I was tasked with building a musical instrument from scratch in one month. I was Inspired by the cranial crest of the dinosaur Parasaurolophus. I explored the structure, sound, and size — all attempts at emulating the 5-feet long crest. I had to navigate numerous trade-offs while designing, and learned to balance between two opposing desirable qualities. I experimented with the thickness of the pipes and discovered that a certain amount — two inches — was great for echoing creating deep sounds. Other sizes created different tones that were not similar to the reconstructed sound of Parasaurolophus.
To translate a concept from an inspiration to a working musical instrument, I found that a trombone was the perfect match to produce the deep sound. I also developed an adjustable pitch frame, whose form I explored for maximum comfort, flexibility, and ease of use. I made the mouthpiece with different-sized PVC pipes and epoxy putty. Three organic extensions create a deep, echoing sound. I then strapped a cushion as a shoulder rest made of a sown fabric and a foam pad for ergonomics. Finally, I made the instrument all black to give it a dark, military, industrial aesthetic.
Process
(1) Brainstorming process including different possibilities for the construction of the instrument, observing the cranial structure of Parasaurolophus, the dinosaur with a sound-producing cranial crest, and how that could be replicated, in addition to other possible dinosaur-inspired instruments.
(2) Blueprint sketches and conceptual thoughts about form, structure, and possible research questions for development.
(3) Blueprint measurements including distance between parts, amount of parts to buy for each type of part, and notes.
(4) Assembling parts together with PVC pipe glue and ordering the parts using the blueprint sketches.
(5) Assembled product.
(6) The next challenge was figuring out how to make a functional mouthpiece. I tried making a wooden mouthpiece until I figured out small PVC pipes of different sizes connected together with the form of a trombone mouthpiece would create the desired sound. I tested the concept using duct tape and then assembled it using epoxy putty.
(7) Assembled epoxy putty mouthpiece.
(8) After making a functional mouthpiece, I used the remainder of my time to work on the aesthetic and design of the product. I made a mold for wood I was going to bend to create wooden extensions for the instrument.
(9) Bending the wood using pressure clamps.
(10) To glue the extension attachments to the instrument, I had to make a flat surface for them to rest. I made wooden sheets as the resting pieces.
(11) Gluing the extensions on the flat, wooden sheets using clamps.
(12) Spray painting the instrument for an aesthetic touch.
(13) Final product: a Parasaurolophus-inspired Trombone.
Lessons:
- Sewing basics
- Applying epoxy putty
- Exploring the relationship between form and function in products
- Creative ideation and development
- Tying knots to hold together
- Exploiting the properties of wood
- Exploring materiality, surfaces, and textures
- Using PVC pipes and plastic materials
- Troubleshooting and solving issues along the way
- Applying spray paint and creating compelling aesthetics
- Bending wood and using molds to create curvy shapes
- Navigating trade-offs such as size vs ergonomic experience and weight, the sliding mechanism's materiality vs flexibility, and form vs function

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