The Musical Bench is an exhibit which makes music when people touch, kiss, or hold hands. It uses a micro-controller to detect changes in resistance, via the copper armrests, and plays high or low notes depending on how much current flows through you and a friend. This exhibit is the result of messing around with many different ways of using the human body to complete an electrical circuit.

The original Exploratorium exhibit runs on a prototype board, but for this instructables we’ve used an Arduino instead. This makes it possible for you to build it into a bench, a drinking fountain, or something that we haven’t thought of yet. You can also use this as a personal tool for playfully investigating electricity, conductivity, and capacitance. Have fun and happy tinkering!

Step 1: Materials

Collect these parts:


  • Soldering iron (we like this one from Weller)
  • Solder
  • Wire stripper
  • Wire cutter
  • Safety goggles
  • A computer loaded with arduino software

If you are new to Arduino Programming here are some helpful links:

How to program an Arduino http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Software

What an Arduino is http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardUno

How to choose an Arduino https://www.sparkfun.com/arduino_guide

If you're familiar with schematics

Here are two schematics that should help most experienced arduinio/electronics people figure out how we're making. One is a drawing of the connections done with Fritzing, and the other is an electronics schematics of the sensor interface.

<p>I am trying to complete this bench but I am having trouble with the SingingSnack.ino sketch. The file I downloaded seems to have errors in it and I am not good at debugging the errors. I need some help to review the sketch and correct the errors.</p>
<p>Hello, We are doing this for a Maker fair in our school but all the spark fun music shield seems to be out of place. so here is my question: does this project work with a Mp3 shield? please reply! its really urgent!</p>
<p>also the url of the mp3 shield is here: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/12660</p>
<p>This is a great public art project. What would you suggest if you were to do this with an outside bench? How would you power it? </p>
<p>These are some of the best quality photos I have seen on this site. Kudos for that! It makes it so much easier for those of us who have no idea what these components even are. Do you have a video?</p>
Thank you, we appreciate it! A video might be in the future, but for now we're relying on good images to convey the sense of what to do. Hope you make this project!
<p>I created this &quot;1st Law of Communication&quot; some 40 years ago: &quot;The quality of any communication is exponentially proportional to the number of square inches of skin contact between the communicatees!&quot;</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: The Tinkering Studio is an immersive, active, creative place at the Exploratorium where museum visitors can slow down, become deeply engaged in an investigation of ... More »
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