The SynPad is a position sensitive midi drum pad that you can build yourself using simple materials and tools for around 50 UK pounds (depending on what materials you already have, and how many pads you want to make.) The pad can detect where you have hit it as well as how hard, so that the synth it is driving can change the sound continuously as you strike the pad in different places.
The software I have written to make the sounds is currently linux based, but would not require much work to adapt to a windows or mac environment.
The skills you need are basic wood and metal work (cutting and drilling), enough electronics knowledge to build a simple circuit from the schematic, and a moderate amount of experience with making music on the linux operating system. You don't need any programming experience to start making sounds under linux, but would if you want to create your own synths to make different sounds, or to port the program to another OS.
If you have built one of these pads, or are thinking of building one, it would be good to hear from you.
Hope you enjoy making and playing this instructable!
Step 1: Design
The signals from each sensor are captured by an arduino micro-controller board, which then sends the raw signal strength from each sensor to a computer over its usb cable. When the sensor data reaches the computer, it is interpreted by a python program which calculates the coordinates and velocity of the strike from the raw figures, and then maps this information onto midi note and controller values.
What happens next is up to you - if you want, you can feed the midi data into any Linux softsynth just as you would for any other midi source like a keyboard. To make the most of the position sensitivity of the pad, though, you want a synth that will change the sound produced according to the x and y position of the strike. The simplest way of doing this is to use one of the music programming languages like supercollider, csound, or pure data. Some example supercollider synths are in the archive attached to the final step of this instructable.
Unfortunately I forgot to take proper photos of each step as I was building the pad - the ones that I have attached are really assembly photos that show the main parts before you bolt them together. They should give you enough of an idea though to build one yourself.