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Big Blue Saw Blog

Zoolophone: Animals as Musical Instruments

Recently I heard about a pretty cool project from Disney Research, Harvard, Columbia University and MIT that used waterjet cut parts to make a zoolophone: a xylophone with animal shaped keys. James Tompkin, one of the zoolophone's creators, was kind enough to pass along the DXF outlines used to make their version of the zoolophone, as well as the material and thickness needed.

I ended up modifying the outlines to be cut slightly. Also, I had to substitute the more common 6063 T5 for the somewhat exotic 6063 T83 that was originally used. Neither of these things affected the sound much as far as I could tell.

zoolophone outlines

For the stands, I used some small chunks of EVA foam. I had tried using various materials like thumbtacks, wood, and felt, but found that the foam worked the best. I found that placing the supports near the center of the shape gave better sound than placing them at the edges as the original creators did. This may have been due to the fact that they were using a less dense foam.

Take a look at the video below to hear my version of the zoolophone in action. Thanks to Steve Sparks for the audio production assistance.

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