Motor Rhythms

Motor Rhythms

December 1, 2010

Wood Blocks Update and Video

This is an update to an older post for the wood blocks. I added one more size to make a set of four. The blocks are made from different plastic reservoirs and oil traps.

October 26, 2010

Pulley Bells

This is the idea that started the entire Motor Rhythms project. A couple of years ago at work, I knocked a wrench into a water pump pulley only to discover that it had a great tone. Ever since then I have been saving water pump, idler, and belt tensioner pulleys. Once I had collected a couple dozen pulleys it seemed possible to create a full set of 'bells'. Soon after I started to make the pulley bells, I also began saving other car parts that I thought could potentially make good instruments, and Motor Rhythms was born.

Here are a few pulleys still on the car.

The pulleys range in size from a 2" diameter up to a 6" diameter. I only use smooth pulleys, not pulleys with ribs, or v-belt pulleys. Each pulley has a different tone. I have several duplicate pulleys from the same type of car, and even those have slightly different pitches.

Once the pulleys were removed from the different vehicles I knocked the bearings out of them. Then I welded a large washer in the middle of each pulley to help mount them. Using old rubber bushings from shock absorbers I mounted all the pulleys on two threaded rods.

Eventually I would like to set the pulleys up more like a piano or mallet instrument would be, with the sharps/flats separated from the other notes. The pulleys can be tuned as well. One of my co-workers has a metal lathe and he has trimmed a couple of the pulleys for me. Cutting off 1/8" from the edge of a pulley changes the pitch by about half a step.

October 18, 2010

Flywheel Hi-Hats

These 'cymbals' follow the same principle as a pair of normal hi-hats, except they are made from two matching flywheels. A flywheel is a metal plate that connects the crankshaft of an engine to the torque converter of an automatic transmission. It also has a ring gear that the starter motor engages with. These two flywheels were leftover after I replaced the engine in a Nissan Altima.

Here is a flywheel on the back of an engine. The transmission has been removed.

The flywheels needed to be adapted so they could be mounted on a traditional hi-hat stand.

The bottom flywheel rests on the hi-hat stand, and the upper flywheel is attached using a standard hi-hat clutch.

When played with the foot pedal they are kind of loud and clangy, but they have a good sound. They can be played with drumsticks like normal hi-hat cymbals. It also works well to 'splash' them with the foot pedal.

August 28, 2010

Washer Bottle Foot Drum

Here is the latest finished piece of the project: a foot drum, made from a Mercedes Benz washer fluid reservoir. This reservoir was replaced because of a small crack in the bottom of the tank. It had potential so I saved it from the dumpster. I was not sure if it should be played by hand with drumsticks or if it should be played with a foot pedal. I decided it was more interesting to try and mount it for a foot pedal.

The reservoir while still in the vehicle.

The mount for this drum was somewhat involved. I wanted to be able to attach it to a foot pedal adapter that I already had. It took several different size pieces of scrap metal, but I managed to make the mount and it worked out quite nicely.
This is the finished foot drum.

Overall I am pretty happy with this drum. I like the sound and I like that it is foot operated. The mount was a little challenging, but it worked out in the end.
I have three other washer and coolant reservoirs, but I think those are going to be made into drums that are played by hand with sticks.

August 21, 2010

The Forgotten Foot

The Forgotten Foot is the title of the drum method that I co-wrote with Kofi Baker. Kofi is the son of legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker. The purpose of the book is to highlight the importance of left foot independence and 4-way coordination . The book goes through beginner to advanced lessons. There are six chapters which include Fundamentals, Rudiments, Rock Beats & Fills, Jazz & Shuffle, Double Bass and Foot Patterns. A CD is also included with the book. It is being published by Hal Leonard, and it is scheduled to be released this fall. I will post updates when I know more.

August 15, 2010

Bell Gong

This piece started out inside of the automatic transmission of a Dodge Dakota. It is actually called a 'drum'. This part was damaged and had to be replaced when the transmission was overhauled.

It did not take many modifications to use this 'drum'. I only had to weld a large washer on the top to have something to hang it from. It has a resonant sound, much like a bell or a gong. I hope to find two or three more of these to have a multi pitch set.

July 27, 2010

Wood Blocks

I discovered that a set of wood blocks/temple blocks could be made out of different size and shape plastic tanks. One of the tanks came from a BMW intake manifold, another was the power steering reservoir off a Volvo. The other tanks are oil traps from a Saab Turbo and a Volvo S8O.

Here is the power steering fluid reservoir from a Volvo.

This is the vacuum tank off of a BMW intake manifold.

Here is one of the oil traps from a Saab Turbo.

Once the parts were removed from their respective cars, I cut the tops off of all the tanks. Some of the pieces had baffles inside that also needed to be removed. After all of this was done I was left with hollow plastic tanks with one open side, much like a cowbell. I made a mounting plate out of scrap metal brackets and added a 3/8" post so that it can be mounted in most percussion hardware.

Here are the completed wood blocks and the mounting bracket.

July 11, 2010

First Post

This blog will chronicle my attempt to create a functioning drum/percussion set up with only scrap car parts. I have been an auto mechanic for 11 years and a drummer for 17 years. It was a natural progression for me to combine something I do everyday with something I don't get to do as much as I would like. So far I have a pair of flywheel hi-hats, a full octave of pulley bells, oil trap wood blocks, and I am currently working on a washer fluid reservoir drum. This is a slow process, but part of the fun is not knowing what I might get in the shop this week, and how I might be able to use it. Once I have enough instruments completed I plan to compose and record some music. I would also like to re-create the music live in such a way that would allow the audience to participate and be part of the creative process.
I will be posting on each individual instrument as I finish them.

Feel free to let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions.