Arduino-Controlled Robotic Drum




Introduction: Arduino-Controlled Robotic Drum

About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author of t…

For years I have been telling anyone who listens that I was going to build a robotic drum. Most people kind of shrugged indifferently. Even as I built it, most people kind of glanced over at it and conveyed doubtfulness. It seemed like no one but myself was convinced of just how awesome it was going to be.

I received a lot of snarky comments about how I was making a strange annoying noise maker. When I finally go it set up for the trial run, I quickly silenced the naysayers. This robotic drum blew everyone away. I was finally able to convey my vision and explain why someone would ever want to build a robotic drum.

The reason to build a robotic drum is because it is plain super-awesome. It keeps a beat like clockwork. You can slow down and speed up any drum beat with precision and ease. It can even play things a real human drummer could never do.

I intend to use mine for rocking out. The current plan is to program it with different drum beats and play guitar along with it.

I decided to use linear actuators (car door lock motors to be exact), and Arduinos with motor controller shields simply for ease of use and duplication. I am sure there are other more elegant ways to interface with the motors, but this is by far the easiest.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

You will need:

(x1) Drum set
(x12) Drum sticks
(x2) Cymbal stands
(x12) Car door lock actuator motor
(x6) Arduino Uno
(x6) Arduino Motor Shield
(x1) 7" x 5" x 3" project enclosure
(x1) Terminal strip
(x2) 18 AWG speaker wire
(x3) Panel mount power socket
(x1) 1/4" mono jack
(x1) 1/4" mono plug
(x1) 4" zip tie
(x1) Stranded 22 AWG red and black wire spools
(x1) Assorted shrink tube
(x3) 9V 2A power adapters
(x1) Power strip
(x1) 7 port USB hub
(x6) 6' USB A to B cable
(x1) 4' x 8' x 1/4" plywood sheet
(x4) 1/2" pipe mounting flange
(x1) 24" x 1/2" threaded pipe
(x1) 18" x 1/2" threaded pipe
(x8) 1/2" pipe L-bracket
(x2) 1/2" pipe T-bracket
(x2) 1" x 1/2" threaded pipe
(x4) 2" x 1/2" threaded pipe
(x4) 2-1/2" x 1/2" threaded pipe
(x2) 3" x 1/2" threaded pipe
(x3) 3/4" x 10' 22 gauge steel hanger strap
(x16) 8 - 1/2" wood screws
(x20) 1/4 x 5" bolts
(x4) 1/4 x 2" bolts
(x1) Box of 1/4 nuts
(x22) 6-32 x 2" nuts and bolts
(x4) 6-32 x 1" nuts and bolts
(x11) 1-1/2" binding posts
(x20) 1-1/2" (1/4" i.d.) spacers
(x18) 4-40 x 1-1.2" nuts and bolts
(x18) 1/4" (1/8" i.d.) spacers

You will also need to download the attached files and laser cut (or cut the old fashioned way) the following:

(x16) Drum brackets
(x6) Cymbal brackets
(x4) Cymbal bracket circle spacers
(x2) Kick drum brackets

Please note that some of the links on this page contain Amazon affiliate links. This does not change the price of any of the items for sale. However, I earn a small commission if you click on any of those links and buy anything. I reinvest this money into materials and tools for future projects. If you would like an alternate suggestion for a supplier of any of the parts, please let me know.

Step 2: Attach the Motor

Take two of the pieces of the standard drum bracket (without Arduino mounting holes) and sandwich a motor in-between. Fasten it through the center mounting holes using 6-32 nuts and bolts.

Step 3: Make Another

Pass 4-40 bolts through the Arduino mounting holes on one of the drum brackets and loosely hold them in place with bolts.

Once the bolts are passed through, make another motor bracket "sandwich" like you did in the last step.

Step 4: Motor Pair

Pass a 5" x 1/4 bolt through on of the corner mounting holes in the motor bracket "sandwich" that is prepped for the Arduino.

Repeat for all of the other holes.

Thread a nut all the way down one of the bolts to hold it in place, and then repeat for all of the other bolts

Slide a spacer over each of the bolts and then thread more nuts on to hold them all in place.

Slide the other motor bracket "sandwich" onto the bolt.

Fasten everything securely in place with another nut.

Step 5: Drill a Hole

Tape two drumsticks together and then fasten them securely into a vise in preparation for drilling.

Make a mark at 5-1/8" and 7-1/4".

Drill down through all of these marks with a 3/16" drill bit, to leave an identical pair of holes in each stick

Repeat this process 5 more times, to make 6 sets of drilled drum sticks.

Step 6: Attach Drum Sticks

Grab the complete drum stick assembly.

Pass a binding post from the outside of the assembly through the corner pivot hole,  through the hole in the drumstick closer to the tip, and then through the inner pivot hole.

Fasten the binding post shut.

Zip tie the drum sticks to the motor assembly using the other drilled hole.

Repeat this process for the other motor.

Step 7: Build More

After you build your first complete drum stick assembly, build three more.

Step 8: Glue and Clamp

The motor bracket "sandwich" assembly for the hi hat cymbals requires and extra piece of wood attached on each side of the outside of the assembly.

To attach this wood piece, simply lay down a little bit of wood glue, align the pre-drilled 1/8" pilot holes, and then once aligned, clamp them in place.

Don't forget to make certain that one of the pieces you are gluing the wood piece to has holes for mounting the Arduino.

Step 9: Motor Brackets

Take your brackets and make two more motor "sandwiches," such that when they are ultimately assembled, the pieces with the extra wood piece glued on will be facing outwards.

Step 10: Assemble

Put together the motor assembly like previous motor assemblies, will paying special attention that the pieces with the extra wood piece glued on are facing outwards.

Step 11: Build the Mount

Start with a T-bracket and thread a 3" section of threaded pipe on each end.

Connect L-brackets to each end of the respective threaded pipes.

Thread a 2" section of threaded pipe onto the end of each L-bracket.

Again, put L-brackets on the end of each respective threaded pipe.

Thread a 1" section of threaded pipe onto the end of each L-bracket.

Finally, attach flanges to the end of each threaded pipe.

Step 12: Attach

Slide the flange over the extra bit of wood on the drumstick assembly until they are aligned.

Rotate the flanges as necessary so that the pilot holes are aligned with the flange's mounting holes.

Fasten the drumstick assembly to the mounting bracket place with wood screws.

Step 13: 18" Pipe

Attach the 18" threaded pipe to the base of the T-bracket.

Step 14: Connect Drum Sticks

Using the binding posts, mount the drum sticks like you did for the previous drum stick assemblies.

Again, zip tie the drum sticks to the linear motor assembly.

Step 15: Clamp and Glue Again

Again you will need to attach an extra wood piece to the wooden bracket sfor the cymbal assembly mount. However, because the cymbal only uses one stick, you only have two brackets and will need to glue the wood to each.

Make sure that when you do this, the extra piece of wood will be on the outside when you make your motor "sandwich."

Simply lay down a little bit of wood glue, align the pre-drilled 1/8" pilot holes, and then once aligned, clamp them in place.

Step 16: Assemble

The cymbal drumstick assembly only has one motor "sandwich."

Assemble it accordingly, with the extra bits of wood facing out.

Don't forget to install the Arduino mounting screws as well.

Step 17: Build Another Mount

Start with a T-bracket and thread a 2-1/2" section of threaded pipe on each end.

Connect L-brackets to each end of the respective threaded pipes.

Thread a 2-1/2" section of threaded pipe onto the end of each L-bracket.

Again, put L-brackets on the end of each respective threaded pipe.

Thread a 2" section of threaded pipe onto the end of each L-bracket.

Finally, attach flanges to the end of each threaded pipe.

Step 18: Fasten

Connect the drum stick assembly to the pipe mount exactly like you did for the hi hat assembly.

Step 19: 24" Pipe

Attach the 24" threaded pipe to the base of the T-bracket.

Step 20: Connect the Drum Stick

Once more, mount the drum sticks like you did for the previous drum stick assemblies, and then zip tie the drum sticks to the linear motor assembly.

Step 21: Prepare the Kick Drum Pedal

Detach the foot pedal and chain from the kick drum pedal.

Remove the spring that is keeping tension on the pedal's rotational assembly.

Using the mounting holes in the wooden bracket as a guide, drill 1/4" holes on both sides of the pedal. This should result in 2 holes on each side of the pedal.

Step 22: Attach

Attach the wooden brackets with 1/4 nuts and bolts to the kick drum pedal assembly using the holes that you have just drilled.

Step 23: Spacers

Dissemble two pens so you are left only with the pen tube.

Insert 5" x 1/4 bolts through the bracket's structural mounting holes, using the pens as spacers in-between the two.

Fasten each bolt firmly in place with a nut.

Step 24: Attach Motor

Line up the shaft of the linear motor assembly with the rotational pivot of the kick drum pedal assembly that the spring used to be attached to.

Attach the motor to the wooden bracket using 6-32 nuts and bolts.

Zip tie the motor shaft to the rotational pivot of the kick drum pedal.

Step 25: Socket

Wire the 1/4" socket to the motor on the kick drum assembly such that the ground wire from the motor is connected to the tip, and the other wire is connected to the barrel of the jack.

If the motor does not have red or black wires, designate one of the colors to be ground and the other to be power. In this case, the green wire will be ground.

Step 26: Jack

Take apart the 1/4" plug, and go grab about 5' of speaker wire.

Solder the marked edge of the speaker wire to the ground terminal.

Solder the unmarked edge to the tip terminal.

Reassemble the plug when you are done.

Step 27: Snare

Attach one of the drumstick brackets to the snare drum by passing the steel hanger strap through the thin vertical mounting slots in the brackets and wrapping it around the drum. Fasten it tightly in place with 6-32 nuts, and bolts.

Step 28: Toms

Attach a drum stick assembly to the toms like you did the snare drum.

Step 29: Floor Tom

Attach a drum stick assembly to the floor tom like you did the other toms and the snare drum.

Step 30: Cymbal Strikers

Insert the rods from the cymbal striker assemblies into the extra cymbal stands.

Step 31: Kick Drum

Attach the motor-controlled kick drum pedal to the drum.

Step 32: Plug in the Shields

The motor shields need to be plugged into each of the respective Arduinos.

However, before you go and do this, bend the shields Vin pin so that it will not plug in to the Arduino. This is done to prevent the Arduino from getting directly connected to the voltage input on the motor controller, which is rather high and runs the risk of spiking.

Alternately, if you don't want to preserve this functionality on the shield, cut the pin away entirely.

Step 33: Program the Arduinos

Upload each respective Arduino with the code below.

Hi Hat Arduino:

Snare Arduino:

Cymbal, and Kick Drum Arduino:

Small Tom Arduino:

Large Tom Arduino:

Floor Tom Arduino:

Step 34: Attach

Once all of the Arduinos are programmed, you will want to affix them to the drum stick assemblies.

Remove the nuts from the Arduino mounting bolts that were inserted earlier.

Next, slide 1/4" spacers onto the bolts.

Finally, mount the Arduino using these bolts and fasten them firmly in place with nuts.

Step 35: Extend

If necessary, extend all of the motor wires so that they are long enough to plug into the motor shield.

Cover any exposed wires with heat shrink tubing.

Step 36: Plug

Plug the wires from each motor into either Channel A or Channel B on the motor shield.

For the most part, it is not really important which is which, so long as it is a single motor to a single channel.

The one exception to this rule is the Arduino that controls the kick drum and the cymbal, but we will touch more on this in a moment.

Step 37: Drill

Make 3 side-by-side marks, about an inch apart, centered on each 7" x 3" side of the case.

Drill each of this marks with a 5/16" drill bit.

Step 38: Jacks

Wire each of the jacks such that the positive red wire is connected to the center terminal and the black wire is connected to the outer terminal.

Mount the jacks  into three of the holes side-by-side on one side of the case.

Step 39: Wire It Up

Connect the wires from each of the jacks into the European terminal strip.

Wire them up such that it is alternating power and ground, and each jack is supplying power to two pairs on the strip. In other words, each jack should be supplying power and ground twice.

Connect the speaker wire to the first pair so that the marked edge of the wire is going to ground and the unmarked edge is going to power. Repeat this for all subsequent pairs.

Step 40: Case Closed

Pass the wires in pairs of two through each of the three respective holes in the case.

Make sure the terminals strip is nicely situated inside the box.

Put the lid onto the power box and fasten it shut.

Step 41: Set Up

Install the toms above the kick drum as you normally would for any other drum kit.

The snare and floor tom (not pictured) can just stand on the floor in their typical places.

Step 42: Cymbals

Adjust the height of the drumstick assemblies such that they strike the cymbal and hi-hat reliably. This may take some fussing about.

These cymbals and strikers can then be positioned in their normal drum kit location.

Step 43: Plug Some Stuff In

Take a speaker wire from the power supply box, and plug the marked edge of the speaker wire into the ground input socket on one of the motor shields. Next, plug the unmarked edge into the power socket on the shield. Repeat this process five times, for all of the motor shields.

Plug the marked edge of the 1/4" plug cable into the "Motor A" minus terminal on the cymbal assembly's motor shield. Plug the unmarked edge into the plus terminal of the cymbal assembly's motor shield. Insert the 1/4" plug into the 1/4" jack on the kick drum.

Plug the three 9V power adapters into the power strip, and insert their barrel plugs into the M-type jacks on the power supply box.

Plug a USB wire into each of the Arduinos and then plug them all into the USB hub.

Step 44: Sequence

To use the drum kit, first connect the USB hub to your computer and make sure the power strip is powered on.

Next, visit the Max MSP site and download Max5 Runtime (Mac / Windows).

Download the attached zip file with the "robo drums sequencer57600" Max patch.

Run "robo drums sequencer57600.maxpat" using Max5 Runtime.

This Max patch was created by the amazing Amanda Ghassaei - Max MSP Ninja and loosely certified Instructables Genius. This project would have taken much longer, and probably have not been quite as awesome, without her world class Max MSP skills.

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3 years ago

Many thanks for this instruction! We took a part of this wonderful concept to create a robotic drum for people with handicaps. Now, they're able to play a real drumset with iPads and other digital stuff ;) Details:
Thanks once more! Andy


3 months ago

My nephew was born with SMA which means his muscles won't develop. He is currently 8 and is a real hero. He is playing the drums on his computer with the help of of sensing technology that is put on his hands and is able to pickup the slightest muscle movements. He loves it! He wants to play the real drums and now that I have stumbled upon this wonderful project I hope I can give him that opportunity. I hope I can ask questions here as needed. Thank-you for this great idea and the awesome documentation.


Reply 3 months ago

Just seeing this message. Happy to help try to answer any questions that may arise.


Reply 3 months ago

Well it is funny you replied I was just thinking about sending you a big Thank-you I am deep into the project modifying it for the specific use it will have. Since it seems you know Arduino and I am just learning it you could help by giving me some short code. His Cosmos Connect Unit which is his sensor link outputs a small voltage on command. I just need a simple program that tells it to listen for the those triggers and then react. I know this is butt simple I am just looking to save time as we want to get this up and running as quickly as possible. Once again thanks for what you have done here.


Reply 2 months ago

Hmmm... I assume you mean some sort of pin from the device goes high when activated? Do you know the voltage?

Are you planning to control the motor with the Arduino and motor shield? Or something else?


Reply 2 months ago

Hey there, thanks for the reply. I am actually building the project exactly like you have it described here. However it will be used slightly differently.

My nephew will be able to use sensor that fits on his thumb and his eye gaze to trigger a "start" sequence for each piece. The possibilities are endless. I hacked some Arduino code to make this work but really need some help fine tuning the code. I am more than happy to pay someone to help by the way.

Here is the current result...


Question 10 months ago on Introduction

What a great project.
I'm a home recordist looking for a way to 'play' my drums when I am placing mics or troubleshooting rogue rattles, resonances and other issues.

Wondering if you would ever consider selling one or two of these units?


Answer 3 months ago

Hey, what a great idea. I can prototype one for you while i build the rest of my project happy to donate it. I would suggest we use the cymbal unit so you can pop it on a cymbal stand and move it around to various parts of the drums.


2 years ago

Great project ! I want to make a minimalist drum set (1 snare and 1 crash cymbal) for a magic show. So, 2 questions :
1. I don't want to see an electric cable. I suppose it's possible to replace to power supply by a battery ?
2. I want, by remote (bluetooth, radio, or other) start a sequence drum. Is it possible ?



2 years ago

Hello and congrats on doing this. I just ordered door lock actuators, the most similar to yours i could find. Same specs,same looks, just (supposedly) a bit stronger.

By your experience, did these actuators overheat a lot? Would they have problems to hit 3 times per second for example? I see that you are using 2 per drum, so I'm afraid they cant be too fast..


Reply 2 years ago

I don't know about 3 times a second. That seems a bit fast for one motor.

I never had trouble with overheating.


Reply 2 years ago

Your very large and impressive project inspired me to try to adapt a very small part of it for my- what I assumed would be- very small and simple project, which is to take my uno, the exact same motor shield, and the exact same car door actuator to control a locking mechanism for the secret bookcase door that I built.

I put it together and adapted some of your code to test it with a simple button.

However, when I plug it in (I am using a +12v/1.5a DC wall wart I had lying around), the motor shield (specifically the chip in the middle) immediately gets extremely hot and is too hot to touch after about 10 seconds (I made sure to bend the vin pin so as not to fry my uno). The actuator/button combo works fine- but I can't figure out why it's heating up so fast and am afraid to leave it on too long for fear of frying it.

Any thoughts? Could it be my power supply? My wiring? The wall wart is wired directly to the shield and the actuator to Channel A. The button is plugged into the shield (one wire in pin 2 and the other in GND). The code I am using is pretty simple:

I assumed that with the motor "off" (brake channel set to HIGH), that it wouldn't be drawing any power- but that doesn't appear to be the case. If you are able to control so many actuators without an overheating problem- then the issue is obviously on my end.

Would appreciate any thoughts (and sorry for the long comment),



Reply 2 years ago

That should be normal. The chip runs very hot. Just be mindful not to exceed the board's maximum current rating. If you are still worried you could always try something like adding an aluminum heatsink to the chip or a fan.


Reply 2 years ago

I've gotten the drums up to 480 beats per minute and haven't had any issues yet.


2 years ago

This is awesome. I'm currently working on a modification of this project as well and having a blast doing it. Thanks for the start!!!!

Seems to me, though, that the one thing missing is the operation of the foot pedal for the hi-hat. Anyone have any ideas on how to tackle that issue?


Reply 2 years ago

I'd love to see a video of what you've made.

That said, I thought about it originally but it seemed like a pain in the neck (at the time). I think a beefy solenoid might work. Alternatively, you would need some sort of lever mechanism to pivot up and down to get the mechanical advantage.


Reply 2 years ago

Sure. Check it out. We've made a few changes. We're not driving the kick drum and ride cymbal off the same controller. Split them off and we're adding a crash cymbal. Also, instead of using arduinos, we're using ESP32s to control. We're merging these changes into some IoT powered drums we've built. There's still a good amount of building and polishing left of them. So, please excuse the roughness.

Chad Bridgewater
Chad Bridgewater

Question 2 years ago

Like everyone, I love this project. Most tutorials fall apart and I often get stuck down some rabbit hole with the Arduino code that I can't get out of. It worked the first time! Everything worked right away and it is allowing me to focus on the fabrication and design. This Instructable is so strong! I see that you sold the original, any ideas on how to get it to talk with MIDI and use a sequencer or keyboard? Thanks for the response if you have any time. Either way.. awesome.


2 years ago

THIS has LITERALLY always been a dream of mine to do. Thank you for sharing, I will make a version of this.


3 years ago on Step 44

This is pretty cool. I was actually thinking about the same idea the other day.