Want to get kids excited to be in your middle school music class? Then turn them into a human drum machine and beat box!
As you can see, this is great fun for your students – and even teachers!
The human beat box was actually where we ended – we started with a drum machine.
You can see the students have pieces of foil they are tapping on to create a sound. You can use all kinds of things with the Makey Makey to create sound – foil, clay, bananas, and as you already saw, humans! Since we did this at the beginning of the school year, my students took a piece of foil and turned it into something that represented them. We had everything from baseballs to ballet slippers to initials.
So how did we do this? Believe it or not it wasn’t too hard. All you need is a Makey Makey and a computer to access the website Scratch.
I started out creating a free account on Scratch. This is a great website that teaches kids (and teachers) to code. There are countless things you can create – as you’ll see from the examples on the site – but I stuck with the music. When you first start creating on Scratch there is a helpful tutorial that will show you the basics.
After I got the hang of telling the computer what I wanted it to do, I was able to create a drum machine. I chose the “Sprite” I wanted – in this case, a percussion instrument.
Once you choose an instrument you’ll be able to choose from several sounds it can make.
Then you simply choose the language to tell them computer what you want it to do and when. In this case I dragged the Event, “When space key pressed” and the Sound “Play sound low tom.” Each time you add another sound, you assign it to a different key on the keyboard. To use the Makey Makey at it’s simplest, you’ll want to stick with the space key and left, right, up, down arrow keys.
I continued adding “Sprites” (instruments), choosing sounds, and the event that would make them happen until I had everything I wanted.
Now to add the Makey Makey…
This looks complicated at first, but it really isn’t – I promise! The Makey Makey directions and website will walk you through the set up, but here’s the basics – each color cord clips into a hole that corresponds with a key on the keyboard. For instance the orange cord is clipped into the down arrow key hole, so whatever I told the Scratch program to play when I hit the down arrow will happen when I touch the orange clip.
There is one cord (in this case the white one) that is the grounding cord. Nothing happens
unless the grounding cord is being touched. We made the cord the “Drummer’s Cord” – whoever holds that is the drummer. S/He gets to use the other students as drums by tapping their hand as they hold one of the colored cords.
Obviously, there are many instruments to choose from when creating your Scratch code. There are even pitched instruments like the piano where you can create a separate Sprint for different pitches so you can play a melody.
To create the beatbox I used the microphone and created a Sprite for each different sound.
As you can see from the videos I started with, everyone loved this! Even greater is that this can be used with every level of students. Our special needs kids even had a blast trying out all the sounds!
I plan to use this again in my classes and have students create the Scratch codes so they can learn coding basics and test out their creative music making abilities using technology.
Have you used a Makey Makey or Scratch before? Let us know what you’ve tried so we can learn from each other!