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10K Club Interview: Meet Donny Chen of the Playable LEGO Piano

Today we introduce 10K Club member Donny Chen (aka SleepyCow) of the Playable Lego Piano. Not only did he make it into the 10K Club but also did it at break-neck speed of just 60 days, making him among some of the quickest to do so. 

Please help us congratulate Donny for his big achievement, in the comments below.


About Yourself

  1. Where are you from?
    I am from Guangzhou, China and now I am residing in Melbourne, Australia.
  2. How old are you?
  3. What do you study or do for a living?
    I studied music as my major. I am a piano teacher and piano tuner now.

  4. What hobbies do you have?
    I like listening to music and sometimes I do some piano arrangements for fun or maybe concerts. Of course playing with LEGO bricks is my biggest hobby now. I also enjoy playing video games.
  5. How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
    I’ve always loved building toys, because I can create whatever I want. I was interested in cars and construction toys when I was a child. I picked up my first LEGO set 8 years ago and it was the 8297 Off-Roader. Since then I am getting more and more into it, because LEGO keeps surprising me.
  6. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
    I love the 8043 Motorized Excavator. The power function was really well designed. It works exactly like an excavator, and this is the set that got me hooked on LEGO.
  7. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    I have to say it is the 4070 headlight brick. It is such a well-designed element and can be used in many ways.

  8. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
    Yes, my favorite LEGO designer is Mike Psiaki. He can get inspiration out of a shape of a LEGO brick, then starting his entire design from that. This is why I like him. I remember he mentioned it in the Downtown Diner Designer Video.
  9. Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
    I love Bricklink, because I need my LEGO bricks to be assembled for my creations. This is where I can get them. I also like Flickr. I can learn many building techniques from there.

About Your Project

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    Since I know there is platform called LEGO Ideas, I’ve been thinking maybe I can also create something and show to the public online! I asked myself what do I want to build? And the answer came up with piano and LEGO. Since my students often ask me how a real piano works, and this LEGO piano could be the perfect model to explain to them.

  2. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    As I wanted to make the model work as close to a real piano as possible, there were many challenges I encountered during the design process. Keyboard mechanism, adjustable bench, working damper, pedals and the piano player function, all these features needed to be recreated with very precise brick placements, especially in this scale. I at least spent 10 to 15 hours on each section during the design process.

    For me the most difficult part is the fallboard. I think I changed the design at least 4 times to make sure every aspect of the fallboard works exactly the same like the real thing.
  3. How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time?
    I spent a whole month designing the model in LDD. On average 4 to 5 hours everyday. I started ordering parts online after. It took 2 weeks for all the parts to arrive, then another two more weeks to assemble the model, including the adjustments and changes.

  4. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
    It was absolutely amazing. It took exactly 60 days to reach 10K, which I’ve never dreamed of.
  5. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    The first version has approximately 2800 bricks. The second version has under 1800 bricks.

About LEGO Ideas

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    I think the project really needs to catch people’s attention. An original idea is very important, as it will stand out from the rest of the projects. Of course, you also need to build a good model base on the idea. If the idea is more common, then you need to make it either visually or mechanically outstanding.
  2. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
    The LEGO Earth by master-builders. The idea is great and the model is well constructed.
  3. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea? The community is amazing! By seeing many creative ideas on the platform has been giving me a lot of inspiration. A good presentation is crucial, because I think my video helped a lot in promoting the piano project. It can show a lot more than just words and photos. Making a video presentation is always the way to go, especially for kinetic models.

  • lego ideas
  • 10k club
  • donnychen
  • sleepycow
  • playable lego piano

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