Introduction: Learn Piano Keys With Makey Makey

I built this for an Instuctables night at The Maker Station. This game helps you to learn where the notes are on a piano keyboard through play.

Our group was invited to be part of a Maker Station Pavilion at an education expo. While talking to educators, we realized that building this project could be used to teach kids about electricity and programming.

This box can be also be modified to have any picture you would like. The symbols that fall in the game are costumes in scratch, so they could easily be changed out. For example, the symbols that fall could be names of states and the box could have a map with no names on it. The possibilities are endless.

If you change the costumes in scratch, please do it as a remix of the original game, so I can see what you did with this project.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

You will need:

The Makey Makey includes instructions for trouble shooting. And their website explains why and how it works.

Step 2: Prepare the "Keyboard"

I happen to use a lot of these boxes at work, and the height turned out to be just right. I had hoped to use a cardboard box a computer keyboard came in, but it wasn't tall enough to accommodate the makey makey when the alligator clips were attached. The box should be at least 1 1/2" tall. Since the thumbtacks need to reach through to the inside, the cardboard shouldn't be very thick.

  • Spray paint the outside of the box with primer and then the color of your choice. I used black glossy paint for the final coat. Allow time for drying. You might want to do this step the night before.
  • Cut the poster board to fit on the lid of the box. Draw a piano keyboard with permanent markers. If you would rather print one, you can use the attached printable.
  • Glue the "keyboard" to the lid of the box.
  • Push six thumbtacks through the keys that correspond to A, B, D, E, F, and G. Place them where you would naturally touch the keys.
  • Push one more thumbtack on the lower left side of the box lid. This will be the "ground". (I used an additional gray wire from another kit to put one on each side for lefties, but you can skip that step).

Step 3: Make a Secure Spot for the Makey Makey

I sectioned off part of the box, so the Makey Makey wouldn't slide around. I used popsicle sticks and packaging tape. You could use paper mache or styrofoam. The point is that you don't want the electronics to slide around when you move the keyboard.

You also need to cut a small hole in the back of the box for the USB plug to go through. Attach the mini USB connection to the Makey Makey and push the other end through the hole.

Step 4: Hook Up the Wires

This is the part that really makes this work. The circuitry in the Makey Makey translates signals into input that your computer treats as keystrokes. There are seven wires included with the kit. There are six sets of holes on the front of the Makey Makey. They are labeled, Up, Down, Left, Right, Space and Click. Attach one colored wire to each of the holes using the alligator clips on one end of each wire. Attach the other ends of the wires to the conductive material you want to act as your key. In this case, we are using the thumbtacks.

For my game, connect them as follows:

  • Left - A
  • Up - B
  • Right - D
  • Down - E
  • Click - F
  • Space - G

Attach the gray wire to the thumbtack you put on the bottom corner of the box and any set of holes that are labeled "Earth".

Step 5: Secure the Wires

I used packing tape. Make sure the wires are not going to come off, even when you move the keyboard.

The reason I used tape, and not something more permanent is that the Makey Makey can be used for lots of things. I wanted to be able to re-purpose it later.

Step 6: Play the Game and Learn Where the Keys on a Piano Are

The Scratch game I wrote for this project is called Tone Deaf. The game is played by using the keyboard we just created.

Follow the directions included with the Makey Makey to attached the keyboard to a computer. Open the game -

For the keyboard to work, you have to have one thumb on the ground button (the one we put in the bottom corner) at all times. The other hand is used to touch the metal buttons in the keys.

Using your mouse, click the green flag to start the game. Make sure to move your cursor away from the green arrow, because the game thinks you are pressing the F key on our keyboard if the mouse is clicked.

As the letters or music notes fall, touch the piano key they represent. If you get it right, you get a point. If you get it wrong, or the note hits the bottom of the screen, you lose a point. The notes fall faster as you play. If you miss too many, the game is over. To win, get 25 points.