My office has been clearing out a bunch of stuff lately.  A while back we had bought a crap-load of these stackable CD holders from Ikea.  They have been in the office taking up space for years now and the day they were about to hit the trash heap I saved a couple for some experiments.


This experiment was the first thing that came to mind.  I thought it would be easy.  I saw all those metal bars and thought, I’ll just snip them at different lengths and voila, instant finger piano.  Not so.  The strength of those little bars was surprising.  I snipped them, sure, but only after exerting all of my strength to do so.  There was no way I could repeat that throughout the night in order to tune them to a scale.  So, I turned to my trusty Dremel tool.  I just happened to have a metal cutting blade in my kit.


It was not really the perfect project to attempt to do in my studio.  For one, the dremel blade shot sparks like crazy in one direction.


My favorite part of this project was the space I created for myself in order to get it done.  I cleared away a corner in my studio and I placed the lid of my modular synth case as the catch for all the flying sparks.  Since it’s made from pretty industrial material I knew I was safe from anything catching fire.  Secondly, in order to tune the CD holder to a major scale I had to have my computer on a chair behind me playing midi notes for reference.  Then I placed a big wooden speaker to my right with a contact mic taped to it.  So once I had finished a cut I could place the CD holder on the speaker and pluck the note and hear it in my headphones mixed with the reference tone.


I did a pretty good job at first but made some mistakes along the way.  Sometimes I cut off a bit more than I wanted and created a sharp.  In those cases I tended to trim a little more off to tune it to the next note up in the scale.  Then I’d try again on the next bar to get the note I’d missed before.  That’s why some of the bars stick farther out then the others in odd locations.


The biggest problem was in the playing.  In order to hear the CD holder while you’re playing it you need to have it pressed down upon some kind of resonant body, like a table.  The only problem is that you need two hands to keep all four feet of the CD holder in contact with the table which made it just about impossible to play.  If they weren’t then you’d hear the vibration of the metal on the table-top.


To make this instrument truly playable it needs to be mounted on some kind of resonant body.  Nevertheless, I decided to make a video for you.


I should warn that this instrument has copious amounts of bass but not all that much treble.  If you’re listening on laptop speakers you are not going to hear most of the sound this guy is making.


I hope you enjoy!


7 Replies to “Day 233 / Ikea Finger Piano

  1. Daniel Johns

    If you feel like There’s another way to cut the bars that could make it easier to use. My kalimba is longest in the middle and the notes alternate on each side as they ascend. You can hear the Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do as you alternately pluck with thumbs, ascending from the middle out. Instead of providing all 12 notes, the kalimba is tuned to a key (like G minor) so it only repeats every 8 notes of the key. This allows for any two bars sitting next to each other to be a harmonic 3rd so they sound prettier when plucked together.

    Here’s a video of someone playing one similar to mine, if my description made no sense:

  2. The B-Roll

    Thanks guys! @ Danny, (I answered you on the facebook page, sorry for being so slow)

    Ikea-limba! Nice! THATS what I should called it.

  3. Todd Burleson

    Okay, stop being so creative! I’m feeling like a slug! Just kidding. Keep it up. I really like this.


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