NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Ah, the good ol’ YouTube cover, where no song is too sacred to screw with.
There are screaming goat remixes of Bon Jovi and Alicia Keys, a shooting range rendition of the Cups song from ‘Pitch Perfect,’ and of course, news anchors rapping Sir Mix-A-Lot.
One type of cover music you may not have heard of is called FDD, or floppy disk drive music.
Yes, floppy disks. Remember those? The hardware has been long tossed aside, but a legion of technophiles have resurrected the old PC components to produce music.
YouTube user Arganalth has an amazing version of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Gigawipf uses 14 floppy disk drives and a hard drive to eek out Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’. And for the past three years, Anand Jain, known on YouTube as MrSolidSnake745, has been using floppy disk drives to cover everything from Bach, Beethoven and Disney, to Niki Minaj, video game music, and EDM.
His 2-minute long floppy disk drive version of ‘The Game of Thrones’ theme has gotten over 1.8 million views on YouTube since he first published it in 2012.
The 26-year-old lives in Coconut Creek, Florida, and he’s a full-time developer for a home healthcare software company. Each month Jain spends 10 to 20 hours on a new floppy disk drive song.
His first cover was ‘The Imperial March,’ from the movie Star Wars. The song was produced using just three floppy drives, and is far less advanced than his current setup, which involves eight drives.
“It’s an odd hobby,” Jain admits.
So how does it work? Floppy disk drives emit sound similar to the way a violin operates. When you pull a bow over a string, or strike it, it vibrates at certain frequency. The same thing happens with floppy disk drives. The two motors in the device — the stepper motor and read/write head — can be told what rate to vibrate using software.
After Jain selects a song, he finds a MIDI file, which translates music into computer commands. He then uploads it to Moppy, which stands for “Musical Floppy.” It’s an open-source software program hosted on GitHub.
The floppy disk drives are equipped with microcontrollers which receive that data and whirls at different rates to play a note. Only one note can be produced at a time by each drive.
Some drives play certain notes better than others. Jain’s No. 7 drive, for example, is best with bass tones. Drive No. 8 is dedicated to higher notes, and No. 2 is best for producing echo effects because it’s the quietest.
“Not everything is meant for floppy disks — it’s not an instrument,” he said. “But with a little finesse it works out pretty well.”
Jain has perfected his methodology over the years, so the most time-consuming part of the process now is filming and editing the video. From time to time he will rearrange songs so that some notes are one or two octaves lower. High, long notes don’t play well, he says.
He doesn’t get paid to do this, although he makes a little money from YouTube advertising.
Jain’s eight-piece orchestra currently sits on a table in one of his spare bedrooms. He’s thinking of making the setup more mobile. Recently, he also tweaked the Moppy code so he can build playlists. Pretty soon, we might known him as an FDD DJ.
By Hope King
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