My daughter Emily presented me with a gift a few Christmases ago, a lovely music box with tools and supplies to create works of music to be played on this charming instrument. The music box plays by means of a strip with punched holes, similar to the old piano rolls on player pianos. I finally got around to creating an arrangement of “Ding Dong Merrily on High”, and so I thought I would share the process.
This music box has 30 tines, and so I created an arrangement of the song that only uses those 30 pitches.
Next, I marked the locations on the player strip that corresponded to the pitches. See the pitch names, with low on the left and high on the right. Viewed this way, the vertical represents the timeline, and so for this arrangement the smallest note value is a sixteenth note. After marking the notes on the strip, I punched holes at those locations. As the strip runs through the music box, the holes cause those tines to play.
See video of the finished product. This form of recording musical information has been around since the Renaissance. The other main method to record musical information uses a barrel with “bumps” designed to pluck the tines of the music box. Coincidentally, my third and fourth great grandfathers, George and Joseph Hicks, were making barrel pianos in England in the mid 19th century!