Foni is a phonograph drum machine which converts colour to sound (drum samples), to create bespoke and interesting looping beats. These beat structures are determined by the creativity of the user – formed through patterns and pictures etched onto a chalkboard vinyl with five different coloured chalks.

The Nitty Gritty

The hue and boldness of the colours are monitored by a colour sensor and infrared line tracker located at the end of the arm (the needle), and these colours determine what drum sample shall be played. A stepper motor with a ‘big easy’ driver, relocates the arm across the chalkboard vinyl to ensure all parts of the vinyl are read. A button is present in the old needle deposit to start up Foni , and for calibration purposes. The motor and sensors previously mentioned are connected up to an Arduino Mega 2560, with a mains power source.

The Arduino is then connected to a laptop through a serial COM2 connection, which is used to allow the Arduino to communicate the sensor data to a processing sketch. This processing sketch handles audio, and creates a beat grid for drum samples to play on, ensuring there is structure to beats produced with Foni.

A contact vibration speaker is mounted to the inner horn chamber of the phonograph to allow beats to be audible, with the ability to plug in speakers through the line in jack located on a laptop within the piece. The phonographs original wind-up turntable assembly remains intact to ensures the vinyl rotates smoothly, and to allow for changes in the beat structure to be performed by altering the rotations per minute of the turntable through brakes, pitch benders, and preventing the phonograph of being suitably wound.


Foni draws inspiration from the work of Bartholomäus Traubeck, and his incredible project ‘Years’, as well as Deyu Liu and Kevin Lin’s final year project for Cornell, ‘Colour to Sound Player’. However Foni is primarily a creation guided by the skills developed throughout the Digital Art & Technology course, and is a demonstration in how the combination of art and technology can be used to create something new and fun.


Project Type University – Final Year Project (DAT306)
Collaborators Rob Sparks
Duration Oct 2013 – May 2014
Grade Upper Second

Bolt Mini