Fiddling Around: Playable 8-Bit Violin

Looking at this custom 8-bit violin, designed by artist Ranjit Bhatnagar, you’d almost expect the music it produces to sound like an old school MIDI file, but while the artist cut many literal corners to design the instrument, he certainly didn’t cut any in making sure it was playable just like any ordinary fiddle.

Making musical instruments is an art in and of itself. Producing one that looks as beautiful as it sounds is something of a challenge, and one which instrument designers are happy to accept.

In 2008, Bhatnagar devoted the month of February to a special project: completing a homemade instrument each day, and recording its musical abilities. His recordings were featured on NPR’s All Things Considered during a segment on odd musical instruments. Having greatly enjoyed the project, he decided to repeat it each year.

So far this year, Bhatnagar has created music using such diverse materials as an ear of corn, a grouping of metal baseball bats, and even a frozen puddle in a nearby park. Given the recent popularity of 8-bit designs, though, it’s not surprising to see that this particular instrument, hand crafted from craft-quality oak and maple has been an internet favortie so far.

Created using entirely 90-degree angles (with the exception of the fingerboard), the design looks like it would be right at home in an episode of 8-Bit Theater. A close-up of the neck reveals that even the tuning pegs are, as Bhatnagar describes it, “square pegs in a round hole.”

As the artist’s friend and veteran fiddler Bre Pettis demonstrates, however, it is an instrument fit for any orchestra here in our own non-digital world.