Hats off to him.

  2. I really like what he made and I don’t want to detract from that but the tempo is too perfect for a hand crank machine with no regulator. Looking at the sound track on Logic it only took 3 beats for Logic BPM counter to detect 73.5 bpm and it never varies more than 0.10+/- for the entire track. If you then set your tempo to 73.5 every beat lines up perfectly. I have experience with hand crank and clockwork musical instruments and the variation is usually much greater than that on devices with metal gears and precise mechanical regulators.

    The machine may be real but I don’t believe the soundtrack matches what the machine would produce. In the making of videos there’s one clip where you can see him using Logic to shape the mic hits to sound like drums (why does he not just use a drum?) if you look at the timeline on his screen it shows a lot more tempo variation. This says to me that he at least quantized the material.

    Again really nice work and I hope this encourages people to go out and make things but overall I’m kind of sad if the creator felt that he needed to force a high precision tempo to cover up what might have been a pleasing and unique to this machine character of a tempo that slightly rises and falls.

    Does anyone else want to reproduce my test?

    1. If you watch the machine and or go to the site you will see he is using a geared down ratio with a flywheel. This remove’s any inconsistencies in the hand crank. It is in fact how all precision geared machines are done. Motor (or hand power) drives large flywheel that in turn through gear reduction drives the action. The more turns of flywheel required to turn the action the smoother and more consistent it will be. Simple engineering. If you drive a car, you experience it every day.

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