Harness Your Inner DJ With This Beet-Powered Drum Machine

Do you dream of tearing up the turntables or rockin’ the house with your personal collection of soul shaking beats? Think you can’t channel your inner DJ without investing in thousands of dollars worth of expensive electronics? Think again. Designer Scott Garner recently developed a “drum machine” powered by everyone’s favorite magenta vegetable–the beet.

The BeetBox is a musical instrument made from six beets connected to capacitive sensors to play samples on a Raspberry Pi. Users can experiment with their own drum beats by touching the actual beets.

BeetBox, vegetables, drum machine, musical instrument

Image via Scott Garner

The great thing about BeetBox, aside from the fact that it turns root vegetables in to a working musical instrument, is the fact that it’s all opensource technology, some of which is upcycled. “Touch sensing is handled by an MPR121 Capacitive Touch Sensor from SparkFun, for which I ported existing Arduino code to Python,” explains Garner on his website. “This board communicates with a Python script on a Raspberry Pi via I2C. The script watches for new touches and triggers drum samples using pygame. Audio from the Pi’s line out is run through a small amplifier I built using an LM386, which is based on a circuit straight from the data sheet. The amp is connected to a salvaged speaker mounted under the holes in the lid.”

While not a musician by trade, Garner says he wanted BeetBox to be an experiment in technology that was at once interactive and non-intrusive. “BeetBox is primarily an exploration of perspective and expectation,” he states. “I’m particularly interested in creating complex technical interactions in which the technology is invisible—both in the sense that the interaction is extremely simple and in the literal sense that no electronic components can be seen.”

Want to make one? Source code for the BeetBox is viewable on GitHub.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog