PiPiano: a musical, educational add-on board

Last week we received a surprise parcel from Mike Horne, containing a new add-on board for us to look at. Mike introduced it to us:

It’s called the PiPiano and was designed and developed by 14-year-old Zachary Igielman, who is a regular at CamJam and our line-following-robot guru! He’s currently running an Indiegogo campaign for the board which he’s fitting in around his school work.

I think it’s amazing that a 14-year-old has developed something so complex and it just goes to show what kind of brilliant things the Pi has inspired!

We wholeheartedly agree! The PiPiano uses an I2C port expander to give you thirteen buttons laid out like an octave of a piano keyboard, along with three LEDs and a piezo speaker; and as you’ll see if you watch the video, if the piezo speaker isn’t enough for you, there’s more than one way to use the PiPiano to create other sounds through speakers or headphones. Of course, all the buttons, LEDs and buzzer can be used as input or output for your other projects, and thanks to the I2C expander, the board uses only three of the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins – there’s an option to receive one with a stacking header so that you still have access to the rest of the pins if you have other plans for those.

Back to Mike:

If you’d like to give it a go, the first thing you should do is drink a can of soft drink! The buzzer is a little bit weedy and works so much better if you tape it to an empty can! Zach’s written lots of example code to go along with the board in both Python and C and he managed to persuade me to write the documentation and Phil (@Gadgetoid) Howard to do the video for the crowdfunding campaign.

To get started, go to https://github.com/ZacharyIgielman/PiPiano or http://www.pipiano.com to download the code and find out how it all works.

You’ll have noticed by now that Zach doesn’t do things by half, and we see from his campaign updates that, since launching, he’s been expanding the PiPiano website and teaching a nine-year-old how to use the board, with great success! We’ve spotted that he’ll be playing and demo-ing PiPiano at the Covent Garden Raspberry Jam this Saturday, too.

Teaching a nine-year-old to use PiPiano

This version of the board is only available via the PiPiano Indiegogo campaign. If you’d like your own, act now!


Zachary Igielman avatar

Fantastic post! Thanks guys!

Ton van Overbeek avatar

Nice project. Also usable for controlling a lot of other things.
Just ordered a pair on IndieGoGo.

jpw avatar

Fantastic project – keep it up !

Phil avatar

Hooked mine up to a Parallax Propeller ASC+ board and used it to control a software-emulation of a Commodore 64 SID chip. Audio-nerd bliss :D

It’s surprising how useful a board with ready to go buttons and lights can actually be for projects, beats breadboarding buttons anyway!

Also works with SunVox and PD and should work with Sonic Pi, which is especially cool if you’re really into your music but don’t want to lug around a keyboard.

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