Makey Makey Monome

Jenna deBoisblanc’s MaKey MaKey Monome musical instrument.

Jenna deBoisblanc’s MaKey MaKey Monome musical instrument.

Jay Silver successfully crowd funded his Makey Makey invention kit back in 2012 and its come as no surprise to see makers designing unusual musical instruments (and a boatload of game controllers) with them since the kits release. One of the more unusual musical instruments to be made from kit is Jenna deBoisblanc’s MaKey MaKey Monome, which looks like a futuristic LED-light piano of sorts.

Jenna designed the touchscreen musical instrument using the invention kit along with some NeoPixels, some copper tape and cardboard. The cardboard acts as the latticework that houses the individually addressable LEDs that light-up the instrument’s squares, which is covered by a 22-inch piece of glass covered on the bottom with white paper to diffuse the light. 64 copper triggers are positioned over the glass, light the corresponding LED and generate a tone when touched. The MaKey MaKey kit translates those individual ‘touchscreens’ into sounds using Jenna’s Processing Sketch music software, which assigns a different note to each touch-square and thereby creating beautiful music with the added bonus of a light show.

Apparently, the MaKey MaKey kit can be swapped out for an Arduino for those that prefer the development board. See at Instructables or the project page

See the first video in the series here:


Sound Mirrors Echo Obsolete Military Technology as Art Installation

bruniges-mirrors-1Image: Signal

Before the invention of radar, the British military experimented with acoustic mirrors as a means of detecting approaching enemy aircrafts. Rather than displaying blips on a screen, these strategically placed parabolic monoliths simply reflected ambient noise from their concave surfaces, making it easier to discern far-off sounds, like the drone of an airplane’s engine.

bruniges-mirrors-2Picture: Abbot’s Cliff sound mirror. Photo by Andrew Grantham.

After learning about the existence of these curiously primitive and imposing pieces of outdated surveillance equipment, which are still standing along stretches of England’s coast, artist Tim Bruniges recreated these interactive objects in a gallery setting. Earlier this year, in an exhibition called MIRRORS at Brooklyn’s Signal gallery, Bruniges installed a pair of 9 by 9 foot sound mirrors that he constructed from wood and concrete with microphones embedded in their center. The sculptures faced each other to create an interactive sound experience for visitors to the cavernous gallery space.

As sculptural objects, these sound mirrors almost seem like a mashup of the ancient stone statues of Easter Island and a boom box from the 1980s; a visual representation of the tension between tradition and technology in the 20th century. Bruniges also added elements of 21st century technology to the work. Live sound picked up by the microphones mounted in the mirrors were run through a series of digital effects, which were amplified by speakers placed in the space. This modification to the original British military sound mirrors design created an auditory environment where visitors would have difficulty discerning the sounds being reflected by the mirrors from the delayed sounds emanating from the speakers. This situation highlights 21st century tensions between the real and the virtual, which are stuck in an infinite feedback loop.

More than just recreating interesting cultural artifacts, MIRRORS is a poetically succinct diorama of the ambiguous spaces that we live in today, existing between the material and the digital worlds that continually reverberate off of each other. Bruniges, who just earned his MFA from The College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales this month, just built a second version of MIRRORS at Arc at COFA in Sydney. So, if you’re going to be in Sydney or New York in the next few months, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for his upcoming projects.

The Automaphone: A Picture Scanning Synthesiser

Brian McNamara creates musical instruments. Generally he focuses on electronic instruments that make it easy and fun for pretty much anyone to play. The Automaphone is a fantastic example of that concept.


Feed this simple and elegant looking hunk of wood any picture and it will convert it to sound. The internals will feed the paper through while scanning the light and dark parts of the surface. It then converts these light and dark parts into the tempo, pitch, tone, and length.


For the Atomaphone Brian used 3 picaxe microcontrollers. One of them handles the scanning hardware and producing the beats. The other two handle the plethora of other sounds that need to be generated. If you would like to see more about the system, including many more pictures, you’ll have to check out his website.

4 Awesome Songs and a Video Crowdsourced from Moogfest Tinkering

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What happens when you take an experimental, hacked musical instrument, ask attendees at a festival to mess around on it, and record it? The results are, understandably, unpolished. But Adrienne Thomas and Tiffany Wen enlisted the help of professional musicians and producers to distill the sounds into discrete pieces of music, which are buzzy electronic rippers.

“The results are true examples of crowdsourcing sounds, music inspired by curiosity and the energy emanating from festivals — proof that we can all contribute to musical creation,” write Thomas and Wen on Nosferatune.

See the video, The Meta Modular Project, for the full story, along with clips of the top songs:

The Meta Modular Project from Nosferatune on Vimeo.

The original recordings were made at Moogfest, the electronic instrument and music festival in Asheville, North Carolina. (This year, Make: sponsored a circuit bending competition.)

How To: Play Music Using Floppy Drives

We’ve seen these videos pop up all over the internet over the past few years. We’ve even shared a few on Make’s blog. The most prolific poster of these videos showing floppy drives playing music is youtube user MrSolidSnake745. He’s got this down to an exact process and seems to enjoy sharing his work almost as much as we enjoy watching it.

Over the years, he has gone through various amounts of floppies for each song, Seen above are 5 floppies playing some Daft Punk, and up at the top you can find 8 floppies playing the game of thrones theme. He was even hired by a museum to produce a 16 floppy display, which you can see below playing the theme from Final Fantasy 7. If you want to find them all, you should take some time to browse around his youtube channel.

Invariably, people always ask how this is done. What kind of magic and trickery are necessary to make a floppy drive sing? From MrSolidSnake745’s FAQ we can find that he gives the majority of the credit to another youtube user named Sammy1Am. This is not only where the easiest software comes from, but Sammy1Am shared detailed plans on how to set up your own singing floppy disk drive!

Sammy1Am also has videos of floppy disks playing sons on his channel if you haven’t had your fill by now.

Of course, now that you now how to make one, you should go put one together and send us a link to the video you made!

3D Printed Bracelet Illuminates On The Beat What happens when you relish the power of the Xmen’s Dazzler with today’s microcontroller technology? Why, the Dazzler bracelet is born, of course. The Dazzler bracelet combines the power of light organs and microcontrollers to create one wicked bracelet that responds to sound by giving off a sweet light show.

dazzler 2

Maker Michael Barretta was looking to give his girlfriend the gift of her life (well, without having to buy her a ring) and decided to make her a gift that reflected her favorite superhero: Dazzler. The Dazzler turns sound into light,  so, Barretta got to thinking about how he could harness that power.

GEMMA on board!

GEMMA on board!

Baretta decided to kick it old school and bring back a technology that has been long forgotten – light organs. Light, or color, organs are a simple technology that causes light to pulse in tune with the frequency and intensity of sound. Combine this technology and Adafruit’s GEMMA microcontroller inside of a DIY bracelet and folks you’ve got yourself one kickass birthday present.

Exploded Diagram

Exploded Diagram

Barretta calls his creation the Dazzler bracelet. Using an Adafruit GEMMA microcontroller, Microphone Breakout Board, NeoPixel RGB LED strips and LiPo battery, the maker created a bracelet that illuminates neon lights in tune with dubstep.

Needless to say, his girlfriend loved it, but Barretta better come up with another bright idea for a present before Christmas or even Santa won’t be able to save him. That’s the problem isn’t it… set the bar higher and higher like this!

You can do the same… Head over to Thingiverse and get on it. She/he will love it.


Musician Collaborates with Faulty Plumbing

As makers, adversity can sometimes be our greatest collaborator, for instance, Polish violinist Jacek Dzwonowski could never have created this beautiful composition if he had not been forced to deal with the peculiar sounds of faulty water pipes. His composition is basically the plumbing equivalent of circuit bending, where the most interesting sounds are often created by exploiting the idiosyncrasies of malfunctioning electronics, and it’s a great reminder that playing with broken things can sometimes lead to the best results!

[via Colossal]

Herb Deutsch and the First Moog at Maker Faire Detroit


Post-show Deutsch had a long line of fans and autographs

One of the headliners here at the 5th annual Maker Faire Detroit today was Herb Deutsch, co-inventor of the Moog synthesizer.

It was a beautiful synergy:  the 50th anniversary of the first Moog—which Maker Faire host, The Henry Ford, has in it’s collection and had on display in the hallway just outside the theater where Deutsch spoke.


According to Deutsch, who donated this early Moog prototype to The Henry Ford, this machine was only 6 iterations away from the very first experiment Bob Moog assembled

Deutsch was engaging and charming and relaxed, recounting his collaboration with Moog through storytelling and performance. He played a tape of Bob Moog playing with his first iteration of the Moog; Bob Moog calls it the “Abominatron” on the recording.

Then Deutsch played the theremin with a recording of Edgard Varèse’s 1958 electronic music composition “Poème électronique”—a world first-ever performance, according to Deutsch.


Deutsch having fun on the Theremin

A lifelong musician and composer, Deutsch cited John Cage as an early influence and read some excerpts from Cage’s Silence. Deutsch quoted Cage: “Music is the organization of sound.”

A really nice complement to the program was the placement of some impressive young buck analog makers in the foyer of the theater.


Bubba Ayoub and his awesome modular synthesizer

“Close Encounters of the Synth Kind,” a special presentation during the Faire that brings together the pioneers, experts and Makers involved with the ongoing legacy of synthesizers and experimental electronics. Sunday’s program concludes with:

1 p.m. Dave Tompkins “Everything Must Go: Vocoder Clearance in the Deformation Age of NSA and Electrofunk”

2:30 p.m. Paul Elliman “Detroit as Refrain”


Standing ovation by an adoring crowd

Thank you Herbert Deutsch!

Hacking the Macetech RGB Shades

Some of the more in-your-face pieces of wearable technology are macetech’s RGB Shades and LED Matrix Shades. They’re shutter shade sunglasses with a twist: the front surface is crammed with individually controllable LEDs. It’s an attention-grabbing effect, and the person wearing the Shades can see through the LED array just fine.

The newest RGB Shades prototype was unveiled at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014. It uses the popular WS2812 RGB pixels, has an integrated Arduino-compatible controller, and folds up neatly thanks to some hinges made of PCB material. It’s all powered with a common USB rechargeable battery pack. The LEDs are so bright that they’re usually run at 1/5th maximum brightness.

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I’ve been having a lot of fun programming patterns for the RGB Shades and LED Matrix Shades, and decided to demonstrate adding an audio response circuit. Since a few of the spare analog and digital ports on the Arduino-compatible controllers are brought out to wire pads, I only needed to build a small audio processing board, wire it up to the RGB Shades, and tweak the code to use the new sensor.

The external circuit is pretty simple. It’s an electret microphone, a microphone preamp, and an MSGEQ7 [] audio analysis chip. The microphone preamp was implemented with an LM358 op-amp chip (SOIC because I didn’t have a DIP version on hand), and the MSGEQ7 accepts audio input from the amplifier and outputs seven different analog values corresponding to available frequencies in the signal. In short, the purpose of the circuit is to pull in sound and output the amount of bass, mid range, and treble detected by the microphone. 14487428560_20c6ff71bd_z

Everything was assembled on a small piece of proto board, using the printed out schematic as a constant reference. Aside from the two ICs and the microphone, six resistors and five capacitors were needed. All the connections were made with 30AWG wire-wrapping wire. After a quick test on the oscilloscope, the new audio processing module was soldered to the RGB Shades controller. I already had a few projects using both WS2811/WS2812 LEDs and the MSGEQ7, so it was easy to whip up a few test patterns. The code uses the Adafruit NeoPixel library, which makes it simple to output the finicky WS2811 single-wire protocol.

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I also took the same circuit and added it to the LED Matrix Shades (single color, but more resolution and built-in battery). Since the controllers are Arduino-compatible, the code to access the MSGEQ7 works on both devices without modification.

The final result appears to respond to music very well, providing real-time visual effects that match the beat. There’s definitely a lot of potential for more sound-reactive patterns. Or maybe other sensors could be added, to detect heartbeats, or skin resistance…as long as you can solder and whip up some code, it’s all possible! Arduino sketch for the RGB Shades: Download zip file Arduino sketch for the LED Matrix Shades: Download zip file

Vintage Internet Connected Radio


This retro radio project brings back old to meet the new. A trendy old radio that plays any music you want, not just the boring stuff that you can get through the radio waves!

Using the credit card sized computer, Raspberry Pi–the sky is the limit. To get the best streaming music experience for this project once you have the Raspberry Pi, use the free Linux distribution, Pi MusicBox. Pi MusicBox offers the cream of the crop:

  • Spotify, Google Music and Sound Cloud
  • Remote control it with a nice browser-interface, or with an MPD-client
  • Web Radio
  • AirTunes/AirPlay streaming
  • Last.FM scrobbling
  • Play music files from the SD, USB, Network
  • and more!

Select any old Radio of choice. These can be found everywhere; eBay, garage sales or your grandma’s basement. Don’t worry, they don’t have to be in working condition because all of what is inside them will be thrown out!

Follow the creator’s instructions for disassembly, installation and reassembly:

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Now you can have the best house cleaning day of your life with your own retro radio!