Build Your Own Piano
Up to 1 hour
Pre-K – 12+
What Will You Learn?
This is actually two projects in one. Choose whichever fits your camp better, or mash them up for a richer experience!
Super Easy Floor Piano
This super simple floor piano only takes about 10 minutes to set up! Grab some HVAC tape from your local hardware store. and get ready to make a super quick and super easy floor piano you can play with your feet!
(Please note that the edge of HVAC tape can me be very sharp and please advise others creating with this tape.)
Oversized and Portable Full Scale Floor Piano
This large scale (see what we did there?) piano takes about one hour to set up. It works great on Eric’s MK1 Sampling Keyboard for Makey Makey or this Scratch game we made.
Building the Easy Version
Use this aluminum tape to make 6 piano keys on the floor about two feet in length. Then run a strip of foil tape along the bottom to be your EARTH connection. This EARTH connection is what will bridge the circuit so you can play each note individually.
We ran the tape on the bottom and folded the corner to run our EARTH to the top, so the alligator clips would all be out of the way when people are playing this piano with their feet. You need to fold the tape and not tear it as the adhesive is not conductive on HVAC tape.
To make it look more like a piano and protect other players from the sharp edges of the tape, you can use duct tape to cover the sharp edges and run one piece of duct tape across the bottom.between the key presses and EARTH.
Attach an each alligator clip to each foil strip then match each piano key to the piano app. Then make sure to connect EARTH to the grounding strip. The template should help you with your set up.
When you step (in socked or bare feet) on a piano key with your heel on EARTH, you will complete the circuit and play a piano note! Step on each key to play each note.
(How does this work? Makey Makey works by connecting alligator clips to everyday things that have some conductivity. One conductive touchpad is connected to EARTH and the each strip of tape is connected to a key press. When your foot touches both the EARTH strip and a key press, your body is actually the conductive material that closes the circuit and makes Makey Makey work! )
Step 2: 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! See picture 1.
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 Picture 2. 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 as in picture 3. 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 HVAC tape or conductive fabric tape. 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. Full scale in picture 4.
NOTE: HVAC tape is sharp on the edges! Make sure to smooth it down or cover the edges of the tape with Duct tape.
Step 3: Hooking up Makey Makey to the Full Scale
To hook this up to Eric’s MK1 Sampling Keyboard for Makey Makey, follow the template below. Attach your STEM pack extra long alligator clips to the exposed end of your hook up wire and attach each key to Makey Makey as indicated in picture 2.
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. To learn more visit this project on the Maker Makey site.