At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we love a good music project. So of course we’re excited to welcome Andy Grove‘s ultrasonic piano to the collection! It is a thing of beauty… and noise. Don’t let the name fool you – this build can do so much more than sound like a piano.
What’s an ultrasonic piano?
What we have here, people of all genders, is really a theremin on steroids. The build’s eight ultrasonic distance sensors detect hand movements and, with the help of an octasonic breakout board, a Raspberry Pi 3 translates their signals into notes. But that’s not all: this digital instrument is almost endlessly customisable – you can set each sensor to a different octave, or to a different instrument.
Andy has implemented gesture controls to allow you to switch between modes you have preset. In his video, you can see that holding your hands over the two sensors most distant from each other changes the instrument. Say you’re bored of the piano – try a xylophone! Not your jam? How about a harpsichord? Or a clarinet? In fact, there are 128 MIDI instruments and sound effects to choose from. Go nuts and compose a piece using tuba, ocarina, and the noise of a guitar fret!
How to build the ultrasonic piano
If you head over to Instructables, you’ll find the thorough write-up Andy has provided. He has also made all his scripts, written in Rust, available on GitHub. Finally, he’s even added a video on how to make a housing, so your ultrasonic piano can look more like a proper instrument, and less like a pile of electronics.
Make your own!
If you follow us on Twitter, you may have seen photos and footage of the Raspberry Pi staff attending a Pi Towers Picademy. Like Andy*, quite a few of us are massive Whovians. Consequently, one of our final builds on the course was an ultrasonic theremin that gave off a sound rather like a dying Dalek. Take a look at our masterwork here! We loved our make so much that we’ve since turned the instructions for building it into a free resource. Go ahead and build your own! And be sure to share your compositions with us in the comments.
* He has a full-sized Dalek at home. I know, right?