Floor Piano Project
Build a Floor Piano
This large scale (see what we did there?) piano takes about one hour to set up. It works great with our Piano App for Makey Makey we made. We just turned it up to 11!
Probably one of your first Makey Makey projects was to make a banana piano. Musical fruit is magical, fun and addicting. But, at some point it gets a little old. The bananas get brown and squishy, fruit flies gather and it just seem "a-peeling" anymore. So, there is only one solution; make a bigger and better piano!
The idea of a floor piano is nothing new. There are a number of versions and guides out there. Our point is that a floor piano is a fun and active way to stretch your crafting and invention skills to something a little larger scale. If you learn a little more about music and how to play it, all the better! After building this project, think about other ways to build larger swwitch based projects to do something else other than play music on a large piano!
What You Need to Know...
This is one of our more larger scale builds and a great one for a first attempt at building a larger project / installation. It does present a few challenge in the numbers of key to connect to your Makey Makey and managing all of those wires. If you are looking for something to build confidence before tackling is project or possibly something a little more managable in terms of size check out these other projects...
Getting Started with Makey Makey
Learn about what a circuit is and the basics of electricity and conductivity to build your first paper circuit!
Build a conductivity tester that uses Makey Makey to help you figure out what materials are conductive and which ones aren't!
Use bananas or any other produce to build circuits and turn them into piano keys using Makey Makey and our free Piano App!
The important thing here is building something and not just reading about building something!
Tools and Materials
This project is larger scale and depending on how large you want to go, it may require a larger quantity of materials that we provide in the Booster Kits. Here is a list of all the tools and materials required to make a floor piano the size seen in the first photo above.
- Scissors - Used for cutting paper, tape and other things other than your fingers!
- Glue / Glue Stick - We will glue tinfoil to some cardboard, hopefully not our fingers!
- Makey Makey - The tool that makes the magic happen!
- USB Cable - The cable to plug the Makey Makey into your computer!
- Computer with Internet Connection - We will be using an app in Scratch that is shared online!
- Tin Foil- For making the tester pads for our tester and a hat if you so choose
- Colored Construction Paper- For making the tester pads for our tester and a hat if you so choose
- Alligator Clips (2) - two cables, different colors!
- Spool of Wire- For pressing items down on your tester
- Conductive Fabric Tape- Items to test if they are conductive or not. Fruits, veggies, toys and office supplies
- Metal Ducting Tape(Optional)- For making the tester pads for our tester and a hat if you so choose
- Pens / Markers- For making the tester pads for our tester and a hat if you so choose
Need Supplies? Time to Get Resourceful!
Maybe you want to draw on cardboard instead, or use this idea with paints? All awesome ideas and we totally want you to play with the materials you have on hand.
You may have noticed that not all of the materials above are included in our kits! That is OK and intentional; we want you to be resourceful and use materials that you can find at home, in the classroom or even out of a dumpster! It’s great to know this ahead of time so we recommend thinking about creating a stockpile of materials when you find them. We recommend holding onto the following materials / items when you find them…
- Breakfast cereal boxes
- Cardboard / shipping boxes
- Cardboard tubes
- Small broken electronic toys
- Tape, stickers, etc.
Creating the Base of Your Piano
Your floor piano needs to be built on a base of some kind. We usually use a larger sheet of cardboard (roughly 2'x4') for this, but if you want to make your piano more compact and portable you could go with a larger sheet of butcher paper. Once you have your base cut to shape we highly recommend giving it some flair with colored construction paper, markers or even a coat of paint. It is a lot easier to do this now rather than have to work around all of the keys once they are put down.
The main idea here is to have your base be something that is large enough to mount your keys to as well as have some space towards the top to run all of your circuits.
PRO TIP: Use a Yoga Mat for your base. It is soft to "stomp" on, durable and easy to transport.
Create Piano Keys!
Grab a roll of kitchen foil to make piano keys. We pulled out about 24" and then cut that piece in half to make each key for our scale.
Space each foil out on your background before attaching to make sure you have good spacing!
Check to make sure none of your foil keys are touching each other, then use a glue stick to adhere each key to your background like in the image above. Wrap each key press around to the back side of your backdrop.
Attach a wire to each key press at the top edge of the cardboard. Use a small white hook up wire from your Makey Makey kit for each key press. Use some conductive fabric tape or copper tape to attach the metal part of the wire to the aluminum foil key press. (Note: You cannot use the HVAC tape for this as the conductive is not adhesive. So make sure the conductive tape you use also has conductive adhesive. This will ensure a good connection.)
Create an EARTH strip with foil in a similar way that you did with the keys or use conductive fabric tape as a skinnier alternative. Each key press will be activated when a socked foot (or barefoot) steps on the earth strip and the key. So make sure your EARTH is close to each key, but not touching. To keep our wires safe, we ran the EARTH strip underneath the key presses, then folded the corner at the end and ran EARTH to the top of our backdrop. You can elbow patch two pieces of HVAC tape together with conductive fabric tape to make your EARTH strip wider if needed.
MATERIAL TIP: HVAC tape is a great alternative to gluing large pieces of tin foil down! You can find it in the HVAC section of any major hardware store. Make sure to smooth it down or cover the edges of the tape with Duct tape as it is sharp.
Hooking up Makey Makey to the Full Scale
It's now time to hook up your oversized keyboard to the Makey Makey so you can start playing it! To make everything work properly and that you are playing the right keys we have provided a key map for you to follow!
To hook this up to the Makey Makey Piano App, follow the template. Attach your alligator clips to the exposed end of your hook up wire and attach each key to Makey Makey as indicated.
Finally, insulate each key press with duct tape and hook up a keyboard to start playing with your feet! Your foot will touch the EARTH connection and a key press, therefore closing the circuit!
If you'd like to indulge in some serious wire maintenance so you can move or fix the piano as needed, that will add an hour to your build time.
As you hook up your Makey Makey, label the key press on masking tape. To help you reconnect if you move this piano, label the key press near the piano key and add a second label near the Makey Makey.
To add keys W A S, you have to use the back of your Makey Makey. Use a hook up wire to plug into the back of your Makey Makey and label each hook up wire with the key it will connect. This will help you connect the right keys! Since you will alligator clip to this wire, you may also want to wrap the connection with electrical tape to make sure the wire stays connected to your alligator clip.
If you label your alligator clips clearly, you can also add some masking tape to hold the wires together in small batches. It can also help to tape the wires to the floor to keep them from getting unplugged.[PRO TIP: It's also good to put your Makey Makey in a case or up higher away from the floor! You don't want it to get accidentally stepped on!]
Here is an overview of the template for adding sharps to your piano. You'll have to remap a few keys to be letter presses on the back of your Makey Makey. To prepare follow this remap guide to make the mouse movements on the back right header into key presses.
The first step is to insulate your previous piano keys. You'll use the black duct tape to insulate your previous keys and BONUS it will make your piano look even more like a piano!
To make the connections for your sharp/flat keys, you'll be making a different type of connection. We will run an EARTH strip to each key press. (This is actually how a circuit board is made for a keyboard! On a keyboard, when your finger presses a key, it makes a connection across two conductive traces. That sends a signal to the computer that you've pressed a key. You'll be doing the same thing with your feet for these piano keys!
We are using 1" conductive fabric tape for these key presses, if you have a the Inventor Booster Pack, there is a skinnier version of this tape in the kit. It has conductive adhesive, so it is good for making this more complicated circuit.
Wire up all the keys and plug in the USB cable, now you are ready to Makey Makey!
How to Add Sharps
First off, you need to run an EARTH strip along the top of your piano. Make sure you've insulated your previous circuits with duct tape.
For each key press, you'll put down a conductive tape trace. Then using an extra long hook up wire, place conductive tape on top of the stripped wire to attach it on the top and the bottom to your key press tape trace. By sandwiching the wire you are ensuring connectivity. Especially since others will be stepping on these piano keys!
Cover your conductive tape and wiring on the top of your piano with black duct tape. This will insulate your circuit AND keep your wiring in place. You can also see where the EARTH connection is visible. We have NOT connected the EARTH connection for this key press to work yet. Notice that the black duct tape insulates your flat/sharp key press from your previous circuits. Also notice that this EARTH will run across the top of your piano to your previous EARTH connection from your oversized piano. For each flat/sharp key press, you'll run a tape trace down from this EARTH tape trace so that when someone steps on top of both, their foot will complete the circuit.
Run your EARTH tape trace next to your key press. Make sure you connect to your EARTH strip on the top of your piano AND that this circuit trace runs parallel to your key press. Don't let these two conductive pathways cross or you will have a continuous circuit.
You've made a sharp key now! Use duct tape to insulate your earth connection.
Wiring and Insulating Sharps
Repeat previous step for each sharp key. Make sure you have a wire connected to each key press and you cover the exposed wire with conductive tape.
Also make sure your key press does NOT touch EARTH. You can see how we are about to wire the next key and that EARTH is connected to the EARTH tape trace. Wiring is now in place and secured with duct tape.
Repeat until all of your sharps are wired. Run the extra long hook up wires to the back headers of your Makey Makey. If you didn't already, make sure to remap the mouse movements on the back right header to key presses. Here is that remap guide if you need it!
We remapped two pins to the letters j and k. Then plugged in all the sharps with the extra long hook up wires from the STEM pack. Make sure you label all your wires in case they come unplugged!
Bringing it All Tgoether!
This piano works with this our piano app or a Scratch piano coded to be a full octave including sharps/flats!
Consider creating some laminated sheet music so your friends can attempt some simple songs.
This project is a big one with a lot of wiring, taping and insulating of conductive materials. It is easy to miss something and have your floor piano act a little odd at first. Here are a few tips from our experience...
- My keyboard plays the wrong keys?! - Make sure that you have wired everything correctly as well as remapped your Makey Makey to the correct keys if you are using sharps!
- A key is being constantly pressed!? - Double check to make sure that each key is not touching the EARTH pad!
- Everything is hooked up, but they keys are wrong!? - You need to remap your keys, please follow the instructions in the adding sharps section!
- Nothing plays when I step on keys and EARTH!? - Double check the wiring of your EARTH bar, you probably are not connected and completing the circuit.
Going to the Next Level!
Once you've made your piano, you can start dreaming up other pianos. You could use the ultimate stomp pad guide to create switches for piano keys, or even put a piano on a stairwell. But make sure you hold on to the hand rail! We love the idea of a roll up piano (similar to this roll up maze by Frazer McKay). If you create this piano on yoga mat, you can take it everywhere you go!
If you liked this guide, you might enjoy these other musical guides:
- Musical Instruments by Kyle Kitchen - Why stop with a piano, go create other instruments... make them big!
- Musical Paintbrush - Make a paintbrush play music while you paint with it!
- Musical Water - Make amazing music with an alternative instrument... water!
Once you've created your amazing piano and become the next Makey Makey Mozart, check out these other amazing projects...
Get Up & Go! Projects
Build your own stomp page game controller. Flappy bird awaits for you to control it by jumping up and down!
Create your own guitar to play when nobody (or everyone) is looking and turn Makey Makey up to 11!
Is the banana piano a little squishy and brown? Upgrade to a huge floor piano and play it with your whole body!