Building a Drum Machine With Low-cost Tangible Interface (d-touch Drum Machine)




The d-touch drum machine is a drum machine with a tangible user interface: you can make music by placing and arranging physical objects on an A4 piece of paper. To make tangible beats you need some old stype cut & paste. This instrctables explains how to construct the physical parts of the interface.

The d-touch drum machine software can be freely downloaded from

Here is a video briefly showing the finished product and a very quick overview of the making process:

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Get the Ingredients

For this instructable you will need:

- a computer running Windows, OS X or Linux
- a webcam
- a printer (ink-jet for best results)
- A4 paper
- 5 or more A4 sheets of thin printable cardboard (e.g 180 g/mm2)
- 4 pieces of size A4 or bigger of corrugated cardboard 3-4 mm tick; this can be obtained from used cardboard boxes
- paper & cardboard cutting tools (scissors or knife)
- paper & cardboard glue
- adhesive tape or masking tape
- the d-touch drum machine software downloadable for free from
- a network connection (this is for our research, see above)
- lentils or other small beads

Step 2: Download & Print Blocks

Download the d-touch drum machine blocks pdf:
Print it on thin cardboard. For best results use an inkjet printer.

Step 3: Cut & Fold the Blocks

Cut along all dashed lines, paying attention to the small segments.
Fold each block along the solid lines.

Step 4: Glue and Close

Glue the flap and close each block.

Step 5: Fill With Lentils

Fill the blocks with lentils to make them more heavy.
This step also augments the blocks sound making potential.

Step 6: Print the Camera Stand Files and Glue to Corrugated Cardboard

Download the camera stand pdf file: and print it on normal paper.
Glue each of the pages to a piece of corrugated cardboard about 3mm tick.

Step 7: Cut the Stand Parts

Using a knife cut the cardboard along the dashed lines on the printout. Make a half cut along the solid lines, so that it will be easier to fold along them.
Assemble the camera stand as shown in the photos.

Step 8: Setup Camera on Stand

Place two heavy books, or other heavy objects, on the flaps at the bottom of the stand to make it more stable.
Attach the webcam to the stand using an elastic band.

Step 9: Print the D-touch Drum-macine Board

Download the drum machine board pdf file:
Print it on normal paper. For best results use an inkjet printer.

Step 10: Download and Activate the Software Application

Create an account on
Download the d-touch drum macine installer from our website, here are the links:
Windows installer: and
OS X installer:

Installing should be straightforward (if it's not please let us know on our forum!

Launch the configurator application. Go to the activation tab, enter your username and password and click on "activate". Make sure that the "activated" message appears under the password field.

If appropriate use the other tabs in the configurator application tune the parameters for your audio card (otherwise leave the default values).

Click on OK to close the configurator.

Step 11: Start the D-touch Drum Machine Application

Start the d-touch drum macine application.
On OS X a configuration dialogue for the camera will pop up, please select the appropriate options or leave the defaults, and click on OK.

You should have a window showing you the view of the webcam (in grayscale).
Adjust the paper and the webcam so that the four corners of the board are in view.

Step 12: Fix the Board to the TableI

If possible, fix the board to the table using some tack, or some masking tape.

Step 13: Adjust Focus and Light

Adjust the camera focus and the light in the room so that the four calibration markers at the corners of the board are recognized and highlighted.
It is best if they are stable, but it can be ok if they blink a little.

If you see a large rectangle in the centre of the image, this means that the application does not see anything :-( please try to adjust light and focus until the rectangle disappears.

Place some blocks on the board and check that they are recognized and highlighted, if not try adjusting the focus and light again. It is best if they are stable, but it can be ok if they blink a little.

Step 14: Play and Share!

That's it! Your d-touch drum macine is now up and running.
Enjoy making tangible beats and share videos or pictures of your d-touch drum machine setup on your favourite video and picture sharing sites. Send us links and comments throug the forum:

Art of Sound Contest

Participated in the
Art of Sound Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Book Character Costume Challenge

      Book Character Costume Challenge
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge

    17 Discussions


    Question 10 months ago

    D-Touch webpage is not working anymore.
    Any idea of where can I download it?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, there are. But don't expect anything before October at least. Until then we are overloaded with real-work-TM ;-)

    However, did you notice that we now have another application out? It is a sampling sequencer, it's available at the same conditions as the drum machine. There you can record your samples live, or you can also change the wave files. I have to say that changing the waves is not yet very smooth, you have to directly change the .wav files, and make sure you keep the same name and format (just open one of the old ones and see, the rate is a bit unusual).

    Let us know if you give it a try and if it works for you..


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I was playing around with that last night actually. The problem I'm having is I can't seem to locate my firewire cable for my video camera, so I'm stuck using the iSight on my macbook, which means it views everything at an angle, so the calibration is very off until I can find it. I'm just starting to put together more blocks for the sequencer though.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is truly awesome. I'm so gonna make this when i get home. But, is its output midi? Can i use it as a midi controller in fl studio or cubase etc?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is brilliant - I definitely want to do this with my kids. Where's a good vendor for A4 materials in the US, though? When I needed some A4 paper a few years ago for my British tax return I actually had to get my sister to send me some.

    5 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Hey, did you try to print on US paper format? It should work as well.. Please let us know how it goes. Worse case we'll try to convert the page format of the pdf files..


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    not tried yet - not at home just now. It looked like the design for the drum machine board goes all the way out to the edges of the sheet, which can cause problems for Letter-size paper. But if the size of the board is not critical then it should be OK because I should be able to scale the image to match.. I'll report back later.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    ok, if you still got some problem please visit and ask there, there is a growing set of answers and questions. Thanks for the "american" feedback ;) Btw it should work if you scale everything, let us know please!



    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Printed out the page and it got chopped a bit on the long edge, more or less as I expected. I was hoping to try this out last night, but I had huge problems with the registration form (recounted in email already, thank you for the response there) so I don't have the software installed yet to play with it. I'll get back to this on the weekend. Pretty much blocked for now - a slightly ironic turn of phrase given the nature of the project.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I mumbled: "Printed out the page and it got chopped a bit on the long edge" A clarification here - US letter paper is shorter and wider than A4, so the bottom of the page was missing it's border line. It was therefore a short edge that was cropped off, but it was cropped because the long edge was not long enough on the paper. I didn't try any of the scale to fit options on the print dialog, though. That may make this all go away.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I nearly fell to pieces lauginh when the video said "fill with lentils"! Ever since I saw the "reactable" online and many of it's clones, I wished I knew how to use the system for myslef. Thanks for bringing such a device into the open-source world. It sure would be fun to hack your program to make other noises though :D!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the good vibe!!

    If anyone is having issues, they are being discussed on

    Short summary (feel free to follow up here):
    - activation problems? on vista you may have to disable "User Access Control" ("UAC is the the thing that grays out your whole screen to pop up a box") (thanks Jay)
    - multiple cameras? on any WindowsOS if you have 2 webcams the external one is automatically selected, if you have >2 it may be tricky -- one workaround is to temporarily disable the cameras that you do not want from windows control panel (thanks Gasman)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Definitely cool. I'll have to make my brother one (he's the one who got all of the music genes).