This project was birthed out of a challenge. It took a full week to build, which was about 40 hours while teaching a STEAM Camp during the day.
From 2017 I knew that I could successfully hook up (2) Makey Makey's for more complex inventions.
Ever since I linked up with LifeThruMusic I knew that making a large floor plano would be a future invention.
I offer up the instructions for this project because it was a fun build and it was a good way to talk about scale and functions of piano keyboards.
While the concepts are not difficult, I would consider this to be an Advanced Build because it involves the knowledge and skill of working with CAT-5 computer network cable. This project also involves (2) MakeyMakey devices and the Inputs must be remapped. I've found that up to (3) devices on one computer have been tested. I should try and test 3+ (https://sites.google.com/site/makeymakeyk12/resources-from-makey-makey/faq.)
This project uses 31 Connections (so it made sense to use (4) RJ45 Cat5 Jacks allowing for a total of 36 (4 x 8).
To plan out this project I used the Sketchup web App to layout the position of keys onto canvas. I have provided links to get the measurements for any adjustments to overall size. The floor piano I created used a 5'-0"W x 8'-0"L piece of Canvas. Lastly, many of the items that I used were leftover from prior home improvements and other small projects. I tried to provide the necessary links with an efficiency of materials in mind, but there may be some waste. I had planned to use any waste for my second build, which involved a Table / Floor Drumpad.
If you were to create this in a classroom I would advise that students develop the following skills:
- Sketchup - https://app.sketchup.com/app / TinkerCAD - https://www.tinkercad.com/
- Working in Metric and SAE Units (SAE = Society of Automotive Engineers)
- Basics of Soldering, especially soldering copper wires to aluminum foil -
- How to make RJ45 Cat5 Network Cables -
- How to Punch RJ45 Cat5 Network Cables -
Here are the materials that I used. Please note that there may be extra, which can be used in other projects. Because I teach LifeThruTech with my colleague in LifeThruMusic, I knew that I would have additional projects to add in the future. I built the main console to be adjustable.
- (2) Makey Makey -
- (4) Cat5 Data Cable (8'-0"L) - You can adjust the length as needed -
- (4) RJ45 CAT 5 Connection -
- (4) Packs of 18"L Low Voltage Test Leads -
- (1) Low Voltage Data Box -
- (1) Gang Quick Port 6-Port Wall Plate -
- (1) Mural Canvas Primed (5'-0"W x 8'-0"L) -
- (1) Black Acrylic Paint (to fill in the color of the black keys) -
- (1) 1" Foam Brush - https://www.lowes.com/pd/Project-Source-9-Pack-Fo...
- (1) Piece of Wood for a "console" to attach the RJ45 Cat5 Box and Nails for the wiring of the Makey Makey
- (1) Pack of 1.25" Steel Underlayment Nails -
- (1) Pack of Drywall or Wood Screws (used to secure the Low Voltage Data Box (#5 above) to the piece of wood (#10 above).
- (1) 12"W x 75'-0"L Plastic Packing Foam (conductivity isolation) -
- (1) 3M 1.88"W x 150'-0"L HVAC Metal Tape - Acrylic Adhesive (conductivity material) -
- (1) 6 pack Copper Foil Tape - Adhesive (conductivity material) -
- (1) 3M 1.88"W Blue Painter's Tape (conductivity isolation) -
- (1) Bottle of Cooking Oil (this is used for the soldering of the Cat5 Copper Network Wire to Aluminum Foil)
- (1) Roll of Aluminum Foil (if you are familiar with using a Makey Makey, this is a standard material to have with you at all times :) )
- (1) Scrap Cardboard to use as a Measurement Jig - a pizzabox is a perfect size for this task. This is helpful in keeping accurate marks on the Canvas and Foam.
- NOTE: If you have unprimed canvas you will have to purchase GESSO to prime the canvas to accept Sharpie Marker and Black Paint for the black keys -
- NOTE: Instead of the Plastic Packing Foam (#10 above), I did consider using Carpet Padding Foam, but it was cost prohibited. It is thicker and that should be considered in the fold of the canvas. After using the piano, I think I might upgrade to get a better "squishy feel" when playing. I was concerned that with the amount of "squish" from stepping on the keys that there might be a possibility that the canvas could tear. This is something to test and update in this Instructable.
- (1) 3'-0" Aluminum Straight Edge -
- (1) Black Sharpie Marker (to designated the lines of the piano keys)
- (1) Data Crimper Tool to crimp the Cat5 Network Jack -
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Step 1: Mapping Out the Piano
- Take the 5'-0"W x 8'-0" Canvas and lay out the measurements for the Piano Keys. NOTE: Make sure this is primed with GESSO if you happened to be starting with blank canvas. I folded the 5'-0"W in half so I had a 30"W x 8'-0" piano. This size worked well, but any other size could work. This provided a KEY WIDTH of 5.75".
- Working in the CAD / Illustration software of your choice, you can layout the piano as a diagram. This helps to get the overall layout of keys. Please feel free to use this image for the main measurements. Please note that this is in Metric.
- While there is a standard proportion to the keys, there is no standard size. This is illustrated in a wonderful guide by Mitch Gallgher at Sweetwater -
- Once I had the measurements, I then used the Aluminum Straightedge and Sharpie to layout the shapes. The sharpie will do a good job, but the GESSO and Canvas will reduce the tip. The piano I created was 2.5 octaves and I had to use (2) Sharpies to keep things clean.
Step 2: Painting the Piano
- Once the piano has been drawn out on the canvas you can work to paint the canvas.
- I found that a 1" foam brush was sufficient to paint the black keys. The black Sharpie ink was sufficient for demarcating key edges.
- Be sure to use a paint stir to properly mix the paint before applying.
- Keep an old rag handy for any accidental spills or overruns.
- If you make a mistake, try and clean up the paint. If not, let it dry and reapply the GESSO.
Step 3: Building the Console
- I used an old 2X8 x 1'-0" piece of wood for my console. It was something that I had laying around the basement. You can use anything that has substantial weight so it won't flex.
- I went back to Sketchup and duplicated the file and scaled down the project to the length of the Wood Piece. This gave me a "mini piano replica" to help with wiring and explain concepts.
- Using the Sharpie I transferred the measurements onto the Wood Piece.
- Taking the 1.25" Underlayment Nails, I hammered them into place in the middle of the keys. See photo.
- The Low Voltage Data Box was screwed to the Wood Piece using Drywall/Wood screws.
- The 6 Port Cat5 RJ45 Wallplate to the Low Voltage Box.
Step 4: Wiring the Console
- To wire the Console, I cut (4) 1'-0" pieces of the Cat5 wire. This would be used to connect the Data Jacks back to the nails.
- First go through the wiring of the Jacks, but I would advise to hold of on installing them in the Wallplate until the very end. You might have to make some adjustments.
- Once the Jacks are wired up, you can connect the Cat5 Network Wire back to the Underlayment Nails.
NOTE: It is important to keep track of the color of wires. Because of I used Networking Jacks, it is easy to get wires swapped. Having a logic to this is important. I followed the typical wiring for the cables and I adjusted for wiring on the Console and Piano. Setting up a logic for the Low Voltage Test Leads on the Console is also important.
NOTE: In my IT wiring setup I have a Dummy Jack setup to test the wiring for any of my Makey Makey projects. This has been extremely helpful.
Step 5: Building the Keyboard Wires - Soldering Copper Wire to Aluminum Foil
I have to admit that this was the most time consuming of the build. It takes a lot of patience to achieve a good bond between the Cat5 Copper Wire and Aluminum Foil. This is achieved by breaking up the Oxide layer.
Thankfully I had a good reference from Youtube, thanks to the 2015 video by North Carolina Prepper
- You can go and watch the video for the process.
- Basically you will use the Oil to breakdown the oxide layer on the Aluminum, but you have to be pretty active to try to lay down a drop of solder. it took me a couple of times to get a bond. Even then when I thought I had a strong bond, it broke and I would have to start over.
- This takes practice.
- In the end, after the ends were soldered, I folded the Aluminum Foil tightly around the Wire. I was worried that the connection might break during any use of the piano or during transport. I haven't had any issues yet.
- One thing that helps is to use the HVAC Metal Tape to secure the Wire to the Canvas. We'll talk about that in the next Step.
Step 6: Wiring the Keyboard
This part takes some adjustment and I made a cardboard Jig out of a pizzabox. This helped me to accurately lay down the "Connectivity Zones" where the HVAC Metal Tape would touch to trigger the note. It also helped me to layout any Cutouts for the Foam.
If you are unfamiliar with the Makey Makey it works on conductivity and when the metal tape of the top and the bottom touch, the Makey Makey thinks that a key is triggered.
- On the inside of the Canvas, I used the Aluminum Straightedge to mark out the locations of the Keys that were on the outside face of the Keyboard. These marks are useful to help get a proper alignment of Metal HVAC Tape.
- Using Cardboard I measured out openings to make a Jig that I used to mark both the Canvas and Foam.
- This allowed me to be accurate for the White and Black Key pattern for the 29 Keys.
Bottom Layer - Earth:
- For the EARTH / GROUND, I ran two long runs of HVAC Metal Tape on the BOTTOM LAYER (30" of the Canvas). One RUN (lower) was for the White Keys and one RUN (upper) was for the Black Keys. The picture shows the TOP LAYER (30" of the Canvas) folded back. The Upper Run Earth/Ground is at the fold. You can also see that I ran a HVAC Metal Tape run (perpendicular to the view) to connect the Lower and Upper Earth/Ground Runs. This would be connected back to the Earth/Ground on the Makey Makeys.
- I protected any connections with Blue Painter's Tape. This is easy to maneuver and adjust as a temporary hold. I am planning to glue things down and use adhesive Velcro to keep the TOP and BOTTOM LAYERS in position when the piano is being played.
Top Layer - Individual Keys:
- Use the HVAC Metal Tape to place straight runs within each key. They should run to the edge of the Canvas.
- Make sure that the end overlaps with the Lower & Upper Earth/Ground tape runs.
Once that is done you can get the (4) Cat5 Network Cable that has Aluminum Foil soldered to the ends.
- Take the Cat5 Wires and logically run the wires to connect each of the 29 keys. Depending on your design, you might have a different number of inputs.
- I stripped the outer casing and left the Copper Wire running long as a precaution. I built this in a week on evenings and weekends and I tried to plan for errors.
- Use the Blue Painter's Tape to keep the Cat5 Wires in place. I added some Gorilla Tape (black tape) every main grouping of Keys.
Step 7: Padding the Keyboard
After all the physical connections of the Keys are done, you can move on to adding the Foam spacing.
- Using another piece of Scrap Cardboard, I created a Jig to cutout the openings in the Foam.
- The 12"W foam is perfect to fit right at the edge of the fold in the Canvas. It can be run out the length of the 8'-0"L Keyboard.
- Taping this down with Blue Painter's Tape helps to keep it in place. I haven't had to adjust this too much.
- The trick to this is to make sure that everything lines up so the TOP LAYER of HVAC Metal Tape can be pushed to the BOTTOM LAYER when stepped.
- NOTE: I have considered changing this out to Carpet Foam to make the Keyboard more "squishy." This might be an MK2.
Step 8: Making the Makey Makey Connections
This was a critical step because it tests all the connections. While building this project, I only did (1) set of Cat5 Wire as a prototype.
- Connect the Cat5 Network Wire to the Low Voltage Data Box. It helps to mark the Jacks 1-4 so you know where they are originate on the piano.
- The next step is fun, but can be a wiring nightmare, or a dream depending on your perspective. I was reminded of this documentary (I Dream of Wires: The Modular Synthesizer Documentary), which might be needed as a break -
- Use the Test Leads (Alligator Clips - Makey Makey) to connect the Console to the Makey Makey.
- I advise to apply some logic to this process. I set my project up so that Makey Makey #1 was the Lower Octave - with lower C starting at Key "Z" and run through 18 inputs.
- This is where you need the Makey Makey Remap website -
- I created a Google Doc to document the Keyboard Remapping.
- If I had to do it again. I would setup one Makey Makey to follow the Garageband Typing Keyboard map -
- Another type of mapping could follow the MidiMidi mapping. Thanks to Hauke Menges at Feel Your Sound for this wonderful addition to the Makey Makey use - https://feelyoursound.com/midimidi/
Step 9: Program in Scratch
At this point, you can continue to customize this build as necessary. This is the part that I enjoy, working in Scratch to make things happen.
I Remixed a Floor Piano project from @wrightlibrarian - https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/169897039 adding to the extra keys for a total of 29. I also added some functionality so that the LEFT ARROW lowered the octave and the RIGHT ARROW raised the octave.
I hope that this Instructables has been helpful and informative. Like I said it was a little advanced, but well worth an effort. The amazement on the students and parents faces as they played the piano was amazing. You can see form the photos that the piano because a little dirty with all of the use. I found that it can be cleaned with some soap and water. If needed, it can always be repainted with GESSO.
Please comment on any upgrades that you think might help. It is my goal to have a 4-6 week class that involves Project Based Learning, where a Cross Disciplinary Design Thinking process dug into how a piano / electronic keyboard works and students are tasked with building this piano. If this happens anywhere on the globe, please let me know.
Connecting Arts & Science is a necessity - LifeThruTech & LifeThruMusic.
For any Teachers out there, feel free to contact me for any additional questions or consultation. A great resource to connect to the project is David Byrne's How Music Works (9/2012 book from the lead singer of Talking Heads) - https://www.amazon.com/How-Music-Works-David-Byrne...
Scratch Floor Piano Project 190712 - https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/320369004/
Please feel free to follow any of my other Scratch Project each year - https://scratch.mit.edu/users/lifethrutech/
LASTLY: I have to give a shout out to Justin Williams, who is my counterpart at LifeThruMusic. His artistic talents produced an interpretation to the cover of Beyoncé's 2019 film Homecoming https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homecoming_%282019_f...