Motor Rhythms

Motor Rhythms

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.