I've always wanted to do an extended set of sampled music boxes and have wondered why there never seemed to be very many samples of these beauties. Now I know why - they're a royal pain in the ass to sample! I spent about 10 hours recording samples that were eventually usable. Even though I've been sampling for about 15 years now, I still learned a great deal from this little mechanical monster.
Since they are such delicate creates and are not very loud, this presents many problems to the sound designer. The sound of the room can seriously compete with the sound of the instrument itself. Also I can only use single pitches, chords are louder but they don't help me at all. So what to do?
Take a look at the photo above of what I sampled - this thing is tiny, about 1" by 1.5". This is actually the mechanism of a music box without the box. I purchased 2 of them in a local book store for $8 a piece. The above pictured music box mechanism plays "Love Me tender" also known as "Aura Lee" before Elvis "borrowed" it. It is intended to be screwed into any surface (like a wall or wood door etc..) to act as resonator. I tried in on glass, wood, a hand drum as well as my washing machine using double stick tape. All yielding different and interesting tonal colors. I chose to sample it mounted on a wood table with glass on the top. This gave it quite a pure crystalline quality.
Notice the "crank" which spins the wheel which triggers the tines. Using this I triggered one pitch at a time and let it ring for it's full duration. I took an inventory of each pitch used and wrote down the tine number and sequence on a piece of paper for the purpose of knowing exactly what pitches were offered by themselves. This is also tiring on your eye sight, so I marked specific tines with a sharpie and numbered them. Sort of like a REALLY old fashioned sequencer I suppose. With many music boxes you just wind em' up and let em' go, you cannot control the speed at which the notes sound. Others are mechanically very noisy, a real problem for sampling. This little book store knickknack seemed to be just what I was looking for. Besides most people who are really into collection music boxes are not to keen on lending them out to a sampling freak like myself.
OK... enough blabbering.... enjoy!