This project converts a xylophone* into a MIDI instrument, but not just any MIDI instrument: a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) MIDI instrument. This means that it can be setup within range of a Bluetooth connection and receive MIDI data without being tied down with a bunch of cables (besides power of course).

30 solenoids sit comfortably over the xylophone keys, waiting to strike up melodies and chords either live with a MIDI keyboard or playing along with MIDI data from a digital audio workstation (DAW). It has a lot of potential as either a live instrument or for some extra fun in the studio.

*Yes, technically this is a bell kit, or glockenspiel, and not a xylophone. However, most people will recognize instruments in the mallet family colloquially as xylophones. Xylophone is also comparatively easier to say and more commonly heard than glockenspiel or bell kit.

The Xylophone/Glockenspiel

The model instrument used for this project is fairly common in the United States, as it is often distributed to students in school who begin taking percussion lessons in music programs. You can find the identical model by searching for "Ludwig Educational Bell Kit". There's quite a few available new and used on Ebay, Amazon, Reverb, Guitar Center or perhaps your cousin's attic.

Of course, you can also modify the mounting system to fit your chosen mallet instrument, or any other instrument. As long as it has metal bars it will sound nicely with the solenoids. Any other material bar should have some sort of dampener attached to the solenoid since they could damage softer materials, such as wood.

Parts

Adafruit ItsyBitsy nRF52840 Express - Bluetooth LE

PRODUCT ID: 4481
What's smaller than a Feather but larger than a Trinket? It's an Adafruit ItsyBitsy nRF52840 Express featuring the Nordic nRF52840 Bluetooth LE...
$17.95
IN STOCK

Mini Push-Pull Solenoid - 5V

PRODUCT ID: 2776
Solenoids are basically electromagnets: they are made of a coil of copper wire with an armature (a slug of metal) in the middle. When the coil is energized, the slug is pulled into the...
$4.95
IN STOCK

ULN2803: 8 Channel Darlington Driver (Solenoid/Unipolar Stepper)

PRODUCT ID: 970
Bring in some muscle to your output pins with 8 mighty Darlingtons! This DIP chip contains 8 drivers that can sink 500mA from a 50V supply and has kickback diodes included inside for...
$1.95
IN STOCK

MCP23017 - i2c 16 input/output port expander

PRODUCT ID: 732
Add another 16 pins to your microcontroller using a MCP23017 port expander. The MCP23017 uses two i2c pins (these can be shared with other i2c devices), and in exchange gives you 16...
$2.95
IN STOCK

Illuminated Toggle Switch with Cover - Blue

PRODUCT ID: 3306
Fire up your engines because these are the hot-rods of toggle switches! Equipped with an aerodynamic blue protective casing, and a diffused blue LED at the tip of the switch, this...
$2.95
IN STOCK
1 x 1/2 Perma-Proto Breadboards - 3 Pack
Adafruit Perma-Proto Half-sized Breadboard PCB - 3 Pack
1 x Perma-Proto Quarter-sized Breadboard
Adafruit Perma-Proto Quarter-sized Breadboard PCB - Single
1 x Through-Hole Resistors - 2.2K ohm 5% 1/4W
2.2K ohm resistors - Pack of 25
1 x CONN IC DIP SOCKET 28POS
28 Pin DIP socket - DigiKey
2 x CONN IC DIP SOCKET 18POS
18 Pin DIP socket - DigiKey
1 x Hook-up Wire
Hook-up Wire Spool Set - 22AWG Solid Core - 10 x 25ft
30 x JST-PH Extension Cable
JST-PH Battery Extension Cable - 500mm
2 x 20x20 Aluminum Extrusion
Slotted Aluminum Extrusion - 20mm x 20mm - 610mm long
2 x Coupling Plate
Coupling Plate - 3 Holes - 20x20 Aluminum Extrusion
4 x Double Corner Brace
Aluminum Extrusion Double Corner Brace Support (for 20x20)
1 x Slim T-Nuts
Aluminum Extrusion Slim T-Nut for 20x20 - M4 Thread - pack of 50
1 x M4 Button Hex Screws
Button Hex Machine Screw - M4 thread - 8mm long - pack of 50
This guide was first published on May 27, 2020. It was last updated on May 27, 2020.
This page (Overview) was last updated on Oct 24, 2020.