Music Workshop - DIY Toy Music Controllers

January 1st, 2008

At this music workshop, we are creating modified toys music controllers that send their MIDI or Audio information to central audio and visual stations.

Reflections from this workshop



Date: 3 January 2008
Hosts: Rafael Mizrahi, Eyal ‘Person’ Sachar and Shira Miasnik

Schedule19:00 Garage Open: Prepare your “Basta”.
20:00 Workshop agenda: Enough with Baby Einstein, its Baby Clubber time.
20:30 workshop starts


Who should come?
* Experienced music technicians and interactive designer.
* The event is open for everyone. You can join others (see /write in the wiki by helping take apart and stuff the musical toys with gadgets.

The Garage will be wired with MIDI, and Audio cables. Each station can choose from several methods of communication to the central stations Hub. Your Toy output can be connected to the central stations or to your Laptop, and from there, to the central stations.


Ingredients: bring one or more of the followings:

  1. A Toy (or some device that you wish to convert into a controller)
  2. Sensors
  3. Sensor interface board
  4. Parts - Assorted switches, potentiometers and other parts
  5. Laptop
  6. Cables:MIDI, LAN, Audio and converter accessories.
  7. Tools: soldering iron, glue, etc’
  8. USB Keyboard to take apart.

2165006711_e35be9978b.jpgHow to participate with low budget:
Here is a list of ingredients to build a Music Toy Controller for anyone who wish to participate but is not so skilled or equipped. A Toy wired with Keys from a USB keyboard sending keystrokes to a utility (MouseTrap) which translates them into MIDI messages, mapped by MIDI-OX into Ableton Live.
* Toy
* USB Keyboard to take apart (also a mouse can be used).
* Laptop
* Ableton Live Demo
* MIDI utilities:
** Keyboard/Mouse to MIDI: MouseTrap
** MIDI virtual device: MIDI-OX
* switches, knobs, sliders to hook on the Toy
* wires, solder, glue gun.
* anything else you wish to do with your lovely musical Toy.


Examples of participation (there can be more variations):

  1. Toy+MIDI board->central station.
  2. Toy+USB Keyboard->laptop->MIDI device or Audio->central station.
  3. Toy+phidgets->laptop->Audio->central station.
  4. Toy->laptop->MAX/MSP with MIDI module->MIDI device->central station.
  5. Toy+ Arduino with MIDI module->laptop or central station.

Recommended boards:

  1. MIDISense (MIDI)
  2. MIDITron (MIDI)
  3. Arduino (Multi Purpose board USB)
  4. Phidgets (Sensors to USB)
  5. Pocket Electronic (MIDI)
  6. Make Controller Kit (USB and OSC)

notes: Don’t buy a board without understanding what you are buying and how to operate it.
The board kits are pretty easy to build, but prepare them at home because it takes several hours to assemble a 50$ kit.


Home Preparations:

  1. Get a Toy, disassemble it at home and look for ways to attach the sensors or potentiometers onto it.
  2. Decide how the toy will function? (MIDI, USB, Phidget, OSC, etc’)
  3. Prepare your board and test it with the sensors or potentiometers.
  4. A handful of parts (knobs, slides, etc’) that you can hook on the toy, bring extra, maybe others can use them.
    tour some electronic shops for such parts, or just take them from electronic junk you still didn’t throw away.


  1. List of electronic shops which also sell sensors
  2. List of music shops that sell music instruments


Reading material

Essential MIDI toolbox
Use to monitor midi messages, send midi from your keyboard, map midi devices and more.

OSC – Open Sound Control
OSC is meant to supersede the MIDI While MIDI requires a MIDI USB device, OSC communicate via a standard home or studio network (TCP/IP, Ethernet) or via the internet.

OSC to MIDI utilities
OSCulator (MAC OS)

USB keyboard or Mouse to MIDI or OSC

MouseTrap - MouseTrap lets mouse and keyboard act as general purpose Midi / OSC control hardware.

More Links for Muse

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