Introduction: Creating an Alternative MIDI Controller Using Makey-Makey and Water

About: Student at The College of New Jersey

Using Makey-Makey to create custom and creative inputs is incredibly easy! While many people who use the hardware create their own instrument by using the inputs on the Makey-Makey to trigger sounds or notes, we decided that we could do even more. By using the Makey-Makey in conjunction with Max and Logic, we decided it would be more interesting to use the inputs to mute/un-mute loops as well as have have chords that can be played over them!

Step 1: Supplies

We used the following supplies:

  • Makey-Makey
  • Duct Tape or equivalent
  • Wire
  • A waterproof container (We used mason jars)
  • Water
  • (Optional) An anti-static wrist-strap for grounding

You will also need the following tools:

  • Computer
  • Max
  • Some kind of DAW (We used Logic Pro)

Step 2: Prepare Max and Logic

Using a MakeyMakey patch in combination with Midi Learn, you will be able to assign buttons/triggers to specific functions in Logic Pro.

  • Make sure that each "noteout" block sends Midi info from Max 1
  • Make sure that Logic Pro is receiving Midi info from Max 1, rather than another source
  • Settings for Midi in Logic (as well as Midi Learn) can be found in Logic Pro -> Preferences -> Midi -> Control Surfaces -> Control Assignments

Here is a link to the Max patch used:

Step 3: Prepare Triggers

Lay out a number of jars for however many inputs your Makey Makey is going to have. Each should be filled most of the way with water. At first, we considered using salt water as our trigger as it is more conductive; however, the Makey Makey is surprisingly receptive to input and plain tap water works just fine.

Step 4: Optional: Style

If you so desire, you can easily give your triggers a little more visual appeal by adding a very small amount of food coloring to the water or by replacing mason jars for a more decorative container

Step 5: Connect Makey-Makey and Triggers

The Makey-Makey kit should come with some alligator clips and wires. Though the alligator clips will come in handy, the wire may be too short, which is why we suggest having extra.

Strip one end of your wire and let it hang submerged in the water, attach the other end to your Makey-Makey using an alligator clip. Make sure you have enough wire that the exposed end lies completely submerged in the water with plenty of slack. Secure the wire to the jar with a small amount of duct tape or other adhesive.

After running each wire from your water to your Makey-Makey, connect another wire to your ground. You can either hold this wire or connect to something else conductive that is touching your body. An anti-static wristband and alligator clip work perfectly for this.

Finally, connect your Makey-Makey to your computer via the included USB.

With that, your project is finished and you have a nifty-looking, alternative MIDI controller!

Step 6: Test Your Project and Perform!

Have fun, have flair! Using Max to send Midi commands to Logic Pro opens up a wide range of possibilities.