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Music and Magnets

Did you know that magnets are in some musical instruments? In fact, musical instruments like the electric guitar may not have been invented without the help of magnets. In order to amplify the sound emitted from an instrument, the electric guitar was invented by George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker in the 1930s. Beauchamp and Rickenbacker built an electromagnetic pickup, a device that captures mechanical vibrations and transmits them as an electrical signal. This device was created by wrapping coils of wire around a magnet to create a magnetic field that allowed the sounds to be amplified and recorded and alas, created the electric guitar.

In honor of the long, melodious relationship between magnets and music, we have compiled a list of some of our other favorite musical magnetic innovations.

Magnetized Piano Harp

A Brooklyn-based instrument designer, Andy Cavatorta, has created a number of fascinating musical inventions. One of our favorites is his recently created magnetized piano harp. The instrument uses a piano as the frame and a series of electromagnets to attach steel strings. The strings create a melody when the electromagnets are activated. You can check out the designer’s work here.

Magnetic Cello

Obviously, this isn’t the first time that magnets have been used in an instrument. One instrument that is exceptionally unique is the Magnetovore, a stringless magnetic cello. Instead of a bow, the cello uses an electromagnet that produces varying sounds as it moves across a tightly wound copper coil.

Music, Magnets and Art

Music, magnets and art collide in this New York Makers Faire installation. Although this one is not an instrument, it is a musical show made possible with magnetism. With the help of magnets and music, metal filings move to the beat in a pattern that looks like dancing.

The relationship between magnets and music goes beyond musical instruments. Magnets are used in speakers and headphones as well. In fact, you can build your own pair of speakers with some neodymium magnets, a Styrofoam cup and some wire. Do you have a favorite musical instrument that plays on magnetism? Share it with us in the comments!