Bubble Organ

by Scott on 2013/09/14



We just returned from the Bass Coast Festival in Merritt, BC, where the Bubble Organ (aka Bubble Piano) made its first public appearance.

The Bubble Organ is an electronic organ that was modified with leds and toy bubbleguns. It lights up, makes sounds and blows bubbles when the keys are pressed.

Here is a video of the Bubble Organ in action:

Bubble Organ couldn't handle all your love, Bass Coast

Bubble Organ couldn’t handle all your love, Bass Coast

We’re thrilled that the people at Bass Coast got really excited about the installation, and had a lot of fun with it. The next version of it will need to be a little more robust and party-proof, as this one only lasted for a couple days before breaking.

Thanks to BC Liz, and all the Bass Coast crew and artists for making our first Bass Coast Festival a transformative experience. We’re counting down the days until next year, and already thinking about what project we can bring for it :)

Keep an eye out for the new and improved Bubble Organ (aka Bubble Piano) version 2.0 that will be appearing at the Rifflandia Festival in Victoria, BC.

This project was created by Scott Amos and David Parfit of Monkey C Interactive with  support from Bass Coast Project, MediaNet and Limbic Media.

Tech Details:

Wires soldered under the keys to for analog inputs

Wires soldered under the keys to for analog inputs

The Bubble Organ is an old Yamaha Organ that was modified into a midi controller with an Arduino. It routes the midi through a MaxMSP patch that plays various water and bubble sounds mapped to the keys. Attached to the top of the organ are led strips, and 8 bubbleguns that have been modified with servos and transistors, making them controllable by the Arduino.

HC4067 Analog Mux - 6 chips

HC4067 Analog Mux – 6 chips

First, we rewired the organ and daisy-chained six HC4067 chips to use as an analog input multiplexer into an Arduino Uno (code and multiplexing based on Mayhew Labs Mux Shield).  For each key pressed, we sent a MIDI note-on message with a velocity of 120 out the serial port.  When each key was released, a corresponding MIDI note on with velocity 0 was also sent out the serial port, essentially turning the organ into a basic MIDI controller.
Modded toy bubblegun

Modded toy bubblegun

We attached the Arduino to a MacBook running Hairless Serial-to-Midi converter and MaxMSP, which runs the sound patch.  Each key pressed triggered a different bubble sound, lit up the leds in different patterns, and triggered the bubble guns to start blowing bubbles.

Servo and wiper position 1

servo and wiper position 1

We disassembled eight cheap bubbleguns, rewired the motors through transistors and used servos to pull the triggers which wipe the soap over the bubble-wands. (notice the position of the wiper and the servo arm in close-up photos.) The motors that control the soap flow and fans are attached to the Arduino via transistors and an HC595 chip.
servo and wiper position 2

servo and wiper position 2

The Tx pin (serial output) on the first Arduino is attached to a the Rx pin (serial input) on a second Arduino Uno that listens for midi notes and controls the servos.
On the second Arduino, we also controlled five meters of 8806 led strips using the 8806 SPI-based fast led library.

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