Quaver, the analogue looping piano

Music hacks are my favourite hacks of all, and this one had me bounding around the office with the video below playing on my laptop so I could share it with people yesterday. Meet Quaver, the multiplayer piano.

With a Raspberry Pi, some magnetic pickups, and the open-source Sooper Looper (which I am downloading as soon as I have finished writing this post), Mike and Sean from MajorMega hacked an old upright piano into an instrument that can loop up to four separate tracks, and then upload your results to the internet to be listened to when you get home.

pickups

I learned something new today: you can buy what are basically super-long guitar pickups (as seen in the picture above), which will work in pianos. I am full of ideas (for other people’s pianos – mine’s staying un-hacked).

guts

Here are the electronic guts of the finished instrument: the Pi is driving buttons, LEDs, a display, those speakers on either side, the pickups and a fair old whack of software. Mike says:

  • Jack takes care of all audio routing from the sound card to SooperLooper and back
  • node-OSC sends commands to SooperLooper.
  • onoff to control LEDs and listen for button presses.
  • node-serialport was initially used to control the display, however when compiling a custom kernel (more on that later) I could not get it to compile correctly. I ended up just using echo to issue commands directly to /dev/ttyUSB0
  • lame for encoding the SooperLooper’s wav output to mp3
  • ffmpeg to concatenate copies of the mp3 loop into a longer “song”.
  • Parse to handle file uploading and make it easy for us to produce a front-end on the web.

This is all part of Lancaster’s Keys for the City project, where pianos are decorated and left around the city for the public to play; Quaver is the project’s stand-out this year. (And not just because of the artwork on the outside.)

S8XrR0C

If you’re in Lancaster, you’ll find Quaver in the food court at the Park City shopping mall.

You can find a long and fantastically informative post about the build at Sean and Mike’s website; there’s also a less wordy, more picture-y Imgur page on the project. Mike, Sean – please drop us a line if you’re doing anything else with the Raspberry Pi. We love hearing about this stuff.