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Making Keys with MaKey MaKey!

Ever wanted to play a banana piano? It’s possible with MaKey MaKey!

Back in June, I helped* Kickstart the production of a kit that allows you to turn anything that’s a little bit conductive into a button, control, or key. The MaKey MaKey is a panel that you connect to your computer with a USB cable and then to other objects (like clay, vegetables, pencils drawings, pools of liquid, or yourself) with alligator clips to create and complete circuits. By connecting an object to the panel, you are telling it that, for example, touching that banana is the same as pressing the space bar. If you’re running a software programming that says that pressing the space bar means middle C is sounded on a virtual keyboard, then touching the banana will sound middle C. Hook up enough bananas with enough inputs and voila, banana piano!

MaKey MaKey setup

Banana pianos are so passe. Below the fold, a video demonstration of my MaKey MaKey bread piano!

The first thing you’ll see is the piano software I’m using to actually make the sounds. Note that the down arrow will trigger the note E and the left arrow will trigger the note F.

Next, I pick up the black alligator clip, which is connected to “Earth” on the MaKey MaKey panel. This is my ground–by holding this clip, I’ve made myself a part of the circuit.

We cut to some delicious Mexican sweet breads, a red alligator clip attached to one and a blue alligator clip attached to the other. Cut to the MaKey MaKey panel, where you can see that these same clips are attached to the down and left arrow markers–this means that the down arrow and left arrow are mapped onto the pastries, and so touching the pastries has the same effect as pressing those keys on the keyboard.

If I weren’t holding onto the grounded black alligator clip, touching the pastries wouldn’t do anything. When I touch the pastries while holding into the black clip, the circuit is completed, the loop is closed, and the piano software is triggered.  The result? Bun bun bun bun bunbunbunbun bun…

017 (800x600)

I’ve made a few other MaKey MaKey rigs, and I’m going to post about one every week for the next few weeks, so keep checking back! Also, if you have a idea for something I can do with myMaKey kit, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do! Or buy your own at


*Considering they ended up achieving over 2000% (yes, you read that correctly) of their funding goal, I don’t know how much my contribution actually helped.

Anne S

Anne Sauer is an atheist with an appetite for science, good food, and making connections between the two. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her favorite foods are salted caramel ice cream and chicken tikka masala. You can find her on twitter @aynsavoy.

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  1. Rebecca and Brian, game controllers are definitely something you can make (and I have an example coming up). The only limitation with making a console controller is that I’d need hardware and software that allowed me to use my PC as the controller, something like what these guys have done:

    I don’t have a way to do that right now, unfortunately. If you find a way, let me know! I can even build you a cat-activated controller.

  2. There’s an artist called That One Guy who plays a homemade instrument called the Thing that just blows my mind, it follows a similar concept. I saw him in concert and he also played a saw, a cowboy boot and parts of his body. for some inspiration.

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