While creating conductive symphonies is awesome by itself, my favorite part of of the MIDI MusicBox is that anyone can build their very own MusicBox! So grab a friend and get ready to build!
some solid core wire
Making the Core of the MusicBox-
1. Open the Scratch program. For those who are unfamiliar with Scratch, it is a programing language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group from the MIT Media Lab. It’s straight forward, intuitive drag-and-drop design allows folks with no background in coding to jump in and create programs with ease. The program linked to here is a prototype we created to test the concept of the MIDI MusicBox. Feel free to remix this program, or create your own.
2. Time to bust out your MaKey MaKey! The MaKey MaKey is an invention kit, developed by JoyLabz, that allows you to turn just about anything into a key. (There are tons of excellent tutorials/guides available about MaKey MaKey. Here, here, and here are just a few examples of what is available). Plug in the USB cord to the MaKey MaKey and your computer.
3. Connect the jumper wires into the MaKey MaKey W, A, S, D, F, and G ports. Note: Unbent paper clips are great jumper wire alternatives.
4. Attach alligator clips to the ends of the wires.
5. Clip alligator wires to the up and down arrow ports.
6. Clip an alligator wire to the Earth port.
Creating the Sensor-
1. Connect eight more alligator wires to the Earth ports. You can do this lots of different ways; play around with the connections until you get it how you want. We liked using a folded bit of foil tape to make room for the alligator clips.
For the MIDI MusicBoxes in the Hands-On Science Workshop, we ended up using bent copper wires as sensors.
You can create any sort of housing you can think of for your MusicBox at this point. We made ours look a bit like a gramophone, with a hand-crank turning drum to play the sheet music.
We also made an even earlier version that isn’t mounted so you can drag it across anything to create music.
Mounting the Sensor (Optional)-
The sensors of the MIDI MusicBoxes we use in the Hands-On Science Workshop are mounted on hinging arms. If you want to do something similar you can build an arm-like structure out of cardboard, like the one we built for our prototype.
Just make sure that your sensors are level- our prototype sensors didn’t work as well as we’d liked because they were uneven.
If you decide to make an arm for the sensors, you may want to try out a spinning drum like this:
You could make something similar with any sort of funnel, or by rolling paper into a cone. Try out different materials for your amplifier- some things, like cardboard, will actually absorb the sound instead of making it louder. See what things you have around your house that work best.
And there you have it, your own MIDI MusicBox! Now go make some music!
Rebekah Nelson is the Programs Development Lead at The Tech Museum of Innovation