Monday, February 2, 2015

MaKey MaKey Scratch Musical Instrument Construction Suggestions

My friend asked me to write down an outline for a MaKey MaKey Scratch Musical Instrument workshop. 

Start by showing them Scratch and how to select a musical instrument and the note that it plays. Scratch 1.4 has 130+ instruments/sounds and Scratch in the browser has a little more than 20 at this point. Everyone seems to be moving to Scratch 2 so I would use it unless you have Scratch 1.4 installed already (I am using 1.4 with my 2nd graders to build instruments right now).

Use the "If key is pressed," then your instrument, then the note. 

I start them on Scratch now, as opposed to starting by building an instrument, to reinforce that the instrument works by key presses. You have a limited number of keys (I really don't show the younger kids the header on the back of the MaKey for "wasdfg" but older kids should be told about it), and each key should make a different note or chord or sound effect.

Based on the instrument they choose in Scratch, either through familiarity or because they happen to like the sound it makes, they can then sketch their instrument on cardboard. 

Cut out the cardboard. I don't have the 3rd graders cut it. I use a boxcutter. Give the student the instrument and have her trace it on another piece of cardboard. Give her a ruler, have her measure inch wide strips. Use the two "faces," strips, hot glue, and masking tape to create a 3D instrument, so it looks like more than a piece of cardboard. 

Use copper tape with conductive adhesive for strings, bows, or pads. Pads are most durable with a wire stripped of insulation sandwiched between two pieces of copper tape: you can clip onto the other end of the copper wire to reduce wear on the copper tape. Strings can be grounded with the bow, which also has copper tape on it. A paper clip makes a great guitar pick clipped to the MaKey ground and used to "pick" the strings.

Use aluminum foil with wire sandwiched, like copper tape pads, for drums and cymbals. The ground for a drum is a drumstick made from a chopstick, with wire, ends stripped of insulation, wound around the chopstick, and secured with copper tape at one end and masking tape at the other. You can add a ball of aluminum foil over the copper tape to turn the drumstick into a mallet.
Hook up the MaKey to the completed instrument. Since the students started with Scratch they get the gratification of immediately being able to test and play their instruments. Troubleshoot strings, pads, drums that don't work by checking connections, checking the circuit they have created, and the Scratch project.

How do you write down a song you invent so other people can play your song? Most kids figure out to write down the arrows/space bar/keys they are "pressing" to write down a song. Rehearse. Perform.

I have been experimenting with air gap piano keys and the xylophone I built with 3D printed bars and bridges I designed and printed.