Roll Up Piano Remix With Makey Makey

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About: Computing science teacher in Scotland, UK. Twitter: @mrmckaycomp

This remix of the piano has 25 keys and works with two types of foil. It rolls up on black plastic. It uses two Makey Makeys. The keys are connected to two Makey Makeys. Because there are so many keys, the guide uses the back of the board for extra inputs. Full instructions/measurements are included (planning is important!).

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Step 1: Plan the Keys

The keys are made of very sticky aluminium foil. It's important to plan the layout before you start sticking!

The piano in this guide has 25 keys: 15 'white' notes and 10 'black'. Each key is made from a strip of foil about 5cm wide (the tape I used). You'll also need a small gap between keys to stop them from touching.

Cut fifteen 30cm strips (the white keys) and 10 shorter (about 12cm) strips (the black notes) (Picture 2).

Before you cut your plastic, lay out the keys to get an idea of scale (Picture 3). Don't stick them down yet! This lets you see how much plastic sheeting you'll need.

Step 2: Shaping Your Keys

There are four types of white key:

  1. C and F are cut out at the right side
  2. D, G and A are cut out on both sides
  3. E and B are cut out on the left side
  4. The last C is not cut on either side

I made a template, measuring one centimetre in from the edge of the key. I did this on both sides (Picture 2).

Use your template to draw pencil guide lines on the back of your white keys (Picture 3). You will need four C/F, six D/G/A and fourE/B (Picture 1). It is easier to cut the tape neatly once you have drawn a pencil line (Picture 4).

Step 3: Layout Check

Once you've cut the keys, check your layout again before sticking (Picture 1). The short (black) notes should fit neatly between the white keys - with enough gap that they should never touch (Picture 2). You don't want your keys to short-circuit!

Step 4: Time to Get Sticking!

Each key has its own copper path to the top of the piano (Picture 1).

The tape I used is thin enough - and the adhesive conductive enough - that the copper can hide underneath the key pieces. This looks a lot neater than my first attempts.

Working from your layout (Picture 2), for each key, measure and stick down an individual copper path (Picture 3). Make sure these don't touch! If your tape is conductive enough, stick the copper underneath the aluminium for a neater look. You might want to arrange them as corners, like I have, to make it even neater (see the pictures). Once you've stuck down each path, individually stick the key down on top of it (Picture 4) before you move on. This stops the keys slipping about and your layout getting muddled.

Step 5: Add Earth

Add a final copper path along the bottom of the piano, and connect it up to the top as well. This will serve as earth. The player will step on the earth path with one foot while playing notes with the other.

Step 6: Back of the Board

Because the piano uses two Makey Makeys, you need to remap the back of the board.

You can use the remap tool to change what the Makey Makey keys do. Use the back of the board tutorial if you haven't remapped before.

I've used the remap layout in Picture 1. Each of the foil keys is matched to a Makey Makey key (Picture 2). You might want to print out the guide to help you. Lastly, I wrote the names of the keys on the copper to make connecting my clips easier.

Step 7: Scratch Program

Use a Scratch program (Picture 1) to trigger a note for each key. The keys should match the ones in Step 6.

If you want a transpose feature (to shift the notes higher or lower) you'll need a separate Transpose variable. To play a C (note 60), you ask for Transpose + 60 (Picture 2). The Scratch file (attached) is an example.

A simpler version without transpose is shown in Picture 3.

Step 8: The Wiring

Connecting all the inputs takes a while! (Picture 1)

Using the diagrams from Step 6 (Picture 2) connect each copper path to a terminal on the Makey Makey. Remember to add the earth connection from Step 5 (the long copper line along the bottom edge of the piano).

Add a final wire between the earths on the two Makey Makeys - that way, one earth path (the copper) can work for both boards.

Step 9: Have Fun!

Once your Makey Makeys are wired, give it a go! Remember to stand on the earth (long copper strip) with one foot at the same time as playing the notes (Picture 1).

The piano isn't as portable as the roll-up maze, but you can still pack it up to move about (Picture 2). Setting up the wires doesn't take as long once you've done it once - you get quicker!

These same kids who helped with the piano also invented their own piano chair!

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