A Ukulele Teacher's Memories and Music Performance with Muro Box (Taiwan)
Aloha~Hello, everyone. My name is G.J. Lee, and I am currently devoted to teaching, performing and promoting Ukulele. Welcome to visit my Facebook fan page (https://www.facebook.com/GJUkulele), my YouTube channel(https://www.youtube.com/c/GJLeeukulele), or read my blog posts (http://gjukulele.blogspot.com/).
The Music Boxes in My Childhood Memory
Younger friends may not have an impression of music boxes, but friends at my age may know more about music boxes. In the past, a music box was a very stylish gift for us, and you will feel honored if your friend bought a music box for you as a gift.
I recalled 2 unique music boxes from my childhood memory:
The first one was a graduation (or birthday) gift from my sister’s friend. The music box had a small glass lid on it, and there was a metal cylinder with a lot of tiny needles on it. When the cylinder is rolling, the needles will pluck the comb to generate a beautiful melody. This melody “Memory” is from the well-known musical, Cats, and I did not recognize its melody title until my music teacher mentioned its origin a few years later.
Another famous melody played from another music box was called “For Alice”. I also learned it from the music box for the first time before my music teacher mentioned it in class.
I’m the Backer for the First Generation of Muro Box N20
I noticed the Muro Box for the first time during their 2018 Zec-Zec crowdfunding campaign in Taiwan. I was impressed by this Taiwanese team who invented and produced the Muro Box with the assistance from many old manufacturers in Taiwan who specialized in producing items that required high precision. They claimed that this Muro Box can break the limitation of traditional music boxes to allow one music box to play all of your melody collections without length limitation!
This idea is so cool, so I pre-ordered one Muro Box in this campaign when they ran the first crowdfunding campaign in Taiwan back in 2018.
２ Years Later, I Finally Received My Muro Box for the First Time
While waiting for them to ship it, I received regular and detailed updates about this campaign project. I also learned that because of the complex mechanism of this music box, their team faced many unexpected problems during the assembly experiments in the pilot run production. It took them two years doing all kinds of tests in order to find the right recipe for each component’s material and production method before they shipped the product to all of the backers.
Although I am not an expert in this field, seeing them try various materials like Edison doing endless experiments again and again in order to find the best solution made me admire their persistence. I did not expect that they would be able to carry the financial pressure from delayed shipping for such a long time, and I once thought they may refund all backers as an easier solution to end this project eventually. To my surprise, they completed shipping in the spring of 2020!
During this long waiting time for my Muro Box, I read their regular updates with details in reporting their test results and production status. I know that this is a trust-worthy company with admirable courage in striving for the quality and customers’ satisfaction. Music box is never a necessity in our life, and many people have no idea what it is. Even though this product cannot bring them enough profit, they still strive for the best quality regardless of the high production cost.
Hence, I decided to make a video to introduce this great innovation to let more people know about the Muro Box. In April 2020, I published the first unbox video of the Muro Box. After this unbox video was made, I also shared my feedback about improving sound quality in a private message with its founders.
(Note. Please click on the gear icon on the YouTube video control bar, open the subtitle/caption option, choose “auto-translation” and then select “English”. Then, you can better understand G.J. Lee’s comments about Muro Box. )
To my surprise again, they seriously studied each piece of advice since then, and even spent two more years refining its sound. They even recalled all of the ZecZec backers’ Muro boxes to do free maintenance service in order to give us a better sound experience.
2 Years Later, I Made the Second Unbox Video for the Improved Muro Box N20
Two years later, a newer generation of Muro Box N20 with improved sound quality was released. It has a 20-note diatonic scale of comb and it can play 2.5 octave C Major songs. For beginners in music composing, it already gives you enough room to practice. This improvement lies in its sound quality and response speed to make it a more mature product.
In addition, they added a MIDI input slot to the Muro Box to cater to professional music players’ composing needs. Now, I can connect my MIDI keyboard and laptop with the Muro Box, and send the MIDI message directly to make the music box play live music immediately. It is MAGIC!
Also, for playing the music box in a larger room, how to increase its volume is important. Their team also spent a lot of time designing a solid wood resonance box with the use of zebra wood and hard maple to enhance its volume and enrich its sound’s details in terms of sustaining sound effect. I can easily notice the difference between having a resonance box and without it.
The newer generation of Muro Box gives a good power solution by using USB-C power supply. This new model also allows you to connect the music box in real time with the connection with your laptop. I was excited to play and create melodies with the USB-MIDI input function.
The first model only enables users to enter notes manually through the Muro Box App, and it is like what you can do with an old-fashioned cell phone when creating the customized melody by pressing buttons one by one to enter each note. It was fun and interactive, but not very convenient for creating melodies.
If you watch the clip (8:15-17:55) in the following YouTube video, you can listen to the four melodies I arranged by using my MIDI keyboard to let Muro Box do the live performance. It is cool and interesting. The melodies I performed are:
(1) Slum Dunk (a theme song from a famous Japanese movie in the 1990s),
(2) Grandma’s PongHun Bay (a classical song in Taiwan),
(3) Always Be with Me (a theme song from a famous Japanese animation),and
(4) The Sunset in Home Town (a classical song in Taiwan).
(Again, please click on the gear icon on the YouTube video control bar, open the subtitle/caption option, choose “auto-translation” and then select “English”. Then, you can better understand G.J. Lee’s comments about Muro Box.)
I Made Several Interesting Experiments in the Second Unbox Video:
1. The pitch of Muro Box is even more accurate than my Ukulele! Please watch the video clip (22:20-23:22) to enjoy the ensemble of Muro Box and Ukulele!
2. The design of the resonance box is interesting. It will enhance the richness of the sound from the Muro Box and also increase the motor sound a little bit.
If I placed a piece of deer skin between the Muro Box and the Resonance Box, it would reduce the sound from the motor but also the high frequency sound.
3. If you keep a little distance from the music box, you will not hear the mechanical sound, and only the beautiful music box sound because the higher frequency sound will travel further in the air.
4. The Muro Box App already supported social interaction among users. You can see how many users like and save your melodies after you publish them in public mode in the app. You can also leave a comment to encourage the creator of the melody. This social function has never been seen in previous music boxes. I really look forward to seeing the growth of the Muro Box community.
Final Note: Music Box is a Time Machine
Seeing the perseverance of their team in the pursuit of making music boxes into handicrafts, and combining the convenience of modern technology to make more people willing to understand music boxes again, I think this spirit is very admirable. Hence, as its first-time backer, I am willing to spend such a long time recording a second unboxing video, documenting the hard work and long time their team has spent on refining Muro Box. (The first unbox video was made in 2020 when I received it for the first time.)
You may think that a music box is not important in our life because it is not a necessity, and think that Muro Box is just a cool gadget, and that’s it. However, to me it preserves the lifetime memories with its unique sound in live performance. It is like a musical instrument and also a time machine that recalls my precious memories of the old days.