The Electronic Dundo: How to Make a West African Electronic Talking Drumset

Introduction: The Electronic Dundo: How to Make a West African Electronic Talking Drumset

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Bu, bu cha , bu, bu, cha. If that didn’t make sense to you, you can relax your face muscles because it’s not some weird voodoo chants. It’s simply some of the sounds you can make from a talking drum set (Dundo, pronounced don-doe) we are going to build and you only need to buy one thing – makey-makey by JoyLabz. The rest you can get from the dark orifices and corners of your home or office (depending on which one you live in).

Before we start, the Dundo is called a talking drum because when well played the pitch can be varied to mimic the tone patterns of speech. It was used as a means of communication in Ghana and other west Africa countries. Detailed messages could be sent from one village to the next faster than could be carried by a person riding a horse.

There are extra drum pads (circles) so that you can make some music if you find long range communication with compressions and rare factions boring.

Step 1: Warming Up........

We will be doing some cutting, binding, waiting, clipping and wait for it….. coding. Yeah, I love coding but you don’t have to be a connoisseur to follow through with this instructable. In fact, I’ll just give you the code free of charge “cos I’m nice like that”. Or if you don’t dig the whole coding thing, I’ll just give you the executable file to run on your PC (sorry Mac).

If you want to see code, you would need to download one thing – processing. Here’s the Link:

Else let’s get down to business..............


  1. Empty Cardboard Box(like the type that stores bottled water or bigger)
    Aluminium Foil
  2. Pair of scissors or cutters
  3. White glue(or any other kind of glue)
  4. Cello tape
  5. Wires

Step 3: Cut Out Needed Shapes From Cardboard

We first have to first cut out, with a pair of scissors or cutters, all the shapes we need from the cardboard. I used one rectangle as the base and five circles as the drum pads. You may cut out more circles if you need more instruments but your base cardboard (rectangle) will have to be bigger.

Starting with the rectangle, it should have a reasonable size big enough for you to play your music on. The circles could be any size that pleases your eye but I suggest the drum’s circle be bigger than the snares and that of the snares bigger than the hats.

Step 4: Aluminium Foil Overlay

We are going to cover all the shapes we cut out in the first step with aluminium foil. First apply the white glue on to the shaped cardboards and wait a little while before covering with aluminium.

For this step you may choose not to cover the rectangle (drum base) because it might affect functionality of the drum and with the way makey-makey works, it actually makes more sense that way.
However, because I wanted it to look good, I went on to cover the rectangle with aluminium and I paid dearly for it. But don’t freak out, being your friendly neighbourhood coder, I found a workaround which I’ll mention along the way so feel free to unleash your creativity.

Step 5: Glue Shapes Together

Glue all the foiled circles onto the foiled rectangle in an arrangement that suits you. You could try my arrangement.
Cut the wires into short pieces with the conductor exposed at the edges so that the alligator clips from the makey-makey package can “bite on”. Use the cello tape to attach the exposed conductor of the wires onto each of the drum pads.

Step 6:

Step 7: Knowing Makey-makey

I know by now you have already ripped your makey-makey package open so no need to say it. We however need to get familiar with it before we proceed.

Here are some pictures of what to expect in the package. You can visit their website for more info. Here’s the link:

Step 8: Making Electrical Connections: 1

When you turn the makey-makey around, you will see some IC looking thingies and some black protruding input ports with letters written against them.

There are these white wires with aluminium conductors in the package – about 7 of them (I’m not sure of the number). Stick these white wires into the ports in any order.

Step 9: Making Electrical Connections: 2

Take out the alligator clips and attach one end to the white wires. Now clip the other end of the alligator clips to each of the wires we earlier taped to the foiled circles, remember?

The clipping has to be done in a certain order. Remember that the input ports we connected the white wires to have letters written against them so the program we will be running on PC might play the wrong instruments if we get the order wrong.

W = snare 1

D = kick

F = snare

S = hat 2

A = hat 1

Step 10: Down to Earth

Cut a long but thin piece of aluminium foil to fold around your wrist as a bracelet. Connect an alligator clip to the bracelet and its other end to the earth bar on the makey-makey.

Step 11: Setting Up the Program

This is the part where we get our programme running.
Here is a link to the source code and files the curious person can run in processing.


Here is a link to the executable file the I-could-care-less-about-coding person can run


Now run the program.

Step 12: It's Showtime

Connect the makey-makey to the PC, put on the bracelet and, this part is really, really important.

Say, “It’s showtime!”

Touch any of the drum pads and make music

Step 13: Bad Drum. Bad, Bad Drum!

If more than one drum pad plays the same sound, then my friend you have paid the price for your creativity. But like I said, your friendly neighbourhood coder is going to teach you a workaround.

Remove all the wires and clips on the affected drum pads and apply another layer of cello tape. The cello tape must cover the entire surface of a single drum pad and try not to let it touch another pad.

Glue a new layer of aluminium foil on top of the new cello tape layer.

Fix the wires and clips back like we did in the previous steps. I’ve repeated some images here to show what I mean. If you look close enough, you would notice the layers I talked about in this step.

Step 14: Who We Are

Repeat step 12 and don’t forget the really important part. ;-)


This prototype was built by

Amadu Abdul-Latif (Y-axis, @crazy_abdul, j-frost)

Samuel Amoako-Frimpong (R2D2)

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