Celebrity Invention: Marlon Brando's Drum AutoTuner

Thumbnail image for patentsrichfamous_280(2).jpgSome celebrities aren't just pretty faces. A few of them are also touched with that Yankee prowess for tinkering and invention. In this weekly series, we introduce you to the Patents of the Rich and Famous.

Inventor: Marlon Brando

Known For:
Looks like Coppola wasn't the only Godfather legend who dabbled in the sciences. Brando was known for more than his award winning (and rejecting) performances in The Godfather and On the Waterfront.  Besides advocating for the fair portrayal of Native Americans in media, Brando had musical inclinations. He hung out with Michael Jackson, frequenting the Neverland Ranch and starring in the King of Pop's You Rock My World video. And, as demonstrated by the following clip of Brando on the Edward R. Murrow Show, he was a gifted bongo player:


Look at the intent in those eyes. Even 50 years before his patent, we bet Brando was scheming: There just had to be a way to improve his beloved instrument.

Invented Apparatus: "Drumhead tensioning device and method"Thumbnail image for marlonbrandoPATENT.bmp

Drums lose their tension and need tuning. If T-Pain has taught us anything, everything sounds better (and hipper) with an auto-tuner. Thus, Brando presents: the automatic drum tuner.

The present invention is directed toward a tunable drum for use with or without a drum stand. Embodiments of the invention allow an individual to quickly and reliably tune the drum either manually, by operating a motor, or automatically by way of a tuning circuit.

Brando suggests several manifestations of his invention, but he basically attaches a motor to the drum, which will do all the work for him:

In one embodiment, a motor is coupled to the tuning linkage such that an operator can manually adjust the tuning via a motor. In another embodiment, a transducer and a tuning circuit can automatically provide control signals to the motor based on a difference between a desired frequency and a determined frequency.

Rationale Behind Invention: Tightening a drum takes a lot of effort. Once the drum head loses its tension, there are typically six separate rods that need tightening. Far too many rods for Marlon. Brando explains that others have tried to develop mechanisms that would improve the drum tightening experience but none of them provided a simple or affordable solution. 

It is therefore apparent that a need exists for a simple and inexpensive drum tuning device that is also accurate and reliable and not subject to inadvertent adjustments.

Off Label Uses: Put that motor in reverse and not only do you have a device for all your tightening needs, but it also doubles as a loosener. Great for opening pickle jars, tightening soda caps, or securing shampoo (or other) bottles during travel.

Future Directions: As we age, let's face it, we don't play the bongos as often as we used to. But that doesn't mean that your home shouldn't be filled with the funky sound of the jazz bongo! We suggest borrowing a trick from last week's celebrity invention -- the player piano -- and deploying it here. Imagine the joys of the player bongo.

Presented by

Rebecca Greenfield is a former staff writer at The Wire.

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