3D Printed Musical Instruments

A female professor, wearing a black top and plaid skirt, playing a 3D printed clarinet, alongside a female student in a wheelchair and a male student, playing a 3D Printed Musical Instruments.
This project explores the most recent developments in 3D modelling and printing technologies to create accurate copies of historical musical instruments for advanced and professional musicians. 

The instruments, all chosen from the collection of the Royal College of Music Museum, include five ivory instruments – particularly fragile due to the specific characteristics of the material – (two alto recorders by Jacob Denner and Paul Villars, an early clarinet by George Heinrich Scherer, a flute by Ignaz Scherer and a renaissance cornett) as well as two boxwood ones – an oboe by Jacob Grundman and a recorder by Johann. W. Oberlender.

The first part of the study has been generously supported by a grant from the DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund which enabled the micro-CT scanning of the instruments, their digital restoration and prints using a variety of materials and techniques.

The copies are then tested to compare their physical and acoustical characteristics with the originals and musicians’ and audiences’ responses are analysed, in order to reach a fuller understanding of the potential of this technique to support early music performance and the preservation and dissemination of historical musical instruments.

The project is led by Prof. Gabriele Rossi Rognoni, Chair of Music and Material Culture and Curator of the Royal College of Music Museum, in partnership with Prof. Gabriele Ricchiardi (University of Turin) as part of the research activities of the RCM-Wolfson Centre in Music and Material Culture. CT scans of the instruments were undertaken at the Micro-CT laboratory of the Natural History Museum by Brett Clark (Micro-CT Scanning Specialist) and the post-production of the digital models, including digital restoration, was delivered by Federico Xiccato e Francesca Tansella. Instruments’ set up – where necessary – was undertaken by Robert Bigio.

The results of the first phase of the project were discussed at an international conference on 18 March 2024. Representatives of the major projects in this area joined makers and performers in discussing the opportunities offered by this fast-expanding technique, as well as its current challenges.

Professor Gabriele Rossi Rognoni

Professor of Material Culture and Music, Doctoral Supervisor

0207 591 4843


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