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The Fantastic Muscle Music Machine Experiment Trilogy

Music is a passion, an art, a science, but maybe most importantly… music is fun! Variations of “electronic instruments” can be traced back as early as the late 1700s, but it is no exaggeration to say that the biggest breakthrough was the invention of Synthesizers in the 1950s. This marriage of music and electrical engineering undoubtedly has inspired and continues to inspire people to learn more about both the science of electricity and music.

Our newest trilogy of experiments is designed to get any student or hobbyist experimenting and developing with a new kind of musical interface…. a Brain-Music Interface! Electrical signals from your brain and your muscles will become the music you hear. Check out the experiments below!

Making Music with a Muscle

This lab is an excellent introduction to Arduino Programming and to Modifying Pre-Written Code. You and your students will begin by uploading new code to the Muscle SpikerShield, then we’ll show you just how to modify it so you can play your own musical creations!

Experiment: Making Music with a Muscle

The Multiple Music Muscle Generator

Use the Muscle SpikerShield Pro to control up to six independent outputs. In this case, it will be musical tones. Time to generate music by moving your body. Your dancing makes the melody and the beat!

Then experiment and change the notes and tones your muscles will generate.

Experiment: The Multiple Muscle Music Generator

The MIDI Muscle Machine

The prophecy is fulfilled, and you will become the music and the movement! Control a real musical instrument with your muscles via the MIDI interface. Now you can interface your own nervous system with real electronic instruments! Invent new styles and forms of music!

See it featured on the Chilean show El Hormiguero where guest Antonio Banderas gets to see how its done!

Experiment: The MIDI Muscle Machine

The Tools to Make it Possible

You are in control… literally! Now you can control machines and electronics of your Arduino projects with the electrical activity of your muscles! What will you create?

Take your DIY biohacker projects to the next level with the Muscle SpikerShield Pro, a Human-Machine-Interface device that allows you to record EMG signals from up to six muscles at a time!

//Helping Hand

Hi, I’m Ben. I just graduated high school and am planning on going to Michigan State University in the fall. I ran cross country and track and swam for my high school, but have decided to stop to focus on my studies. I am also an Eagle Scout and love to backpack or canoe when I get the chance. I will be studying computer science.


This summer, I will be working to convert some old Backyard Brains Matlab code into Python, a different programming language. This iteration will be cleaner and easier to understand than its predecessor and can make basic simple data analysis and creating visual graphs for publications easier.


I will also be lending a hand as needed with any of the other fellows. I have been coding since sophomore year, when I took AP Computer Science. I have taken every coding class that my high school offers, and I have been self studying to learn more Python. I am continually learning and excited for the challenges this summer will present.

Prototyping our Low-Cost, Songbird Identifier

Hey, Zach here with another songbird identifier update! Since the last post, I have been busy testing the prototype device by taking bird recordings in various locations. After this week I will be taking a short break before resuming work on the project with the rest of the songbird team in the coming semester. Right now we are primarily planning for the next steps in the development processes that we will begin in September.

Laser cut songbirds are much easier to catch…

Our first goal is to add mobile internet access to the device so bird recordings can be automatically uploaded to our database as they are recorded. The ultimate goal is to design the device that is easy to set up and deploy, at which point it will automatically begin recording and sending data to our website and database where the recordings, geographical location, and classification data can be easily viewed by anyone. We’re looking for a wireless chip currently. These are pretty cool, if you’re unfamiliar, you can connect DIY devices to the internet via a cellular provider. You just need to buy a data plan and set up a SIM card, then your device can connect to a 4G network and send data wirelessly!

The second goal is to make the device autonomous enough that it can run this way for at least a week at a time without intervention. In order to do this, we must create some sort of weather proof housing for the device so the device can be placed anywhere.We also need to have a power source that can allow the device to run for at least a week continuously while keeping the cost of the entire system fairly cheap. This may involve a rechargeable battery pack and/or some sort of solar charger.

Two of our current prototypes.

Now that we’re beginning to actually build our prototypes, it is helpful to begin looking at other, commercial varieties…

The “Wildlife Acoustics Song Meter” is commercial wildlife audio recorder. Running around $1000, without software, it is a prohibitively expensive option for schools, students, or any sort of mass deployment.

The guy she says not to worry about…


The weatherproof housing on the commercial device is nice, and it features weatherproof microphones, which don’t need to be an expensive feature. Additionally, this device runs for up to 400 hours continuously (using 4 D-Cell batteries) and features a “sleep mode,” so it only records when it hears noise, and a recording scheduler, so that you can control what time during the day it takes recordings.

Looking at expensive options like this is encouraging, in a way. So far we have a prototype device which achieves almost the exact same results, just in a less durable package. When we’ve got the whole team back working on this project this upcoming semester, I think we can finalize a low-cost, web-connected, enclosed prototype which will be ready for long term testing and deployment.

Then we can focus on the exciting work, the signal classification and database so we can identify what songbirds the device is hearing and where in the country they are!

We’ll keep you updated over the coming months, for now, it’s time to enjoy my few weeks of summer before I’m back to school and we start back up with this project.