Is it possible to change the tune it strikes on a grandfather clock?

teacher339

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Hi I own a Ridgeway grandfather clock that is almost 40 years old. My son loves it. He wants a similar clock of his own but he wants to make it chime to a song of his choosing. Is this even possible? If it is possible, is it practical to consider doing? Thank you for any help you can throw in my direction. Steve
 

Kevin W.

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Some grandfather clocks play a selection, sometimes three as they are made this way. Some only play westminster, it all depends on the movement you have.
If you can be specific on what movement then it can be answered.
You cant just choose what chime a clock plays, its a preset thing.
 

teacher339

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Some grandfather clocks play a selection, sometimes three as they are made this way. Some only play westminster, it all depends on the movement you have.
If you can be specific on what movement then it can be answered.
You cant just choose what chime a clock plays, its a preset thing.
Hi My clock has three selections. I wanted to find out if it is possible to customize it so the hammers will play a different tune other than the three pre-built in the clock. Thank you for trying to help!! Steve
 

Kevin W.

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No i dont think it can be changed Steve.
 

StephanG

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I suspect you can make it play whatever you want if you are clever enough to make the new bits required.
Under normal conditions you can only play the 1 or 3 or whatever it is designed to play.
I have not seen one that is programmable if that is what you are asking.

The bits themselves are not that complex. Just disks with teeth on them to lift the hammers.
Getting the new teeth in the right place and sequence is the tricky bit.

Remember you have to allow for the quarters as well.

I have seen clocks with custom chimes.
 

Kevin W.

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Not saying it can,t be done, but you will have to be quite smart to do this, not a newbie job for sure.
 

harold bain

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Hi I own a Ridgeway grandfather clock that is almost 40 years old. My son loves it. He wants a similar clock of his own but he wants to make it chime to a song of his choosing. Is this even possible? If it is possible, is it practical to consider doing? Thank you for any help you can throw in my direction. Steve
Welcome to the message board, Steve.
Sure it's possible. You would have to be highly skilled in mechanical engineering, and music. Your clock will either have discs or a pin barrel. You would either have to make new discs, or re-arrange the pins, drilling new holes. You are limited by the eight notes available with your eight chime rods. First job is to write the music, using eight note segments. You are limited to 8 notes on the first quarter, 16 on the second, 24 on the third, and 32 on the hour, without totally re-engineering the clock's movement.
 

StephanG

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You should also consider how the existing chime works.

Some chimes repeat in that the final full chime uses some of the other parts.

The barrel might do 1.5 or 2 laps in a full cycle.

Other ones have the partial chimes separate from the full one so 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and then full chime gives 1 lap of the barrel.

You need to understand this fully to know how many notes you have to play with and how they might interact with each other.
 

harold bain

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You should also consider how the existing chime works.

Some chimes repeat in that the final full chime uses some of the other parts.

The barrel might do 1.5 or 2 laps in a full cycle.

Other ones have the partial chimes separate from the full one so 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and then full chime gives 1 lap of the barrel.

You need to understand this fully to know how many notes you have to play with and how they might interact with each other.
Yes, normally the barrel turns twice in an hour, with 5 different 8 note sequences on the barrel, total 40 notes.
 

David S

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Steve we have a member here on the forum that has a musical background Bill Stuntz. He has been very helpful before in helping with some music / note issues. Perhaps he can be of assistance.
 
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Bob Fisher

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It might be easier to use the clock to trigger an electronic mechanism that can be programmed for any tune you like. Otherwise , as has been mentioned, if it can't play on the existing chime rods, it becomes much more difficult. At any rate, you will need to be a very capable machinist to carry this out. Better to buy an electronic movement from the beginning. Bob.
 

Tom McIntyre

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I am sure one can program an iPhone or Android to play whatever music you like. That is essentially how French musical clocks work. There is a music box with its own playing logic that is triggered from the clock mechanism. Minuets are very popular on such clocks I have noticed.

It will be much easier to do this now than it would have been 100 years ago. )

I found an app in the iPhone store that plays Westminster A, Westminster B, Whittington and St. Michael. I did not find one to play an arbitrary tune, but I am confident that would not be difficult to do for one who writes apps.
 
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chimeclockfan

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If you are making a new drum to play a tune mechanically, there are many factors in which design works best. A new drum must be the right diameter - too large won't fit, and too small often gives poor power transmission. The drum's lifts must also be proportioned correctly to play the melody correctly.

Then the number of notes is another snag. Tunes with quick succession in two notes often have two hammers for one rod, or two "twinned" rods and hammers. Too much load on the hammers can cause the chime train to stall.
 

StephanG

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I think perhaps the appeal of this idea is to have some garden variety mantle clock of which there are many play an unexpected tune rather that the regular Westminster chimes or whatever.
 

ThePhreeze

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On this very old topic, last year I did exactly what the OP was asking about. I 3D-printed a custom drum for my grandfather clock to play "The Imperial March" from Star Wars. Today, in honor of May The Fourth Be With You, I finally posted a video demonstration here:


I do not know much about clocks (ours is second-hand and the movement is an Urgos 66036). To reduce risk of messing up our clock I bought a used semi-functional URGOS 66004 movement (compatible with our own clock in the important ways) on ebay so I could examine the mechanism. I reverse-engineered the barrel which according to my measurements had a 2.2mm axle and a 30 tooth gear. I bought a 2.2mm rod and laser-cut a gear which I generated on Involute spur gear generator and simulator.

After taking a lot of measurements of the teeth and discs on the drum, I wrote a clumsy Java program to take a MIDI tune and generate geometry for a 3D-printed drum. This was the hardest part and took some trial and error to get the measurements right (or let's say "close enough").

Someday maybe I'll get my program polished enough that I can release it into the wild so everyone can print their own custom drums. With this kind of clock you're limited to a C major scale (although with all the overtones from the chimes, the ear will forgive a lot of artistic license, as you'll see from the video above) and the clock really struggles to deliver enough torque to play anything faster than an eighth note. So the musical possibilities are a bit limited :)
 

shutterbug

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That's too cool! You should patent it!
 

JimmyOz

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I hope my son does not see this as I know what he will ask me.
Now I think about it what a cool Christmas present, no reason it can't work on a triple chime mantle clock.
 

wow

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On this very old topic, last year I did exactly what the OP was asking about. I 3D-printed a custom drum for my grandfather clock to play "The Imperial March" from Star Wars. Today, in honor of May The Fourth Be With You, I finally posted a video demonstration here:


I do not know much about clocks (ours is second-hand and the movement is an Urgos 66036). To reduce risk of messing up our clock I bought a used semi-functional URGOS 66004 movement (compatible with our own clock in the important ways) on ebay so I could examine the mechanism. I reverse-engineered the barrel which according to my measurements had a 2.2mm axle and a 30 tooth gear. I bought a 2.2mm rod and laser-cut a gear which I generated on Involute spur gear generator and simulator.

After taking a lot of measurements of the teeth and discs on the drum, I wrote a clumsy Java program to take a MIDI tune and generate geometry for a 3D-printed drum. This was the hardest part and took some trial and error to get the measurements right (or let's say "close enough").

Someday maybe I'll get my program polished enough that I can release it into the wild so everyone can print their own custom drums. With this kind of clock you're limited to a C major scale (although with all the overtones from the chimes, the ear will forgive a lot of artistic license, as you'll see from the video above) and the clock really struggles to deliver enough torque to play anything faster than an eighth note. So the musical possibilities are a bit limited :)
Great work, Phreeze. It would be possible to produce tunes in minor keys or any key at all by changing the rods tuned to that key, but that would be a lot of trouble. Tunes with steady quarter notes, half notes and an occasional eighth note (as you said) would be better because of the overtones and the need for additional power to turn the drum when it is lifting more than two hammers at a time. Many traditional hymn tunes would work well. One octave is all you have to work with, though and no accidentals that are not in that key can be used.
Thanks for sharing and opening this old thread. It’s always good to read old threads where deceased friends like Harold Bain have posted. I still miss his expert advice.
 

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