Nintendo audio – on analogue instruments

I don’t know much about this project. I spotted it earlier today on Twitter, where all I had to go on was this:

So I clicked on the link, which took me to YouTube – and I found this. Matt’s right. His friend Dave is a genius.

What you’re seeing and hearing here is the music and sfx from Mario, Mario 2, Mario 3 and Zelda, played on a player piano and robotic percussion, all mediated by a couple of Raspberry Pis. In the “About” section under the video, Dave says:

The piano and percussion play live during actual gameplay, mirroring the sounds that would normally be created electronically by the NES. All audio, including music and sound effects, is translated in realtime so that it is produced by the instrument most closely resembling the characteristics of the original electronic sound.


0:00 – Mario
0:53 – Mario 2
2:59 – Mario 3
4:06 – Zelda
6:02 – Mario 2 (End Theme)

For those interested in the technical details, both the piano and the percussion use solenoids to drive their player mechanisms. The piano uses Yamaha’s Disklavier system to strike keys, and the percussion uses a custom solution to strike the drum sticks. Both the piano and percussion are each controlled by Raspberry Pis which have custom software to control each instrument. The software is responsible for translating the NES audio to instructions which ultimately define which solenoid should be actuated. In full disclosure, there is normally a half-second audio delay that was removed in editing, but it’s still very playable live. The piano is controlled through the Disklavier’s MIDI interface, while the percussion’s solenoids are directly controlled through the Pi’s GPIO interface.

Dave, we thought this was amazing. Get in touch when you see this; we’d like to know more about who you are and what else you’ve been doing with your Pis!

Edit to add: Dave mailed me. He’s David Thompson from Detroit, MI, and doesn’t have a personal website at the moment, but assures me that he’ll send a link when he does. As well as being a musician, Dave is also a hobbyist photographer and has some ideas up his sleeve for some more Pi projects: I hope we’ll hear from him again soon. Thanks Dave!


clive avatar

This made me smile a lot and is a thing of great brilliance — cheers Dave! :D

edwinj85 avatar

That’s amazing!!!

Alex Eames (RasPi.TV) avatar

That is totally bonkers. Excellent project!

winkleink avatar

Gotts agree. Bonkers and amazing.

AndrewS avatar


liz avatar

Hands up everyone who now can’t get the Mario music out of their heads. *Raises hand.*

The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

*both hands raised*

clive avatar

Not me — it is quickly displaced by the SNES Mario Kart tune that lives permanently in a corner of my (square) brain to emerge in response to very vague stimuli e.g. using an online shopping cart. Or driving down the road throwing banana skins behind me.

liz avatar

I woke up this morning with the Superfrog theme stuck in my head. Are there any cheap outfits offering lobotomies anywhere near the office?

drew avatar

Raspberry Pianola.

That’s just great.

Matt avatar

As a fellow Michigander, way to go Dave! Keep on dreaming up great stuff!

The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

This is too cool for words! This blog keeps finding cooler and cooler projects by the day! Dave is certainly a genius!

The Raspberry Pi Guy

exartemarte avatar

Just … wow.

stag019 avatar

The Gameboy has the same or similar sound channels. I want to see this next! Also, Pokemon.

synx avatar

My Raspberry Pi first MODEL B

Akhil Bhansali avatar

Salute to the Musical Meastro!!! :-) Lovely video ….

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