Melody Roads


Make Music as You Drive

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By: Lakshmi Ganesan

The creation of “melody roads” comes as a surprise for, who would’ve thought that by driving over a road you could create melodies? Noise, yes, certainly – but music? That’s pretty shocking.

Well, it shocked Shizuo Shinoda too, the man behind this idea, for the idea of creating melody roads occurred to him purely by chance. After accidentally scratching some marks onto the road, Shinoda drove a bulldozer over them, only to realize that he could produce an array of notes with them – simply by varying the spaces between the marks. Lo and behold – there and then, the idea of creating melody roads was born!

Members from Hokkaido Industrial Research Institute along with engineers from Sapporo worked together to execute this idea, in 3 different parts of Japan, namely – Hokkaido, Gunma and Wakayama. The more space there is between the markings (or the grooves), the lower the pitch is created when a car is driven over it. Hence, each groove along these melody roads was carefully measured before it was cut in order to produce the right melody.

Each of these music-playing roads in Japan produce different melodies that are significant to the different areas. Adding to that harmony, they all have a 30-second musical interludes, which is denoted by a picture of a musical symbol that is painted on the road.

According to locals, however, getting the melody right is not always easy – for the ideal speed to travel on these roads is a mere 28mph. So if you drive too fast, you can’t really play out the song because it’s like playing the ‘fast-forward’ version, and if you drive too slow – you’re likely to get car sick. In addition to keeping your driving speed in check, it is recommended to keep your windows shut so that you can hear the song clearly.

However, Japan is not the only place to host roads that produce music when you drive over it – Denmark, South Korea and America also house such roads, known as “musical roads” in general – albeit, some with different purposes (such as keeping one awake while driving) and with different methods of creating music.

These unconventional roads seem interesting enough to try driving on, if I were visiting these countries. Would you drive over a musical road?


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