DingsALot robot bellringer

David Ray at Cyber City Circuits designed DingsALot over Christmas a few years ago. It’s a choir of bells powered by Raspberry Pi that sings any song the conductor plays on an attached keyboard.

dingsalot bell ringing robot
Images borrowed from cybercitycircuits.com

We subscribe to Christmas in July around here, so are thrilled to bring you this festive bellringing build in the middle of summer. Jingle bells deserve year-round love.

Every hero has an origin story

DingsALot’s origin story, straight from the maker’s mouth, is a simple one:

“I bought a set of 20 handbells and set out to make them sing.”
Project overview on cybercitycircuits.com

How does it work?

The bells are attached to the frame by cabinet knobs bought from a well known home hardware store.

See the stack of Pis to the left of the image above

We’re going off the images we found on a Twitter thread about this project to deduce the bare bones of how it works. It looks like the bell handles are mounted in their wooden frame while an assembly consisting of a dinger and a mute hammer is mounted around each bell, able to pivot around a cylindrical rod according to whether an attached length of cord is tightened or slackened. The other end of each piece of cord is wound around its own spool-like thing. The spools look to be wired directly into the Raspberry Pis.

You can get a lot of technical information from a quick pencil drawing

DingsALot can be connected to an electronic keyboard so that when a human plays the keys, the bells sing. It looks like DingsALot code tells the Raspberry Pi which key has been struck on the keyboard, so that the Pi can wind the spool, to slacken the thread, to release the dinger, to strike the bell that plays the corresponding note. Then the spool can turn the other way to pull the string, moving the mute hammer against the bell to dampen the sound.

Watch DingsALot being played live

DingsALot’s first outing was at a winter festival, when the ivory-tinkler in the video above smashed out Flight of the Bumblebee. The colourful bell choir has since been wheeled out at lots of schools and public events.

dingsalot bell ringing robot
Bot DingsALot currently sits on display in the Cyber City Circuits Center for Applied Innovation in Georgia, US

DingsALot’s greatest hits

DingsALot can also play tunes from a file, eliminating the need for a human musician. There is an entire YouTube playlist of its performances for you to sound-bathe in. We have taken the liberty of selecting our favourites for you:

We know you well enough to know that this one should be top of the list
Our 1990s self could never have imagined Trent Reznor would go on to win multiple Oscars
Ding me baby one more time #FreeBritney
Clever girrrrrrl

Have a look through the YouTube playlist and let us know your favourite clangorous cover version in the comments.

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