ISticks: How to Make a Drumstick for an IPad.




About: I'm a research scientist at Yahoo! I like making stuff.

Multi-touch is a wonderful thing.  But sometimes, the act of creating is done with a tool, like a drumstick or a stylus.  It turns out, it's easy to make a set of drumsticks for a modern capacitive device (like an iPad).  You just need a few special things.

Here's a video of the sticks using my iSteelPan application:

The sticks work in any application since they send the same sort of signal your hand does.  I made a few iPad apps that are being submitted to the Apple store...till they become available, the Magic Piano is super fun with them:

Step 1: Get Some Supplies!

 This is a short but critical list of what you'll need to make a iPad drumstick.

Conductive fabric
This is how the magic happens.  Conductive fabric makes a finger like surface to trigger the touch sensors on the iPad or iPhone.  It's not too expensive, but you can't go to Hancock Fabrics and pick it up.  Thank you Internet: has the most selection.  In this instructable I've used their "Pure Copper Polyester Taffeta Fabric".  You'll need about a 3.5" square piece for each stick you want to make.

In case thats too confusing, SparkFun has some too:

Metal Dowel
This is the second half of the magic.  The metal rod will make the connection from your hand to the fabric.  It's not as spooky as you might think.  I bought a 4 foot 3/16" diameter rod at my local hardware store for 2 bucks.

You'll need some kinda cotton or poly string.  

Cotton Pads
I bought some cotton pads from the drug store.  You could use cotton balls, but pads are easier to work with, firmer, and stronger.  This will give your stick a better feel and lessen the risk of the metal rod poking out and tearing conductive fabric.

Stuff to cut metal
You can do this as you like.  A hack saw or a Dremel will work.   I used a Dremel.  If you're going to use one too, get some eye protection cuz sparks are gonna fly.

For more info on conductive fabrics:

Step 2: Cut Down the Metal Sticks

You'll want each drum stick to be about 9 inches long.  

Clamp the rod down and mark 9 inches in with some tape and go to town with whatever you have to cut with.  (Remember, you should be wearing eye protection and probably a breathing mask - especially if your using a Dremel!)

Once you have the stick cut down, polish the ends with some sandpaper or a rasp (or your Dremel).

Finally, cut some grooves an inch or so in on one end.  This will give the string something to 'catch' and keep the drumstick head from sliding off.

Step 3: Make the Pad.

 Simple.  Wad up about 4 cotton rounds.  You wanna make kinda a mushroom head.  To do this, I folded up one round and stacked it on 3 more.  You can cut some slits in the rounds to help make a nicer shape.

Step 4: Wrap the Pad on the Conductive Fabric.

 Now we need to wrap the pad on the fabric.  

Cut a 3.5" or 4" square piece of conductive fabric and put it on a flat surface.

Put your musrhoom head, top down on the fabric. Hold it in place with the 9" stick you just cut with the groove side towards the pads.

Bunch up the ends however you can.  Try to keep it as neat as you can; dont worry: neatness doesn't count.

Step 5: Tie Off the Fabric.

 Use some string to tie off the fabric.  Dont worry about 'where' the grooves actually are, but try to get it as tight as you can.

Trim off whatever you can with some scissors.  Optionally, you can run a dab of fabric glue on the ends of the conductive fabric to help keep it from fraying.

Step 6: Happy Drumming!

 Here are some of my favorite apps so far for drumming:




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    18 Discussions


    3 years ago

    the app keeps crashing


    8 years ago on Introduction

    this is perfect for Taiko no Tatsujin! just the mallets would have to be a bit smaller.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I have an iTaiko app in the iOS store - try it out, its free. :-)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Seems the site changed recently. I removed it from the instructable.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Not really, I havent even sent it up yet!  It was the second iPad/iPhone app I ever wrote, first one I'm sending to the I'm still figuring it out.   Hopefully I'll send it up this week.

    It really takes a light touch to trigger (essentially less hard than some games I've played).  The textured cotton pads are pretty solid but soft.  I'm barely tapping - its all in the conductive fabric.  

    That said - I wouldn't go all Lars Ulrich on it.  :-P


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     I've heard from some people .apks r easier to write XD (Theres also basically no check by the system because its open sourced)

    Yeah. Well it would be cool. Could you port this to android for us mac-dislikers? I would sure like to do this on my android. 


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The samples are open sourced...I'd imagine an HTML5 version should be pretty easy to write. But I wont be doing that anytime soon. :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Those are awesome! Do you know if your steel drum app is going to make it into the app store? It looks very cool.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Thanks - I'll submit it to the store very soon.  I'll post a comment once I do.