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Technological Surrealism / Alec Nerds Out

Drums for Tykes

I’ve cornered myself in my office amidst heaps of large, unfinished projects and it seems that whenever I try to get somewhere with one of them another 5 will throw themselves at me. I’ve got a broken B&W TV to fix, a monstrosity of a T6600 laptop to modernize, a few broken 8-tracks to tinker with, an antique Viewmaster to make awesome, and all the assorted Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards those entail.

So it’s nice to start and finish a small project in less than an hour. This is also the first project I’ve made for Luciana, who is now 16 months old and ready to handle that sort of thing.

I’m interested in making musical instruments a part of her life from the earliest possible age in the funnest possible way. Closest to my heart, of course, is percussion — and on a whole drum set, not just a toy hand drum.

I have a digital drum set (used for the Drumboard project) but since it’s generally mothballed in the basement I figured I’d temporarily pilfer the brain for another project.


Digital drums tend to use piezoelectric transducers to detect vibrations as the drumsticks hit the pads. These are small, cheap, fairly sensitive, and can be attached to more or less anything.


Luciana has a set of foam interlocking floor tiles for the living room, and these seemed like ideal candidates for conversion into digital drums.

Foam tiles

I decided to sandwich 4 piezo sensors between two of these, carving channels out of the foam of the bottom tile to provide space for the wires to run:


With all the carving:

Carved tile

If someone can tell me what this means in Japanese I’d be grateful. [Edit: it’s Chinese for “Large”; thanks, Zhuowei]

I filled the bottom of each channel with some silicone caulking compound and formed a seal around the cables to prevent them from moving. A little more around the edge of the tile to stick the two together, and a little on the piezo sensor to provide physical continuity. Then I stuck the two tiles together.

Completed tile with cables

With the brain attached…

Completed tile

And finally, turned on:

As you can hear, I need to adjust the brain’s parameters to get the levels for the triggers to match and to prevent double-triggering. And Luciana is still sleeping, but after that’s finished I’ll get her beta testing.

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  1. zhuowei says:

    Looks a bit like the Chinese character 大 – “large”.

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