Introduction: Collaborative Music Making - Makey Makey & Raspberry Pi

About: Industrial Design Student at Emily Carr University @krlamare

This project allows you to create a drum circle or jam session anywhere and with anyone. You do not need to know how to play an instrument nor do you even have to own one. By using the Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi technologies you can make almost anything you want into a keyboard or music player, the trick is getting it to work.

For this project, I was inspired by my musically talented friends and their ability to collaborate with one another by playing instruments and jamming. I have never had natural music ability so I'm usually the one banging the tambourine or trying to ting a triangle in time. This project allows anyone to create music without having to have prior musical talent. I was also inspired by the opportunity that the Makey Makey has to teach people about technology and conductivity in a collaborative and fun way. The following Instructable helped with shaping my idea:

My project inspires collaboration and the creation of music while engaging participants in a fun and interactive environment. By using common materials as keys and pre-decided notes or sounds, multiple people can be included in a creative and collaborative music making session.

How it Works

The Makey Makey acts as a keyboard that you can connect conductive materials with alligator clips to make keys that can then connect to sound triggers, image files etc. The Makey Makey needs to be connected to a computer where you can use different softwares to create sound with your desired keyboard.

In this Instructable, I will show you a range of different materials and objects that you can use for your collaborative music making session.

Once you figure out the technical side to this project, it can be used as a fun exercise to do with multiple people that doesn't require hard to find materials. The majority of people are really excited when you show them what the Makey Makey can do and they are willing and eager to participate. Some cool materials you can use as drums or music notes are water, people, charcoal drawings, plants, aluminium foil, metal bowls etc. I enjoy testing and experimenting with all sorts of things and I would suggest that you do to! If your not sure try it out. This technology although simple is still new and things are yet to be discovered.

My goal for this project was to be able to have a collaborative music making kit without having to bring around a laptop. This is why the Raspberry Pi is needed. You can simplify this project by using a laptop if your focus is the Makey Makey. I was interested in making this project portable and exploring other technologic opportunities. Thus the exploration into the world of the Raspberry Pi.

This Instructables is for ideal for anyone interested in getting started with the Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi because it was my first experience using them and you can save time by learning from my mistakes. Have fun and share your experiences !

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

Makey Makey

Compatible USB

Lots of alligator clips (10-14)

Your choice of material for drum

Tinfoil or conductive tape

Conductive wire

Wire cutters



If you want to connect to a Raspberry Pi:

Raspberry Pi

Power cord for Raspberry Pi

8 gb or more SD Card

USB wifi adapter




HDMI cord

HDMI Compatible screen

-larger screen is better for setting it up

-mini screen works best for portability

Step 2: Setting Up the Makey Makey

You will need to get your Makey Makey and your usb cable and plug it into your computer. The Makey Makey acts as a keyboard, using ground wires and your pin-outs from your keyboard inputs to create a circuit. Here is a simplified example for a single key set up, lets use the space key. Take alligator clip and clip-it to bottom of Makey Makey, where it says EARTH, this will be the ground wire. Take another alligator clip and clip-it into the circle that says SPACE on the Makey Makey, clip other end to something conductive, a spoon is good. Hold the ground wire in your hand and use your other had to touch the spoon, this will activate the space key, by completing the circuit. Ta Da!

To practice, you can hook up some materials such as aluminium bowls, fruits, plants (that have enough moisture) to use as different keys for your computer. You can also simply hold the alligator clip that is connected to the ground on the Makey Makey which is in the bottom left hand corner and touch the end of an alligator clip that is hooked up to a specific key, such as the space bar, and it should work.

Step 3: Using the Scratch Application to Make Music

There is a program that you can either download or use online called Scratch that allows you to create music and image patterns by using simple pre-existing code. There are plenty of pre-loaded scratch files that allow you to play certain sounds right away such as this drum machine.

You can also easily edit your scratch files by choosing different sounds and keys to associate with your Makey Makey keys. This is where you can become very creative. For example, you can play unconventional sounds when different materials that are touched. You can also easily create games that include sounds for example, a drinking games that include metal cups and timed music. This project can be used for multiple collaborative activities. I am here to influence you to create projects with people and music.

Step 4: Downloading Raspberry Pi Software Onto SD Card

The easiest thing you can do is buy a pre-installed SD card with the Noobs or Raspbian software already on it.

I of course didn’t do that. If not, you will need to take your 8gb or more SD card and put it into your laptop. The first program you will need to download is a SD formatter that will clear your SD of everything and anything so make sure there is nothing important on it. You can find the link for the program here:

Once the program is downloaded, open it up and follow the instructions by choosing your SD card and choosing the Overwrite Format option. It will take about 20 minutes to completely overwrite your SD card. The next thing you want to download is NOOBS from the Raspberry Pi site. You want to choose the ZIP option and you can find the link here:

I did not have any luck with Raspbian and ended up with a black screen with unknown code so I suggest using NOOBS. Noobs can take a long time to download depending on your connection and how much space you have on your computer. At first I had difficulty, but I tried on another laptop and it downloaded properly. Once it is downloaded, you will want to open up your NOOBS zip and place all the files from the unzipped download into your SD card that has been formatted. You can now safely eject your SD card from your computer and place it into your Raspberry Pi.

Step 5: Setting Up Your Raspberry Pi

Step 4: Setting up your Raspberry Pi

In this step, you will want your Raspberry Pi, power cable, HDMI cable, wifi adapter, display screen, keyboard, mouse and SD card. Connect the HDMI cable to the screen and the Raspberry Pi. Connect your Raspberry Pi to a power source and place the wifi adapter in the USB. Connect your keyboard and mouse into the other USB port. Turn on your screen and select the right input (for me it is HDMI 1). If everything has been downloaded correctly you should see a white screen that asks you to download Raspbian. Select the download and wait for it to finish (it took about 15 minutes). Once it has been downloaded you will be brought to what looks like a more regular home page of a desktop computer. You can go to the top left icon of a raspberry with your mouse and select the option Programming and then open the Scratch application. If you played around with Scratch before you will know how to create your own music and notes or use a template that is already there. For my demonstrations, I was using drum beat sounds that could be played with various materials. The fun part about having the Makey Makey connected to a Raspberry Pi is that you can get a small display screen that is barely bigger than the Raspberry Pi itself. That way you can take it different places and use it in multiple situations.

Step 6: Making It Collaborative

In order for the Makey Makey to work with multiple people, you will need to do a little bit of crafting. To have as many people as you need for your activity to work, they each need to be somehow connected to the “ground” on the Makey Makey. For this activity to work I wanted people to be able to play music with both there hands, therefore I did not want them to have to hold an alligator clip in order to be connected to the ground. I made resizable rings out of conductive tape, but you could also use tinfoil or other conductive materials to connect the participants. The rings were connected to alligator clips that were then connected to a strand of conductive wire. You need enough wire for everybody to be able to stand at a comfortable distance from each other and the drums or keys.

I wanted 5 people to be able to participate in my drum circle therefore I have 5 wires connected to them with rings. The rings are connected to wire which are all connected to a pad that I made with a cut out from a linoleum sheet and conductive tape seen above. This pad allows everybody to be connected to the ground. I then connected 5 different materials to the Makey Makey and they each play a different sound when they are touched. Anyone who is wearing a conductive ring can play sounds through the different materials and they can all play at once.

Step 7: Troubleshooting and Exploration

Raspberry Pi:

I ran into much difficulty trying to use the Raspberry Pi and getting it to run the right programs. The first couple times I tried it I was using the Raspian software that you can download from the Raspberry Pi website. A lot of the process with the SD card is the same, but when I went to plug my formatted SD card into the Raspberry Pi with the screen, I would end up with a black screen and bunch of code. For someone who had never used a Raspberry Pi before, this was frightening. I tried to look up some code I could enter in order to start the program such as typing in “start x” or “sudo start x”, but they didn't work for me. I believe my version of the Raspberry Pi was too old to function with a new program.

Makey Makey:

I explored many variations of materials for my drum kit and I have shown you some examples in the pictures above. I started with a charcoal drawing drum kit then moved on to making a drum kit from tinfoil and small containers. I also then cut up linoleum because if its rubbery texture and I made small round drums by taping conductive tape around the surface of them. These are just some examples of drums you can make.

If you are looking for materials to explore to use with your Makey Makey, here is a list of materials I have found work and don’t work.


Aluminium foil

Aluminium tape


Metal bowls

Metal shot glasses






Charcoal drawings and pencils


Some plants






Regular Fabrics




Step 8: Conclusion

This project was great to explore new opportunities with the Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi.

Every time I brought the Makey Makey out in a social situation, it was immediately the centre of attention. People love to learn about new and innovative technologies and I encourage people to take inspiration from this project to create further adaptions and build on the idea of collaboration and making music.

Thanks for reading!