Heartbreaks and 808’s

This week didn’t go as planned at all. I purchased a few new props to install the Teensy (older prototype destroyed) but continued to run into issues securing the conductive rubber cord stretch sensors. The stretch sensor became my focal point of interest for this project. During my idea and project brainstorming phase, I remembered reading The Importance of Parameter Mapping in Electronic Instrument Design, by Andy Hunt in week 5 or 6 in class. This was important to me because when Hunt conducted multiple user tests on musical instruments, he found that users were more connected and engaged when energy was needed or required to operate an instrument. The users reported an overall better response and interactive experience. This prompted me to consider how using energy motivates me when I use a device/instrument and the core influence in how I chose to build my project. It made sense to design a creative tool that encourages a continuous input of energy. Music means a lot to me, and I decided to use a heart because it is a universal sign of love. Further, the heart also represents a significant life changing event for my family and I wanted express the importance of life and its symbolism using an anatomical heart.

There are three valves used —  each play a single instrument mapped in Ableton Live. The conductive rubber cord connects to each valve and an instrument starts on pull in a continuous loop. Valve one controls the Drums, valve two the Bass and valve three controls the sound effects. I attached an FSR sensor in the middle of the heart and it is used to start the melody when physical pressure is detected. This completes the beat, hence the name of the project, “heartBeats”. I got risky and added a pulse sensor I purchased during the early stages of my project. The pulse sensor will use the end users beats per minute  (BPM) to control the tempo of the music.  Ultimately, I decided to test push buttons as an alternative for the valves but I’m completely dissatisfied with this option and plan to revert back to the conductive rubber sensors.





  • The conductive cords aren’t secure at all. They continue to pop out of the jumper wires and it makes it extremely difficult to detect a reading with even the slightest pull.

  • I struggle with fabrication but understanding this now is actually beneficial because I can use this as a motivator to make at least one beginners fabrication class priority!
  • Mapping MIDI instruments were challenging. I had to manually map each drum pack as a note in Arduino using the drum rack pad via Ableton.

What heartBeats sounds like now:


What I plan to figure out before the final presentation:

  • How to make the conductive cords secure!
  • heartBeats playing drums, bass, sound effects, and melodies harmoniously.
  • Adding multiple clips (instruments/sounds) for each valve.
  • Pairing pulse monitor (human BPM) with tempo.

To be truthful, I produce work…  WEEKLY. My error honestly has been not thoroughly documenting my failures which are small victories. Each week, although frustrating, brings me closer to my end goal and ultimately what I envisioned from the beginning; a functional and engaging instrument that is symbolic to me and encourages the use of  ENERGY!

One Comment

  1. Evy says:

    I love how much effort you put into this. I can’t wait to see the end result!

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