Goal: To create an instrument that accompanies the melody
Material used: wires, makey makey, electrical tape, cardboard, conductive fabric, normal tape, drilling machine, midi keyboard
At the very beginning, I wanted to create an instrument that imitates the piano. I wanted to use the makey makey to imitate the right hand on the piano, which plays the main melody and leap motion also the accelerometer for the left hand to play the accompaniment. After talking to professor Antonius, I decided to borrow a midi keyboard from ima equipment room and only use makey makey for my project, since simply making a keyboard by myself isn’t a new interface, and time was really limited. The midi keyboard is just super cool!!!!
So I started to think about what is really cool and new for an instrument. When I was doing the final concept presentation, a professor from Abu Dhabi actually inspired me a lot. He suggested me that I could use my body to interact with the instrument since the playing of piano consists of both hand and feet. I decided to add the feet part in my instrument, so I created four pedals, which represent four pieces of accompaniment. I took cardboard from the box room and cut it into four pieces. I wanted to stick them to the ground, and every time I step on them, different accompaniments will be triggered. To make this happen, at the beginning, I connected them to makey makey using the female-male wires, but it turned out to be really loose. Then I thought about soldering them together, but it still fell off easily. Professor Antonius suggested me to plug makey makey into a mini breadboard, which is very convenient and saved a lot of time for me.For the second part of my instrument, I wanted to interact with the audience. I will grab a wire that is connected to the ground, and they will grab a wire connected to specific keys on makey makey, so when I touch him or her, we are connected and different chords will be played.
After all the things were prepared, I moved to 825 and started working on it. I taped the pedals on the ground and connected each of them with two wires-one to the ground and one to the key on makey makey. I used super long wires for each of them because makey makey has to be connected to the computer. After connected all of them together, I had 8 messy wires crossing each other and it looked very ugly. I still have five more wires to go because I still need to do the touching part. I used a whole afternoon to strip and plug all the wires. However, when it came to the rehearsal, there was a huge problem with my instrument. Since all the wires are crossing each other and I almost over stripped most of the wires, every wire was touching each other and extra sounds were triggered all the time, which really influenced my performance. After talking to my friends, I decided to wrap electrical tape around all the connected part to try to avoid the extra sounds.
It worked well that night. However, when I came back on Friday morning, everything was wrong again. I was nearly mentally breakdown at that time because it was so close to the final performance. After talking to Antonius, he suggested me to twist the wires together and only leave a short part for them to connect to the breadboard. It worked amazingly good and nearly no extra sounds were made during the pedal part of my instrument. I wanted to tape the conductive fabrics on my shoes at first, but then I found out it was too obvious and also ugly, so I decided to take Antonius’s advice and use my bare foot. However, when I tried the pedals with my bare foot, it seemed like sometimes the connection was not sensitive enough. With the help of professor Antonius, I put some conductive fabric under the wires, and the connection suddenly became really strong.
Then I started to make the chords part. I connected the wires to four arrows on makey makey and one wire to the ground. I actually wanted my friends to sit on the table and hold a shiny star, but there were metal parts on the table which can be easily connected to my friends so extra sounds are being made again and again. I had to give up this idea. Instead of letting them sit on the table, I decided to let them stand on the ground and each of them will hold a star for me. For the star part, originally I wanted them to be shiny, so I talked to Antonius and borrowed led lights, but it didn’t work well because the effect is not obvious. At last, I decided to print out some yellow stars and put them on the wires as a decoration.
However, extra sounds after playing again when I added the chords part. To reduce the extra sounds, professor Antonius helped me put a switch in my code. Only when I press k on the keyboard will the chords start to play. It worked really well. Also, to make the wires organized and protect makey makey, Antonius helped me to tape the makey makey right next to my computer.
For the coding part, I used minim library to play all the sounds I pre-recorded. One thing about minim library is that the play function only play the music once, so if I want the music to play again and again with my movement, I had to put a rewind function.
One really tricky problem in the process is that when I press the key for a long time and then press it again, the music will not continue to play. At first, I thought there was something to do with makey makey, but the keys on the computer didn’t work either. With the help of professor Antonius, I found out that my keyboard stopped typing when I press one certain key for a long time and then press it again. The problem is that I updated to mac sierra and the keyboard setting actually changed when I press a key for a long time. Although this has nothing to do with coding, this is still a great lesson and taught me that I should never let go of any detail in the process of making my project.
Finally, my instrument was finished. The performance went way better than I imagined. Everything just worked really well!!!!! I was so thrilled about the fact that I did all of this!!!
I really learned a lot from this process. I am much more familiar the arrangement of the wires and also the coding, and I broke my limit and achieved to extend my ideas to something cool, and I actually did it! Every time when I thought my instrument was finished, new problems popped up. I have to admit that I was mental breakdown for a plenty of times, but I overcame all of them and was satisfied with what I made. I am just so happy for all of us. The performance was amazing! I also learned that the final project is always not what you want to make at the very beginning. It always change along with the process. Instead of keep thinking about the original idea, embrace changes and more possibilities may be a better way to deal with it. Last but not least, I just want to thank everyone, especially professor Antonius, for helping me out during the process. I cannot make it only by myself.