How to turn your floppy disk drive into an awesome 8-bit instrument

Floppy drives and stepper motors have been used to make music before, but for live playing I think the technology is underexplored.

This video features three separate Commodore 64 computers, colour coded for your convenience. I'm playing the melody on a dark grey C64C (custom case from Individual Computers) and chords on a brown "breadbin". These machines run Qwertuoso, my accordion-inspired C64 program for playing live chip music. An external potentiometer is hooked up as a volume control.

The chord progression was shaped by both musical and technical constraints: I wanted to pick chords that would fit the melody while playfully extending its harmonical structure—but I also had to avoid note combinations that would result in keyboard ghosting.

The third computer, a light grey C64C, doesn't use the SID chip to generate sound. Instead it controls the motors of a programmable floppy disk drive, providing bass and rhythmical noises. The lid of the drive has been removed in the video so you can see the moving parts.

A 1530 Datasette unit is also put to good use.

Creator Linus Åkesson has a lot more to say about his technical (and musical) approach over on his blog. If you think this is cool, he has a Patreon, too.