Making music with Ultrasonic Sensors, MIDI, and a Raspberry Pi

I have been working on a fun project to make an exhibit for my local makerspace to take to events. I had a ton of spare ultrasonic sensors lying around so I decided to experiment with turning them into a musical instrument using a Raspberry Pi running a software synth.

This project has now been featured on Hackaday! There is also a very detailed Instructable if you want to replicate this project.

The code is very simple. The Raspberry Pi is polling each sensor (with the help of an octasonic breakout board that I designed about a year ago) and translating the distance into a MIDI instruction (“note on” or “note off”). These MIDI instructions are then piped into the stdin of a fluidsynth process, which converts the MIDI instructions into music.

This is my first exposure to MIDI and I love how simple it is to hack music. I’ll post an update once we have this project finished and mounted on a frame.


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2 thoughts on “Making music with Ultrasonic Sensors, MIDI, and a Raspberry Pi

  1. Elaine Uang

    This is sooo cool! What are you using for sound output (ie type of speakers) ? I have a proposal in for public art project that is almost exactly like this – but I am an electronics neophyte. Would love to learn more – and I definitely need to purchase your breakout board!

    1. andygrove Post author

      I’ve been meaning to write up a detailed description of this project so I can publish it on instructables. I’ll try and get to that soon but I’d be happy to give you free advice on your project. The Raspberry Pi has a standard 3.5mm audio jack so you can plug in pretty much any standard amplified speakers, such as PC speakers. I was using a “portable MP3 speaker” in this video. I’ll shoot you an email so that you have my email address.


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