What sort of musical instruments can you make out of plastic credit cards? You might imagine results are limited. But with some clever use of mics, and brilliantly-simple application of time-tested ideas ranging from single-string monochords to music boxes, the results are eminently, wondrously sonorous. And the project benefits greatly from having some compositional intent behind it; the music is focused and makes those credit cards expressive.

The project was a promotion for local Austrian banks, but they’re just as effective as promotions for making your own, unique instruments.

Vienna-based composer Dr. Richard Eigner describes the project and the team with which he collaborated on his blog:

Mario Wienerroither, Gernot Ottowitz (Audiobakery) and me have been approached by Young & Rubicam with a very intriguing idea: build instruments out of cash cards and write a musical piece with the freshly assembled sonic devices for their client »Erste Bank & Sparkasse«. Challenge accepted! You can see the result above. The video was shot by our dear friends from Jenside. This page features my very own cash card instruments designs.

Just what sorts of instruments are we talking here? Here are a few:

  • Musicbox Cash Cards
  • Cash Card Duochord
  • Cash Card Kalimba
  • Cash Card Laserbass
  • Cash Card Monochord
  • Cash Card Ratchet Snare
  • Cash Card Ratchet Shaker

Erstebank Cards of Change Instruments [ritornell.at]

Music boxes are a speciality of Richard’s, with exquisite results. Previously:
Punched-Hole Tunes: Ritornell’s Musicbox Business Cards, as Delicate and Magical as the Music

  • http://twitter.com/joshgiesbrecht josh giesbrecht

    A marketing meme in the making?  Molson just did something similar for Canada Day:

  • radiokoala

    If you dig the concept, be sure to check the film called Sound of Noise ;]

    • johnnyabnormal

      You get a “Funk Bass” instructional booklet for that comment.

  • johnnyabnormal

    I love found sound compositions…  The trick with using plastic (or paper) cards is that they are more percussive in nature than glass or metal, which have endless melodic possibilities.  So in this case, most of the instruments needed an “add-on”, like a table, music box or string, etc.  This performance didn’t look like it was recorded live?  It looked/sounded like they were playing along to a track that was already composed?  Maybe someone could confirm?  Really great track, regardless.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Eigner/781452593 Richard Eigner

       Yes, you are right! In the video we were playing along the finished track. We considered recording it all live, but since some of the instruments are very quiet, it wouldn’t have sounded so nice in the ending. There’s quite a lot of bespoke recording on the sounds you are hearing, close, contact- and double micing.

    • johnnyabnormal

      I bet!  Back in ’06 I did a Tchaikovsky arrangement (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) using bike sounds…probably much easier to do, considering a bike has many melodic capabilities.  You can hear it here:  http://www.johnnyrandom.com  What kind of mics did you guys use?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Eigner/781452593 Richard Eigner

      Lovely work! I’m amazed. Thanks for sharing. We used mainyl AKG C414s, Line Audio CM3s and a lot of contact microphones, my favourite being the AKG C 411L.

    • johnnyabnormal

      Very cool.  I use a C414 LTD for a lot of things.  Although, I’ve been using a Tascam iM2 iPhone mic lately too.  I used it a lot for a recent job for a classical radio station in NYC:


      Heavy use of melodyne in these, for sure.  :)

    • bigbigeyes

      Hi Richard,

      I would like to use this track as my background score for my graduation project video…would that be ok?

  • jhhl

    That music box hardware is available from musicmakers: http://www.harpkit.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=musicbox. As long as you stick to the key of C, you are in pretty good shape!

  • http://www.hicox.com/ plurgid

    man, I turned a plastic card into a new instrument just the other day!
    Latency is hell though. Still waiting for it to arrive. the ups tracker says it’s “out for delivery”.
    but serious, this is cool as hell.
    I Love the idea of swiping the magnetic strip across a disassembled tape deck.

  • bigbigeyes

    Can this audio track be used for a video for my student project?

  • Dude

    FAKE!!! White guys don’t have rhythm.

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