Introduction: Interactive Staff Paper

About: Women's Audio Mission is a San Francisco based, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women in music production and the recording arts. In a field where women are chronically under-represente…

This project is for everyone out there who's been meaning to learn how to read music, but is intimidated by all those lines and dots and figuring out how they relate to the music we all know and love.

With a little help from MaKey MaKey and ChucK, you can put together an interactive aid that will help you train your ears and mind to remember what line goes with what note!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

For this project, you will need the following materials:

  • MaKey MaKey kit
  • Extra alligator clips
  • One piece of paper
  • Pencil
  • Marker
  • Laptop with miniAudicle installed

Step 2: Prepare Your Code

For this project we will be using ChucK, a programming language specifically designed to manipulate audio in real time. You can download ChucK and its associated programming environment, miniAudicle, at the ChucK website.

The code for this project is based off of sample code from the ChucK website that turns your computer keyboard into a musical keyboard. I've included several versions of the code below that map the MaKey MaKey keys to different notes, so you can work with different musical clefs (treble, bass, and alto).

Step 3: Create Your Staff Paper

In order to use the MaKey MaKey, we have to have some sort of conductive material that will act as our touchpad. In this case, we'll be using ordinary pencil graphite.

You can print out the large staff I've attached to get started; it includes 5 thicker lines (the lines of the staff) as well as a thinner guideline for the ledger line notes. Using a pencil, draw 11 small "leads" on the left side of the page for the alligator clips to clip onto. Then, draw lines extending from the leads to the opposite side of the paper. For some of these lines you can trace directly over the printed staff lines; for the others, draw the line halfway between two staff lines. Make sure you press firmly with your pencil to ensure you'll have a good touch sensor!

You can also draw a clef symbol in non-conductive marker pen onto the left side of your staff.

Step 4: Hook Up the MaKey MaKey

Now it's time to attach the MaKey MaKey to your staff paper. Clip one end of each alligator clip to a lead on your staff paper, and the other end to the MaKey MaKey, using jumper cables to connect to the WASDFG pins on the underside of the device. Also, clip one alligator clip into "Earth" on the bottom edge of the MaKey MaKey.

The code from step 2 assigns the MaKey MaKey inputs to the lines of the staff in the following order, from bottom to top:

W, A, S, D, F, G, up arrow, right arrow, down arrow, left arrow, space bar

Make sure your clips are connected in the right order, or your staff may play the wrong notes!

Step 5: Finish!

Once your MaKey MaKey is hooked up, you can start using your staff paper!

Plug the MaKey MaKey into one of the USB ports on your computer. Open up your code in miniAudicle, start the Virtual Machine, and click "Add Shred."

While holding the alligator clip connected to Earth in one hand, press the pencil lines on your staff paper - you should hear the notes associated with each line and space play!