Introduction: Speaker Art

Picture of Speaker Art

This is a very simple and fun way to make a regular canvas painting a bit more interactive. I recently moved to a small town in Scotland with my wife for educational reasons, and was getting a little bored in the evenings (everything is closed at 5, and I mean everything, hospital, police station, you name it). I was working on a painting for a friend who is a saxophone enthusiast and thought it would be cool if I could incorporate some of his music into it. This is a cheap project, about $20-$25 per painting. I apologize if this is not up to standards as other intstructables, since this is my first.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

These are the tools and materials I used for this project

Deep edge canvas ( deeper the better)
Paint (I like acrylic)
Paint brushes
Small portable speaker
Cheap MP3 player (I found one for about $12)
Exacto knife (or other small cutting tool)
Some artistic talent (lately I cant seem to find mine)

Step 2: Paint...

Picture of Paint...

First step is to decide on a painting. Again, for this one I painted a "Saxamaphone" for my friend. The music part of this project will be Jazz related. This took about an hour to do, but you can do anything, let your imagination go wild. Some type of audio theme would be cool though.

Step 3: Dont Cut the Wires.....

Picture of Dont Cut the Wires.....

Next. take apart the speaker casings. They came apart pretty easily, but I did have to use my trusty "cutco" knife to finish it off. Be careful not to cut the wires, which I did, and since they are such a small gauge, a pain to re-attach. You might be able to find flatter casings, that don't need to be taken apart.

Step 4: Assemble

Picture of Assemble

Now, all you have to do is mount the speakers in the back of the painting. I used some scrap wood to hold them in place. This also allows me to remove the speakers if I want. There are many ways to attach them, but in my new place of living I am short on supplies. Next, just clean up the wires and attach the MP3 player. Voila....

Step 5: Improvements...

Picture of Improvements...

I am currently working on another one that will have several improvements. I plan on having the controls for the MP3 player on the outside of the painting, so you don't have to flip the painting every-time you want to listen to it. Also, I plan on adding some more powerful speakers, the ones used here are pretty good, but louder is always better. Also I have added a sound level meter that lights up to the music, just another way to make it more interactive. If any one has any suggestions, please let me know. Enjoy.


generalbipbip (author)2014-10-21

great idea , I think I'll give it a try

scooter76 (author)generalbipbip2014-10-21


cortes96 (author)2014-02-14

Awesome painting, great instructable, you could attach Velcro to the bottom of the painting ant the mp3 so it's still sort of hidden but easy access

scooter76 (author)cortes962014-02-14

thanks. Velcro would work great. If you see the other one I did ( flight of the Conchords) I made a small cradle out of wire which also works really well, and looks cool with the blue display and blue back lighting.

afischer15 (author)2009-06-15

You should add a motion sensor that turns the music on when someone walks by!! that would be really cool!

darcham (author)afischer152011-12-31

I like the motion sensor (with timer perhaps). It would save battery life in a low traffic area.

lardtubb (author)afischer152009-12-10

You beat me to it, LOL - Have a horn section start playing a sequence of 1/8 notes when someone walks by :)  But I'm the guy that brought the frog doorstop to camp each year, so when people walk through the door it croaked loudly :)  Its amazing how oblivious people can be.  The real fun was setting up a CPR dummy in the corner of the living room to scare my room mate and our girlfriends when they came home :)  Now I'll have to find either a billy bass singing fish or frog doorstop to hack for the motion sensor and replace the music with something related to the painting.

yeah but that will also be really scary

RyuuichiNaruhodou (author)2011-05-13

Dude, it's awesome. You just gave me an Idea: Put a bluetooth receiver and hook it up to my phone whenever I want some good music and of course I have a plug on the wall that looks horrible, I'll put some painting on top of it w/ the speakers behind it. Awesome painting by the way :)

Thanks. Not a bad idea. Check out the updated version here:

Post some pics if you decide to make your version


twist2b (author)2008-12-30

I relize the speakers are not that AMAZING to begin with, but how does the sound quality differ when putting it behind a "thick" painting like that? Also, does anyone know where I can get GOOOOOD sound quality speakers tht would fin in something like that?

rattyrain (author)twist2b2010-02-25

Although this would take a lot more time, you could actually just place some speakers (and maybe even a sub or tweeter) behind the painting, although I guess you would need a larger power supply.  You could also add a DIY graphic equalizer that folds out from the bottom, but that might be overdoing it a little. . .

jduverneay (author)twist2b2009-12-05

They have some things on called Sonic Impact Stick-On speakers, maybe you could try those.

jduverneay (author)jduverneay2009-12-05

You may also want to get a small amplifier to attach to the speakers if you would like it to be louder.

tckinlay (author)2009-12-04

Really kool idea!! Question- is the sound muffled due to the fact it is behind the painting?

Future filmaker (author)2009-06-14

wow, you're a great artist my friend

zleebme (author)2009-04-17

low tech idea!!! run the wire on the outside of the painting towards the bottom and place Velcro on the mp3 player and on the painting then when you want to change the song or volume simply rip the player off the painting

PKTraceur (author)2009-03-03

You should have LEDs so when a s=certain frequency is reached, they light, seemingly to "Play" the sax. Perhaps you could mount the MP3 in the mouthpiece area?


GalaxyX (author)PKTraceur2009-03-22

how will you be able to make them play at a certain frequency? maybe you could make and ible on that or just call it dancing LEDs. i would be very interested and i can assure you so would other people.

PKTraceur (author)GalaxyX2009-03-22

Ill find something. :) -PKT

sajgon (author)2009-03-12

Excellent, very interesting idea! Good work!

shams (author)2008-12-12

Dude u can use the painting it self as a speaker by making a voice coil and sticking it on the back side(also center) of the painting.It should work.And it can give u good midrange

shams (author)2008-12-12

Hey man you can try making the painting itself the speaker by making a voice coil and stick it on the back side of your painting.IT SHOULD WORK

ilovetea (author)2008-07-10

It would be kinda cool if you would to have a painted speaker or boombox of some sort..kind of like this light that I saw where it was a stenciled chandelier on a matted fabric as a light. kind of confusing, sorry.

scooter76 (author)ilovetea2008-07-11

THe first "speaker art" I tried used the picture below. I placed it over the light fixture on the wall, and the areas not painted shined through. Check out my other "speaker art" instructable "FOTC Style"

ilovetea (author)scooter762008-07-12

Thats cool, thanks for sharing.

Hazanko (author)2008-06-19

Awesome Instructable. I did something like this a while back, but it was a disassembled boom-box inside a 6-sided canvas cube that we suspended from the ceiling. Just wanted to let you know, if you didn't figure it out yet, that no matter how loud the speakers get, the Mp3 player won't let them get very loud at all. Think of it this way: computer speakers get louder because they're external listening, whereas portable Mp3s use headphones, and thusly have a cap on the volume. Otherwise, you'd blow out your ear drums if you turned them up too high.

scooter76 (author)Hazanko2008-06-23

Thanks for the comment. Could you ost a ic of the cube? sounds great. With resect to the seakers, the ones I used in this roject were powered by the MP3 player. I have just comleted another painting, and used battery powered speakers. Now instead of 0.5 watts, I get 4 watts, which makes a big difference. Check out my new version, and if you like it, please vote for it (let it glow contest) Cheers.

Gjdj3 (author)2008-03-04

I've got an improvement idea. If you made another one, and the painting was from a different viewpoint you could have the speaker coming out of the bell of the instrument. That's just my 2 cents though.

scooter76 (author)Gjdj32008-04-15

Thought about it, an am working on another piece with some 3D in it. Hard if you are using canvas (no support) so have had to do some trials on materials. Paper mache seems to be the best, of sculpted foam. thanks for the comment.

Gjdj3 (author)scooter762008-04-15

Yeah, that sounds cool!

Dr.Paj (author)2008-04-04

Wow. I had this Idea 2 or 3 years ago but never got around to doing it. What I would do extra to yours is add a washer (or 2 for more of a gap) to each corner of the painting and add some cold cathodes inside of it for a back lit painting. You can also get a microphone that makes them flash. You could also poke tiny holes where the speakers are (I don't know for sure, but I think it might help with sound). You can get cold cathodes from a lot of places (I like for lighting).

scooter76 (author)Dr.Paj2008-04-15

Not a bad idea with respect to the back lighting, I will have to use that on my next project. May be hard to find a andequate power source, but i'll think of something. I thought about using a mic, but I didn't have the supplies around when I started. I have the patience of a 5 year old with ADHD while drinking a 6er of Redbull. When I start something, I need to finish it soon (I have a room of half finished projects) I am currently working on a painting with sound activated lights (eyes) and turned out great, I'll post the link soon. Thanks for the comment. Cheers

SeMi_AuToMaTic (author)2008-01-08

Okay, 1: I love your idea! I'll have to try it. Second of all, I LOVE saxophones and i got one for xmas this year and i think i will join band next year and im so excited! I don't think im artistic enough to compose the picture of the saxophone you did there, though. Great idea! Here are some pics of my sax:

CapnTac (author)SeMi_AuToMaTic2008-04-03

Awesome man! I've also got a Jupiter sax, if you are interested you should check out my Instructable about keeping all of your stuff together with an Altoids tin. Once it is fully published, that is! Peace out, sax brotha!

scooter76 (author)CapnTac2008-04-15

looked good. Thanks for the comments.

SeMi_AuToMaTic (author)CapnTac2008-04-05


scooter76 (author)SeMi_AuToMaTic2008-04-15

Nice Sax. With respect to the picture, I'm sure you can find something on the web, or in a book to transfer. Usually the more simple it is, the better it looks. Give it a shot and post some pics. Thanks for the possitive comment. Cheers

Gjdj3 (author)SeMi_AuToMaTic2008-03-04

Cool saxophone, and definetly join band!

PKM (author)2008-03-14

OK- firstly you get a + just for knowing how to spell "voila"- every time I see someone say "Viola!" at completing something I die a little bit inside. (Well, the whole instructable is +worthy really)

Secondly, I love the project- it's stylish, original and a very nice idea. If I were any good at painting I'd be tempted to do one myself. Perhaps wire a microswitch to the MP3 player and attach to the back of the frame, so you can start/stop by just pressing the frame against the wall? A girl I dated once had a fantastic triptych painting of a saxophone, and I'd love to see something like that that either
a) held three different playlists, one to each painting, or
b) represented skip backward, play/pause and skip forwards wired to one MP3 player.

Spl1nt3rC3ll (author)2007-07-09

This is really creative! if you want, you can post more images here

drmorenita725 (author)2007-03-12

I think this is a great idea. I liked it so much that I tried this instructable and drew DJ turntables on the canvas and gave it as a gift. It wasn't as hard as I thought.

Run N Gun (author)2007-02-25

Very cool. I have a very cool Idea. If you have money to spend and are creative, you could make the end part of the saxophone actually stick out of the painting (A 3-D effect). Then if you have money to spend you could wire an outlet behind the painting. Then buy the Apple brand wireless music receiver and then where the saxophone pops out of the painting you could put a big speaker to fit perfectly in the hole, or put a smaller speaker further up where the 3-D effect just start so no-one can see the speaker. Then, it would seem like someone is actually playing the saxophone.

scooter76 (author)Run N Gun2007-02-26

That would be cool, however keyword "money" as I'm sure most of us are lacking some.... I have produced some paintings in the past with plaster molds and/or chicken wire/paper-mache to give it that 3D effect. I could try to work that into another painting. It might be hard to install a speaker into the mold though. Thanks for the tip.

icanryme2002 (author)2007-02-07

Use the MAKE Daisy MP3 player. Bet you miss "Grapes"

scooter76 (author)icanryme20022007-02-08

I thought about using one or, something similar, but I can't justify the $120.00 plus cost. I think I might be safer taking one apart, we'll see. If by grapes you mean the "Don" of hockey, I am picking up a Sling Box, and will be able to watch t.v. from N.A in the UK.

icanryme2002 (author)scooter762007-02-08

nothing like eatin poutine and drinkin a double double

crapflinger (author)2007-02-08

are those speakers not powered at all? just the line in? interesting...very good documentation....and nifty concept

scooter76 (author)crapflinger2007-02-08

yep, they run off of the battery in the MP3 player

Number09 (author)2007-02-07

Wow... I have plenty of musician+painter friends that this would be a GREAT idea for. :-o I thought that this instructable was very clear, so no worries on your first instructable not being great. (Yay! My vert first instructable comment)

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Bio: Jack of all trades, master of none. Father, husband, creator.
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