Making Music

A new week of CEP 811 and a new task to work with! This week I was asked to use the maker kit I bought and random items to create something awesome that I can do with students I work with.


First of all I’ll explain my Maker Kit a little more. I bought a MakeyMakey for about $50.00 a couple weeks ago. When I first received it in the mail I started playing with it. I just started plugging in things and playing around in a Word document. I even got my Dad to push bananas and strawberries while I was playing – he loved it! This week I played a LOT more. I tried using a glass of water, pop cans, aluminum foil, pencil/paper drawings, play-dough, and other items around my house. I also raided the basement of my parents’ house and found a couple fun things to play around with. I looked for items with metal on them to ensure that they were conductive and would work easily with the MakeyMakey. If you’ve never heard of MakeyMakey before (don’t worry I hadn’t until a few weeks ago!) then you should click on the above link or Google examples of awesome ways you can use MakeyMakey. Some ideas that inspired me are: Operation Game, Musical Fruit, Multiple Examples.


I teach my students online and rarely see them in person to interact with them. I can think of some ways that I can use a MakeyMakey with a webcam in my online classroom, but I wanted to come up with a way for students to physically use the “inventing machine”. One of the main times that I meet with large groups of students without another pre-planned activity is during Standardized Testing period. All the teachers in my school travel to various parts of Michigan to physically test all students that attend our online school. During this time we play ice-breaker games to get students to know one another and interact physically with other students of all grade levels. This led me to the idea that I could use the MakeyMakey to encourage students to work together on a task while getting to know one another. Then I stumbled upon THIS online – a musical room created using a MakeyMakey! I knew I wanted to make a plan to recreate that! An interactive room where there are things all across the room that make different noises; a room where students have worked together to use their creativity and invent a way for found items to be used with a MakeyMakey and engage audiences.


In order to prepare for when I set a bunch of students loose with a MakeyMakey and a random room I tried a few different things they might create. I also wrote a lesson plan that would span a week of testing at a site with materials and a general outline. I think that having students explore conductivity and inventing collaboratively with a MakeyMakey connects with Common Core Math standards of using appropriate tools strategically (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5 ) and making sense of problems and persevering in solving them (CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1). Students will be introduced to a new technology and be asked to use it in a thoughtful way that others can interact with and understand. Practicing that skill will help students in the future with any new technology, not just a MakeyMakey or similar product. Students will also be given the open-ended task of using the new technology to solve the problem of creating an interactive musical room. This will not be an easy or intuitive task for most students and they will have to work together and persevere when their MakeyMakey creation does not go as expected.


During my play time this week I tried creating a musical set of drinking glasses, interactive drawing, and musical bookcases when you put items back on the bookcase. I ended up recording a video on the first two. If you want to re-create them yourself, read the instructions below as well.

MakeyMakey Water Glass Drum Set Video

MakeyMakey Interactive Drawing Video


How-To for the MakeyMakey Water Glass Drum Set:

1)      Create an aluminum foil Earth grounding board. This will be used to stand on later so make it large enough to step on with two bare feet.

  • Get a piece of study paper (I used card stock)
  • Cover one side with aluminum foil.
  • Tape around all sides, but a small spot where you will clip the alligator clip later with the MakeyMakey.

         photo 1 photo 2          

2)      Go to a site that helps you create a musical instrument using your keyboard. I used Virtual Keyboard, but another great one I found was the Virtual Piano.Virtual Keyboard

3)      Gather drinking glasses mostly filled with water. I used four, but you can use as many as you want. Place a wire (6 were included in the MakeyMakey kit) in each drinking glass. I bent mine a little to better keep them in the water while I played music with the water glasses. Just a helpful hint from experience – though not 3

4)      Clip an alligator clip to each wire, ensuring that you are clipping to the metal wire and not the insulated coating. Clip the other end of the alligator clip to the MakeyMakey. Using the virtual keyboard above you should clip to the options available (C, D, E, F, G, …) on the back of the MakeyMakey 4

5)      Plug the MakeyMakey board into the computer (I love how easy this step is!) and plug another alligator clip to the Earth part of the board to ground yourself. Clip your aluminum foil grounding board to the other end of that alligator clip. I wanted to be able to stand (or have unsuspecting people stand) on the aluminum foil grounding board on the ground and play the drinking glasses therefore I had to connect a couple alligator clips together to get it long enough to reach the 5

6)      You should be all set to just touch the water in the glass and hear beautiful music. Or at least a lot of noise (those sounds in my video were not what I would call “beautiful”.


How-To for the MakeyMakey Interactive Drawing:

 1)      Draw a picture using a graphite pencil or any conductive material. I thought about easy things to draw with simple sounds that easily go with my picture. However you could have a bird chirp when you touch a marshmallow – there are no rules here!

  • Make sure you that you darkly color in parts of the picture that will be touched. For the spots on the dog in my photo I had to darkly color connecting lines to not break the conductive path.
  • Darkly color a line that goes to the edge of the paper so that you can later clip an alligator clip to the paper. At the bottom of my drawing I extended the baby’s bottom and dog leg to touch the bottom of the paper without making a more obvious connecting line.


2)      Open SoundPlant and download it if you do not already have it.


3)      Find sounds that you want your picture to have. I used SoundBible and searched for Public Domain sounds. You could use sounds you already have or use a different method to get sounds. If you have another easy way – please comment and let me know what you used.SoundBible

4)      Set up so that those sounds are attached to the keyboard in the way that you envisioned. If you’ve never used SoundPlant before read the manual that comes with the download, but the ‘open sound’ button is the main one to attach a sound once you click on a keyboard button.

5)      Plug alligator clips to the corresponding keys on the MakeyMakey. I chose the arrow keys for my drawing. Plug the aluminum foil grounding board to the Earth part of the MakeyMakey board in the same way you did above during step 2 (2)

6)      Now plug the other ends of the alligator clips to the drawing to match the sounds. I created a key to help me plug the correct clip to the correct part of the drawing.

photo 3 (2)photo 1 (2)          

7)      To make it look more like an actual framed artwork (and to cover up the wires some) I cut out a frame from some cardstock. You could use an actual picture frame as well. Or whatever you want. We are inventing here!

photo 2 (1)

8)      Now you are all set to go back to SoundPlant, step on the aluminum foil grounding board, touch your drawing, and hear the corresponding noises you chose.


This week I had a lot of fun exploring and learning! I thrifted a few items to try and have music go off while you put items on a bookshelf, however I have not yet figured out how to get it to work. I’ll keep working and hopefully have an update later this summer with a solution. It would make a fun addition to the musical room and could maybe even help toddlers have fun cleaning up their toys or something similar. 



4 thoughts on “Making Music

  1. I love you idea of a collaborative musical room. I enjoyed all the visuals (picture and video). It made it easier for me to understand how the actual process of using a Makey Makey works. One suggestion I have about your blog post is that whenever you have hyperlinks to outside sources, you should have them open in a new page. This makes it easier for users to revisit your blog and remember where they started from. I would hate for someone to get sidetracked by looking deeper into some of your hyper links and have difficulty getting back to your initial post. Just something to think about. I totally want to visit your musical room!

  2. Hi, Stacey!
    I, too, bought the Makey Makey kit and am excited to have learned a few new things from your blog post/lesson plan. First, what an awesome idea you had for grounding yourself to the Makey Makey. In my lesson, I asked students to wear a hair band that was connected to the alligator/Earth clip. Although this method works, I can see it taking up far more time than your aluminum foil-covered paper for students to stand on. Half the battle with technology and allowing students to explore, is thinking of faster, simpler ways for each student to interact with the technology. I think you’ve done exactly that by recreating a way to ground yourself to the Makey Makey. I also think your musical room lesson could be used in a variety of ways to interact kinesthetically with learners. Thank you for sharing your creativity and for providing lots of helpful links!

  3. Hi Ms. Weinlander, you offered many insightful ideas here with your Makey Makey project! I am a music teacher and your ideas for water glass music would be a fun activity with my own students. I’m just curious, can you do a math lesson with the water music, like the measured amount of water in a glass in relation to the sound it produces? That would be a cool cross-curricular lesson! I liked how you stated that these activities would be good ways for students in an online community to get to know one another; It’s a good challenge for students to work together, play and create. I also loved the inspiration you gave me from your link to the Austin, Texas school that used Makey Makey. I am going to share that link and those ideas with other teachers in my school! I have one suggestion for you: can you post links on a reference page at the bottom of your blog so that I can visit outside sources as well that inspired you with this post? Thank you for the Makey Makey inspirations!

  4. Pingback: Musical Room Open to All Students | msweinlander

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