When I first heard about the ‘MaKeyMaKey‘, I knew I’d have to get one, so when it finally arrived in January 2013, I was elated!! I went through several bananas, tested most things in the house for conductivity (including cats and dogs), and then thought about making a cheap ‘beat pad’. Here’s a short explanation of how I did that.
First, it’s probably worth visiting the MaKeyMaKey.com site for a quick rundown on how it works, but I’ll attempt cover it in one sentence here: it’s a device that replicates ‘key-presses’ on a keyboard, but you can connect each ‘key’ to a ‘thing’. So you could type an ‘A’ onto the screen by e.g. touching a banana. Pretty cool. Check out the official site here:
To make this work for a ‘beat pad’, I had to find software that allows a sound to be played, when I press a particular key on the keyboard. Although there are many music/studio applications that would allow you to do this, I wanted something really lightweight, simple to use, and cheap/free. I found that Soundplant was simple enough to cope with the task at hand.
I searched the web for free drum sounds and samples, and found a range of sites offering free sample packs. I download a few, and started to assign these samples to the keys I needed to trigger sounds.
Now I needed to gather all the parts to make the actual beat pad.. The list:
Software used: Soundplant
I started by cutting strips of foil, then folding them into squares, leaving a little bit sticking out, so I could attach a wire clip to it. I attached these foil squares to the lid of an old shoebox, and gave the device a quick test. Here’s a little video of the device, going through its first proof of concept test:
I completed the top of the box with 12 pads, and connected each of these to an output on the MaKeyMaKey, using the crocodile clips provided. I used a lot of insulator tape to make sure that everything stayed in place, and also to make the device look a little neater! I had finished creating my MaKeyMaKey beat pad, and was ready to plug the MaKeyMaKey into my laptop via USB.
The next job was to prepare the samples I wanted to use, so I used the Soundplant app to do this. Once I had found all the samples, I saved the configuration file, and began to plan a demonstration video. Here’s the first take of playing a beat using my new MaKeyMaKey Beatpad:
And here’s a video of me playing a beat to some spoken word, a reading by Seth Godin, of his book ‘The Icarus Deception’, which is also a great book – a recommended read.
Big thanks goes out to @ericrosenbizzle and @wakeupsilver for inventing the #MaKeyMaKey and @ThisIsSethsBlog for the #Kickstarter Project that allowed me to get ‘The Icarus Deception’ on vinyl (I’m old skool!). Also gotta say thanks to @YogaShirley for putting up with the annoying samples playing over and over again while I created my masterpiece!
I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I do! Play, Share, and let me know what you think!