Introduction: Life-Sized Electronic Drum Set Using the Makey Makey Development Board
I have always enjoyed drumming. However, I recently got a new dog, and now things are a bit more difficult. The sound of a snare drum and rabid barking currently go hand in hand. While I had previously heard of electronic drum sets, they looked very expensive and complicated. At that moment, I remembered my neighbor's Christmas gift to me three years ago: A Makey Makey development board. This cheap micro-controller utilizes conductive surfaces to run a circuit through your body and press virtual keys on a computer keyboard. It can be used to make a variety of cool projects such as a piano with bananas for keys, (they conduct electricity) or a dancing, arcade game played by stepping on patches of tinfoil on the ground. In this case, it will be used as the brains for a life-sized electronic drum set made from duct tape, broken records, trashed pots and pans, and other assorted junk. After I finished this project, however, I also decided to experiment and connect my computer to a bluetooth speaker so it can function without head phones as well! Another advantage of an electric drum set like this is programmability. The various drum noises can be assigned from an infinite supply of different tones and melodies. They could even be easily hacked to control a race car in an online game!
How it works
A Makey Makey project requires at least two wires. One wire connected to your body, and the other to something conductive. Therefore, when you touch the conductive surface, the electricity will pass through you and activate the corresponding function on the computer. Each drum is lined with aluminum foil so when you hit it, with a wristband carrying electricity from the board to your arm, the corresponding sound is activated. The user can then decide whether or not to hook the set up to a bluetooth speaker or just headphones. See STEP 2 for more detail about the Makey Makey development board.
Step 1: Materials/Tools
*As this project is meant to be built as inexpensively as possible, it is likely your materials and junk will widely vary from mine.*
This is a complete list of everything I used to make the drum set:
2. Various pots and pans and some old records. These will become the drums. (You'll need at least five cylindrical items.)
3. Lots and Lots of duct tape. I used a variety of different colors to make the drum set as visually appealing as possible. In the end I had exhausted over five rolls!
4. An old pedal to a bass drum. I managed to find one of these at a local thrift store.
5. Scrap wood about 1 inch in width and 1 inch in height. Also, You'll need three wooden squares with these dimensions: 10in*10in*1in. See the above pictures for more information.
6. Various screws and nails.
7. An abundance of electrical wire.
8. Some sort of drum chair. I also found a small cabinet at my thrift store which proved to be perfect for sitting on and housing the electronics. It was only $3!
9. To soften the sound of the physical drum itself, I used lots of felt padding under the duct tape.
10. Bungee cord
11. Lots of Aluminum foil
12. A working computer
13. Headphones or a bluetooth speaker *OPTIONAL*
Step 2: A Brief Introduction to the Makey Makey Development Board + Wiring
*ALL OF THIS INFORMATION WILL BE THOROUGHLY EXPLAINED LATER IN THE INSTRUCTABLE. THIS SECTION IS ONLY TO PROVIDE YOU WITH A BASIC UNDERSTANDING.*
Why use it?
As I mentioned earlier, a Makey Makey board runs an electrical current through your body. Whenever this circuit connects or disconnects, certain events are triggered. While it can be programmed through computer languages like scratch, the product is meant be directly hooked up to a computer where it has the power to press keys and perform other functions. This is useful because there are a multitude of virtual drumming simulations available online. To play a cymbal sound, for instance, you press "A." Once the Makey Makey is properly prepared, it can access the web page through a USB cable and play the corresponding sound to pair with whatever drum was hit. For more information visit www.makeymakey.com/how-to
Each drum will be wired to a specific key on the Makey Makey. Then, the ground cord will be attached to a wearable bracelet made from duct tape and aluminum foil. This makes the wearer's body a permanent ground destination. See the picture above for more details. Step 12 also includes more photos and detail about the specific wiring.
When following this project, I recommend you test each drum before putting everything together in case some wires have become disconnected. To do this, manually hold the ground cable in your hand, and slip the wire from the drum into any key hole on the board. Open up a blank word document, and hit the drum a couple times with your hand. You should be typing some letters!
First and foremost, always check that all the joints between the tinfoil and wire are secure and touching. If there is still a problem, see if a small green light is blinking on the physical board whenever you hit the drum. If this occurs, but there are still no new entries on the computer, your computer or board is damaged and not functioning properly. Lastly, make sure your Makey Makey is actually plugged into the computer, seriously!
All right, now lets get started building the drums!
Step 3: Make the Bass Drum
The bass drum keeps a steady rhythm for any beat. Follow these steps to make it:
1. Choose your frame. I would recommend a large serving bowl or something else with a concave surface. This is because at the end the purely physical sound will be quieter, as the pedal is only hitting tape not metal.
2. Stretch several coats of duct tape over the top of the device. The result should be a relatively strong surface, (see picture above.)
3. Then place a small square of aluminum foil, about 4 in x 4 in, in the center. Secure it with at least four long strands of tape.
4. Strip the end of the wire, and attach it to the tin foil. Cover the rest of it up with duct tape. See the pictures above for help.
5. Decorate the front of the Bass, (do you like the Instructables sticker?!)
5. It's finished!
*THE FINAL PICTURE IS JUST TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF THE FINAL PRODUCT. SEE THE NEXT STEP FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO BUILD THE STAND.*
Step 4: Build the Bass Drum Foot Pedal
Every bass drum needs a foot pedal to go along with it! I managed to find a old metal pedal at a local thrift store. It only needed a couple modifications.
1. Chop off a slender section of the tin foil. Secure it onto the bottom of the pedal using duct tape.
2. Press the wire to the foil, and tape it as well.
3. Feed the electricity up the pedal to the head and connect it to another small section of foil, (see picture.)
4. Test it out using the method I described in STEP 1.
Step 5: Build the Bass Drum Stand
Well, it has to stay up somehow!
1. Cut two identical rectangles of wood that are 3in*1in*1.5in.
2. Saw off the ends so that there is a 45 degree angle on each side, see above pictures. Then, drill vertical holes through the slant.
3. Cut one 5in*1in*5in wooden rectangle.
4. Screw the two slanted pieces onto the longer base.
5. Cover the stand in duct tape for appearance and for gripping the front of the bass drum.
6. I found that when the bass drum was propped against the stand, everything just slid backwards. I covered a brick in yellow duct tape and set it behind the device to prevent this. It works perfectly now!!
Step 6: Make the Snare Drum
The snare drum is an essential part of any drum set. I used the lid to a boiling pot for my frame. Follow these steps to create a snare similar to mine:
1. Lay several sheets of felt padding on top of the frame.
2. Cover everything with one layer of duct tape.
3. Cut a square of aluminum foil and set in the center of the duct taped circle.
4. Add another layer of duct tape, creating straight defined borders for the aluminum square.
5. Peel back a small section of the duct tape and slip some wire in the crevice. Make sure this wire is touching the conductive foil.
6. Cover the rest of the wire up with a line of thin duct tape.
8. Add whatever decorative touches you want, and it's finished!
Step 7: Make the Hi-Hat
The backbone of any rockin’ drum beat is undeniably the Hi-Hat. This was probably the most difficult drum to build as it consisted of two “layers” separated by a small stick. I followed these steps to create it:
1. Cover the first vinyl record entirely in duct tape. I would recommend a golden color to keep the cymbal look.
2. Create or obtain a small stick with the same diameter as the central hole in the record and about an inch and a half high. Shove it through the this hole in the first record, and tape it securely.
3. Take the second record and place a medium-sized square of tin-foil in the center. Then lay down decorative duct tape all around it. Remember to connect some wire to the tinfoil before covering everything.
4. Push the connector stick through the whole of the electrically conductive record. Fasten it with excess duct tape.
Out of everything, this is probably the most rickety part of the set. I had to work hard to ensure its stability.
*THE STANDS SHOWN IN THE PICTURE ABOVE WILL BE MADE IN A LATER STEP.*
Step 8: Build the Crash/Ride Cymbal
This crash cymbal is very similar to the snare. Simply put several layers of felt on top of the pot lid, and cover the entire thing with tape, preferably gold colored. Then, set the foil in the center, and add another sheet of tape holding it in place, with a wire attached of course.
Step 9: Make the Drum Sticks
For the drumsticks to work, palm of the drummer's hand needs to be wired to some conductive material at the end of the stick.
1. First, wrap about an inch of tinfoil at the bottom of the stick. Secure it with plenty of decorative duct tape.
2. Place some wire with a stripped edge on top of the foil.
3. Beautify the rest of the drumstick while running the wire up to the top underneath the tape.
4. Bundle up some tissue paper and tape it to the top of the stick, (to soften the sound.)
5. Add a final layer of duct tape to the top and adhere the wire!
6. Repeat the process to make a second stick!
7. Test both with method I described in STEP 1.
Step 10: Create the Ground Bracelet
In order for the Makey Makey to work, the drummer's body needs to be part of the circuit, (see step 1 for more information.) To accomplish this, I made a duct tape wrist band with aluminum foil on the inside, letting electricity flow into my skin, (making my body the ground.)
1. Wrap a strand of tape around your arm, sticky side up obviously, and cut it.
2. Coat the band with another piece of duct tape so it does not feel adhesive to the touch.
3. Clip off a rectangle of aluminum foil the same width as the wristband. Adhere it, so it will touch the wearer's skin.
4. Fasten some wire the conductive foil. Be positive it is long enough to not constrict playing the finished drum set.
5. *OPTIONAL* I added a ring of some bungee cord I had lying around to increase the tension on my wrist.
Step 11: Build the Drum/Cymbal Stands From Scrap Wood and Duct Tape
I happened to have several long sticks of scrap wood laying around in my garage. They were approximately 1 inch in width and 1.5 inches in height. To make each stand I decided to cut the wood and assemble it like this:
1. Make a small mark at the appropriate length, then cut the thin board straight across. The length of each stand will differ according to the person playing the drums and what type of drum you're creating the stand for. Use your best judgement. Generally, the Ride Cymbal should be the Highest and so on in this order, Hi-Hat, Snare, Bass.
2. Drill a hole in the center of a board around 10in*10in*1.5in. It just needs to be wide enough to support the cargo without tipping over.
3. Line up the drilled hole and the vertical center of the longer scrap wood. Place a nail in the gap, and pound in that sucker.
4. Secure the cymbal or drum to the top of the stand at about a fifteen degree angle. Remember, duct tape can accomplish extraordinary things!
5. Solder or tape the short wire coming off of the drum to a longer, more flexible wire. Run it down the side of the drum and duct tape over it. Then beautify the rest of the stand, covering up all traces of the cable. Check out the designs I made in the pictures above!
Step 12: Set Up the Drum Throne and Drum Set
I purchased a small cabinet from a local salvation army complex for under five dollars! What a deal! The other main selling point for me on this piece of furniture was the inner compartment. It is hollow and has enough room to fit an entire computer. To increase the aesthetic, I added some duct tape stripes on the side, it is a duct tape contest after all! After this, I faced the problem of how to get wires through the outer shell to connect to the Makey Makey. My first attempt involved drilling a hole right through the center. While this was successful, it took a lot of physical effort and the hole wasn’t actually large enough to fit my wire through. Then, I realized the door to the inside magnetically locked, and it was actually much easier to just slip the wires through the crack between the door and the body. Some things you just have to learn the hard way!!
Step 13: Complete the Electronics and Connect the Speaker or Headphones.
Follow the schematic I included above for guidance on how to wire the drums to the main micro controller board. Once all the wires are connected properly, go to this website on the computer you will be using: www.virtualdrumming.com. Change the key-to-drum values with the appropriate data. I posted an example screenshot above. The final step of this project is to decide how you want the audio of the kit to be heard. At first, I simply paired my computer with a bluetooth speaker for testing. Next, after I confirmed that everything worked, I put on some head phones and started jamming! Remember that online, there are lots of different sounding drum sets! I had fun experimenting between them.
If you have any problems revisit step two for a troubleshooting guide.
Step 14: Play That Funky Music!
This step is pretty self explanatory. ;)
I put a lot of time and effort into this project so I would greatly appreciate it if you left me a thoughtful comment or of course a vote! Lastly, if you decide to replicate the project, definitely let me know!
Have fun and good luck,
Runner Up in the
Duct Tape Challenge 2017
Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Contest 2017
Participated in the
Sensors Contest 2017
Participated in the
Microcontroller Contest 2017