Visual Beats

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This project is inspired by Cymatics, the study of visualizing sound through the representation of physical mediums. The common method to visualize sound in Cymatics is by creating a frequency on a plate that vibrates a medium (such as sand or water) placed on top. The more in tune a frequency is to the plate, the more complex of a geometric shape (nodal lines) the sand creates. We initially plan on experimenting with an online frequency generator and a metal plate in order to see what how big of amplitudes we can make on the antinodal regions. Once we have found specific frequencies that resonate well with the plate, we hope to mix/record specific tones and develop it into an Arduino based electric xylophone. People will be able to play on the xylophone, creating their own beats that will create resonating geometric patterns in order for them to “see” what physical form their music takes on.

The Team

  • Sudeep Raj
  • Han Wang
  • Li Gao


  • Finding several resonating frequencies of the plate since stable figures are obtained the best at these frequencies
  • Achieving a consistent image will depend on the distribution of sand (or silica grains) spread on the plate since the higher density nodes will be providing the form we seek.
  • Having at the least 5 unique sets of diametric and radial node patterns that are playable on the xylophone.
    • The higher the count on both diametric and radial nodes, the better
  • At least 3 melody kits (specifically themed notes) the xylophone will be able to play
  • During the demo, anyone should be able to play the xylophone and form images on their own (although we will prepare/practice some melodies that do create designs)


Most of the hardware we will use can be purchased, but there are still many foreseen challenges we will encounter:

  • We don’t know what kind of pattern(s) a specific frequency will produce beforehand, so we will have to try find them using a predetermined range of frequencies from 20Hz to 2kHz (range is considered in order to stay safe and based on an article that ran a similar experiment)
  • We may try different mediums (sands, silicon beads etc). They may get stuck on the center of speaker and cause damage.
  • We may exceed our budget if our trials keep failing, so we need to form detailed plans on how we will run our experiments in order to prevent going over our budget
  • We must be aware of the environment we perform our project in as some frequencies might have the potential to shatter glass
  • Coming up with back up plans if our set frequencies do not form the expected shapes
  • Finding the most effective way to reuse and not waste sand
  • The high speaker and high amplifier may harm our ears, so the earplug is needed for protection


Speaker/Plate Setup

Electric Xylophone


  • Hot Glue Gun
  • 10k Resistor
  • 1M Ohm Resistors (x8)
  • Arduino UNO
  • Breadboard
  • Solderless Jumper Wires
  • DMM
  • Cardboard Box (12in x 7in)
  • Software:
    • Serial – MIDI (xylophone) converter
    • Garageband (to read MIDI data and develop tunes)
    • Arduino

Est. Total

  • ~$125

Schemetics and Sketches

VB Scheme.jpg

This is our visual-beats scheme. We first hit the xylephone, Piezo would receive the hit and convert pressure to voltage signal. The signal goes to Arduino, which would then convert signal to readable data of computer. Next, SM would converts data for Garageband and Garageband plays music through our amplifier/speaker system. Finally, the platform above the speaker vibrates and makes the unique pattern through sands!


This is how we gonna construct the xylephone. We put six 1.5*8 in arcylic plexiglass boards on the top of a 12*7 in box. Then we stick 6 piezo (1.1 in diameter) to the plexiglass boards.


On the bottom is a 3/4 in common birch plywood. We stick a 400w speaker(8 in diameter) to it and put a wooden cylinder (1 in diameter) on the top of the speaker. We then stick a 12 * 12, 0.063 in thick aluminum platform to the top of wooden cylinder.

Gantt Chart