We at Sensatronic Lab have been designing instruments with and around the needs of young people with additional support needs to lift multiple barriers to accessing digital music technology so that anyone can access the amazing power of music interaction.
We have had a great year building, developing and playing with our punk DIY approach to learning. We are based in Glasgow and if you'd like to find out more, visit us at sensatroniclab.co.uk.
The Beatzza Box is one of our simplest creations but by far one of the most popular in one to one and group sessions. It is essentially a wireless musical box that looks like a piece of junk but when played with has the ability to create a symphony of amazing sounds.
The greatest part about it is that all the gubbings are hidden away inside so can be passed around a group or played with endlessly by someone who is full of energy and likes to move around.
In this instructable we will show you clearly how you can create your own and add any tweaks you like to modify and develop it into something even more suited for you, your family and friends, your class or the service users you work with.
You will need:
1 sturdy container
1 role of tape
1 contact mic
1 Irig 2
1 battery powered small speaker
Step 1: 1. Get a Decent Container
We experimented initially with old pizza boxes hence the name. The name stuck but eventually we actually moved on to using packaging for vinyl records as they were more robust. Many of the young people we work with are very enthusiastic and really like to give the box a good battering when playing and the initial pizza boxes weren't up to the job.
Really you can use any container you wish so long it is possible to hide the equipment inside and the material is thin enough that the contact mic inside will pick up the vibrations from each tap or hit.
Step 2: Contact Mic
Firstly get some packaging in there to protect all your equipment and grab some tape to hold things in place if need be.
Your first item for the shopping list is a contact mic or piezio pick up. You can grab 1 online for as little as a couple quid. Make sure for this set up to have a 1/4 inch Jack coming off the end of the contact mic. If it comes with a 1/8 then buy a wee adapter. If it comes with simply a female jack input, then buy appropriate jack to jack extension.
For anyone confused who thinks I am talking about a person when I keep saying the word 'jack', never mind the above chat. Here is some cheapo links for you to buy from ebay:
Step 3: Irig
Next piece of amazing kit you need to go get yourself is an 'Irig2'.
This piece of equipments basically takes your headphone output of your iphone/ipad and transforms it into multiple inputs and outputs. Why this is important will become apparent shortly.
For now all you have to do is connect your Contact Mic into the guitar symbol slot of the Irig2.
Step 4: Speaker
Next thing on your shopping list is to grab yourself a small battery powered speaker. You can get endless different qualities and sizes of speakers that are battery powered these days. Make sure the 1 you buy will indeed fit inside the container you have chosen to use.
To make it louder for the person playing you could cut a hole in the top of the box for the speaker to pop out from to stop it being muffled by the cardboard.
Please insert the speaker into the 1/8 jack input on the Irig2. Its the input with the headphone symbol above it.
Step 5: Iphone/Ipad
Last thing you need to buy or go grab is an iphone or ipad or ipod4 onwards.
Once you are on your device, sign into the app store and download an app called
It costs £4 but very much worth every penny.
Please now insert the Irig 2 into the headphone input for your device and check and see if the contact mic is sending a signal to the app once you have it opened. If any problems, close the app and re open it and it should automatically read the incoming information from the contact mic.
Step 6: Stick It All in the Box
Now you have it all wired up, double check everything is correct and place it all comfortably inside your container.
To summarise the wiring:
Irig - contact mic through guitar symbol
Irig - small speaker through headphone input
Iphone - Irig through headphone input of Iphone
Now tape the contact mic to the underside of the box. Make sure it is the side you are going to tap to play.
Close the box and away you go.
Step 7: Personal Tweaks
We made this in a very simple DIY box but now you understand the basic set up, you could use this in much more designed containers. It could make anything from a musical dragon to a wooden tree that sings. It is limited only by your imagination.
Impaktor creates sounds that are quite metallic. There are some fantastic sounds in there but also some quite harsh ones. Take some time exploring the app. Go for the wild card by pressing the random button a few times. I dare you!
Make sure everything is charged up battery wise before a session. If you were doing something lasting longer than a few hours, say at an exhibition or something then it is possible to make a powered version too. Simply cut a small hole in side of the container and feed in a power adapter for the iphone and the speaker. This will lose its movability but will mean it will always run so long as the power is on.
There are other apps you could experiment with if you didn't like Impaktor. Maybe try different vocoder apps you can find. Basically any app that takes an audio input and transforms the sound before outputting.
Step 8: Conclusion
This is a really simple overview of a simple design that is really so flexible in what you could do with it. We have loved playing with it as a concept as it adds musical magic to an every item while hiding the usual cables which give the game away. Its flexibility means its portable and can easily go on the road with you.
It has been great particularly working with groups of people as its a great signifier or opener for a music session and can be played by almost anyone. Its lightweight and can be designed around someone in a chair or could be a wearable, built into a jacket even.
Take our explorations and make them your own.