waterFalse_process_documentation | NIME


A re-imagination and combination of ancient Chinese chime and Fou (缶, a percussion instrument). With real-time natural spinning water sound, it also generates computer synth sound. It uses water simulation computer visual projecting on interactive fog screen, combining with reactive lighting.

The name waterFalse is coming from an ancient Chinese instrument called Fou, which has the same pronunciation of  the meaning false in Chinese.

With a love for natural water, I tried to find a way to include its sound as part of my instrument. After haunting for a while, I found salad spinner is good in this case. So I hack it, that started the journey.






Concept Drafts

Concept Drafts



Circuit draft

Circuit draft

Composition Draft

Composition Draft


Process of Making

  • Structure design & 3D modelling
  • Material try out
  • Circuitry design and prototype
  • Printed Circuit Board design
  • First rough assembling, test out structure design
  • Fixing Problems of first rough test out (fixed water leaking problem)
  • Assemble and wire circuit
  • Finalize structure design, populate it
  • Combine circuit with physical design
  • Arduino Coding and Max coding
  • Composing for sound
  • Rehearse for performance
Structure Design & 3D modelling


Material try out

I shipped a lot of things from China, the main things are lean pipes and its connector. Later I found out that the lean pipes can be replaced by pvc pipes which I can buy it here.

img_0873 img_0876

For the spinning water,  I was going for water rowing machine at first, but apparently they are so expensive and hard to hack. Later Ben my teacher pointed me to look up salad spinner, which has similar mechanism. So I look it up. After trying out with different kinds of salad spinner, I found the most suitable one. #hackablesaladspinners

Original Salad Spinner

Original Salad Spinner

I put it on the structure I designed and assembled, and I worked well.

Circuitry design and prototype

After the above part had been done,  I move on to design my printed circuit board. So the circuit I need is to take the analog input from each Fou that I would make, and base on that drive 5v fans and 12v led strips.

At first I wanted to be wireless and each model(Fou) would have its own circuitry and they all broadcast to the master one which connect to the computer to receive the data, so it is more modular and has less wires.


I even started to solder the modular board using radio chip rfm69 and Arduino mini pro.


But I found out it not necessary to make it wireless in this case and it might also cause unstable data transmission later. So I changed my circuit board.

The final circuit design that I made is the main board connecting to 4 separate module board. The module board are in charge of controlling the voltage divide and sensor signal receiving of each individual module.

I use one photo cell for each model, and a led is attached to tip of the pulling string handle for the analog data.trying_led_photocell

I tested out all the components that I am going to use with bread board. (pulling string triggers fan on and based on how long the string is being pulled the led has different bright value).


Later I designed my circuit board and sent it to factory to make the board.

Module board circuit design

Module board circuit design and fabricated board


I connect them together with a main Arduino board.

pcb_wiring main_brd

all_pcb all_brds_together

Assembling structure

I use pipe clamps to hold the salad spinner and hook it with zip ties.


Spray painted all the pipes and the lid of salad spinner.



Assemble it again.


I cut the inside structure of the salad spinner so that it can make more water sound.



I used silicone to seal the lid with the main container. And test it with the water inside.


It worked out!

But… later I found out that after a 30 minutes standing, it will start leaking, so I made another structure to hold it tight.

One of my classmate Jesse suggested me to use turnbuckle to hold it. So I use cnc to cut our the holding structure and put that structure on.




Now it is not leaking, at least it can hold 5 hours.

Populate them

I started to make more of it, since I would need 4 in the end.



Combine circuit with physical design

I use velcro to attach boards on the structure and use jst connectors a lot so that later I can take the boards out and separate the modules easily.


And later I add fans box and mist maker to for the mist effect.

I also use contact microphone at the back to capture the natural water sound.




My cable board, sound interface, 12v 10a power supply.


Max programming


Composing and Rehearsal

I have 5 sound elements, natural water sound, wind sound, matouqin(a 2 string instrument), monk singing, female opera.

I composed them together and rehearsal several time.




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