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Sound to light drums

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Louie Pollard

Newbie level 3
Sep 7, 2015
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Hello techy people! I have a dilemma/task for you to help me with:) I dont know much about complex circuitry but I know the basics. So, heres what I want: im building a drum kit & I want to put lights in each drum & I want the lights to flash when hit. Sounds simple, but theres other things I want... Here are the specifics:
A box with 4 options & an on off switch, idealy powered by batteries.
Option 1: the lights in the drums light up when hit & slowly fade
Option 2: the lights fade up (rather than snaping on) & then fade out like in option 1
Option 3: lights change colour when hit
Option 4: a quick flash
Those are the 4 things I want the lights to do, other things to bare in mind are that I also want The brightness to be controlled by how loud the hit was & I know that a sound activated module is probably the best way to go in terms of triggering the lights
What my main question is, is:
How would I do this?
Can I have a circuit diagram?
Can I have some amazon links for the components?
P.S idealy no microprocessors & I need it to be cheep!

I'll offer a couple of ideas, maybe no use at all/maybe no use to you:
Look at transducers, a pressure sensor inside each drum may be a start (unless they'll get broken very quickly - padding between the drum skin and the sensor might help).

In a similar way, I don't know if you couldn't use an electret mic in each drum to transform the sound/ to a voltage, probably not, but it's an idea (may also need padding/protection). Anyway, they also need additional circuitry to do anything useful.

A very simple option for changing colour when hit is to use a CD4017 or similar to go through up to 10 diferent outputs, but possibly you'd need external transistor drivers for the lights - so maybe with a couple of ULN2003 type devices, you can skip adding individual transistors, which makes it easier to put together.

Option 1 (fading aspect of the option): a pretty pathetic and bad - but simple - way of doing it is to add capacitors to the lights, which will discharge "slowly" once the signal has gone and give the effect of "slowly fading".

Option 4: a robust momentary n/o pushbutton in each drum, no doubt also with protection/padding (I have no idea what sort of drumming you may mean, I doubt it's gentle and more like thumping the skins)

The box with 4 options - a rotary switch with 5 positions/a toggle switch with 4 positions + a simple on-off rocker or toggle switch/a slider switch/a 4 position DIP switch (not ideal - very small though)/a CD4017 or similar that cycles through the 4 options every time you push a button, but that is a bit more involved to make than a ready-made switch.

No idea how to do option 2, but I'd love to hear other people's suggestions as to how to do it.

Really, for something ready-made and cheap it's worth looking at electronics and electrical suppliers like digikey/RS/farnell/etc.../etc... for KITS, I don't know, audiophile webs may have solutions/part solutions, but I do know that e.g. Velleman make all manner of kits that are pre-made or you can buy the same kits and solder the components yourself - but I doubt they have anything so specific, to be honest.

Sorry I can't be of more help.

I nearly forgot - you will probably need a lot of relays for the lights, unless they are little LEDs.

- - - Updated - - -

...and I'm not sure but I think you could make your own "Touch" buttons using copper tape, stuck onto the drum skin, maybe; if that's feasible you could perhaps even have several different simple "buttons" (input devices) on each drum.
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Thats very helpfull, much more so than other people who have just suggested music syncing lights & ready made drum lights:)

Thank you.
Right, yeah, ready-made drum lights...I just looked, and what can I say, I have a money tree in my back garden too :)

Also, here are links to kits or a couple of circuits that may not be ideal, but might be useful, even just to give you ideas of your own to modify them, and the Laurier guy's web has little gems here and there, maybe worth the time to take a look, he has the odd music related circuit here and there, and his are simple enough to put together (might be worth viewing "Fun with the CMOS 4017 Counter"):

**broken link removed**

If you can bear to, it might be worth researching Arduino/Raspberry Pi/Beaglebone type devices, as for what you'd spend on analogue components, and the time putting it all together, you may find that you can copy/paste a lot of code snippets from all over the web, suffer a bit tweaking to get the code right, and get a much more sophisticated set-up where you set fade up then fade down and more, etc. - I'm coming to the conclusion that the time spent prototyping analogue components (which I really enjoy - but whose functionality and need for a table-top size circuit board massively limits some of the more ever-so-slightly complex circuits I try to make) is the same as suffering Arduino type things, but with the latter you get pretty swish results in much less space (copy/paste!).

Hope it goes well.

Thats helpfull again! After looking more into the microprocessor angle, any recommendations for cheep ones that i can get on

Hi, I really don't know about microprocessors, sorry, and I'm not sure if you don't actually mean microcontroller or PIC perhaps.
I'm just beginning to struggle miserably with a Pi type of device (which will no doubt produce end results as sloppy as half my analogue circuits turn out!) - which has the benefit of looking on a par with Visual Basic type coding, i.e. normal human beings can pick it up relatively quickly and relatively painlessly + a fair amount involves copy/paste; put differently, it only takes two hours of nothing working instead of ten (after two days of Python, by now I am a real pro at creating "Invalid Syntax" scripts, not sure if that's good 'though!)

From what I understand, the Raspberry Pi is basically a small computer you can connect your home-made gadgets/circuits to, and Arduino is basically a microcontroller device with other stuff on it to connect your home-made circuits/gadgets to, but both need little scripts written to drive whatever you've made.
As far as I understand, microcontrollers need an interface cable/Device between PC and PIC, which you can probably make yourself - but there's a limit to how long the original project can become (believe me, bad as I am with electronics it seems that you start at A, but A needs B to work, then B needs C to work, and then before you know it you have to go right through to Z in order to complete A more often than not, thank goodness this is all fun, mostly), the above things like Arduinos can have whatever you've written uploaded via a USB cable from your PC, or a USB stick, which is a big plus on not needing endless additional accessories or learning how to be a NASA JPL or CERN engineer just to get a motor to spin/a light to turn on, in my opinion.

This web seems to have a lot of advice about the ATMEGA ("AVR family of `micro-controllers' (uCs)"), if you scroll down the page you'll get some idea of whether you want this sort of device:

This is one you could look at:

And the datasheet is here:

...from this page with other documents to look at to get some idea:

The Microcontrollers section here may shed a lot more light, and far less ignorance, than I can.
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Piezo beepers may serve as microphones for your drums. They can bear up when exposed to sound which is high impact and high volume.

I did experiments with tapping an inexpensive piezo unit. It gives an output as high as 1/10 VAC. So if you bias a transistor just to the right point, it will turn on in response to the additional voltage from a piezo unit.

The piezo unit will need to be connected securely to the drum.

You may consider using a microphone, but it probably will pickup nearby drums. I believe you want a pickup unit that responds only to the drum it is attached to.

Furthermore a microphone needs more careful attention when designing an amplifier for it.

Pretty simple design.

Precision OA peak detector with variable gain.
Selected dynamic filter, amplitude controlled envelope to comparator. with PWM
1. fast attack , slow decay,
2. auto ,max peak and hold controlled brightness with slow attack and decay.
3.same as 1 except trigger advances MUX'd output on leading edge
4 differentiated envelope amplitude control with fast attack and decay 40 ms.

Piezo beepers may serve as microphones for your drums.
A piezo beeper has a transistor oscillator circuit inside. You need a piezo transducer that is simply a piezo speaker that is also a microphone or vibration sensor.

I think the drummer who does not know about complex circuitry should start with a simple circuit to make a light flash when the drum is hit.
Then he can add a fade away circuit.
Then he can add a fade up circuit.
Then he can add a circuit to change the colors.
Then he can add a quick flash circuit.
Then he can add a circuit to change the brightness by how loud the hit was.
Or buy a drum kit that is already designed to do these things.

A piezo beeper has a transistor oscillator circuit inside. You need a piezo transducer that is simply a piezo speaker that is also a microphone or vibration sensor.

Yes, a beeper could mean a 3-wire type which contains extraneous circuitry. It's hard to be certain from the general names 'beeper/ buzzer/ transducer'. We cannot be sure which type is guaranteed to produce a usable signal.

I tried 2-wire piezo units, and a 3-wire. When tapped, all produced a voltage around 50-200 mV.

I have always used a 2-wires piezo transducer as a transducer and I have always used a 2-wires piezo beeper as a beeper.

Hi Louie,

I've deciphered SunnySkyguy's reply to you to a degree, and he makes a very good point, if I've understood the gist of what he's referring to. You may know more about this stuff if you're into music. ADSR.

if you're willing to have a go with a PIC, and this thing is still produced, this may be - in inverted commas - a big step towards a compact solution, to a degree, programming it apart, maybe the company who make it have resources on their web to copy/paste bits from:

Other links to this type of circuit you could try if you want, or look into, which at first glance require no programming/code snippets but are analogue device-based:

There are loads more descriptive and circuit schematic links on the Internet if you have a search. You'd still need to figure out a suitable input device, whether sensors, transducers, piezo buzzers/transducers, simple robust pushbuttons, or whatever input device looks like it'll work, and adapt the circuit for the output you want, but I hope this stuff gives you some ideas and saves you time and headaches/head-scratching.
Not knowing what you know and don't, just want to point out that putting things together means thinking of the voltage level they can handle max. or the minimum they need as an input, and (at least) the maximum voltage level something can output, and that you may need transistors and relays as nuts and bolts to amplify voltage levels and interface between different power supply voltages or between DC and AC between whatever circuit you put together and the lights if it's a lot of LEDs or some other type of lighting.
If you've fiddled with power audio amplifiers or the like you'll probably have a fair idea of the AC and DC mixture power side of things anyway. Hope it's going well.

- - - Updated - - -

...and more ideas... If you prefer to keep to fairly simple circuits for your project, but don't mind soldering for a week, then things you could look at are:

The 555 timer IC, it is unbelievably versatile and very simple to put together (not always the surrounding circuitry, but the timer itself is), and there and - possibly literally - thousands of circuits all over the Internet you can use it in (type "555 circuits" or similar into a search engine).

Logic ICs (maybe, but not necessarily, combined with something like the CD4017) are also a way of doing what you want to but may end up being very large circuits - analogue...
Logic gates often come in four to a chip. AND gates, OR gates, XOR gates, etc, can be used separately or combined to make interesting outcomes, and you can get 2, 3, 4 gate devices.
NOT gates, inverters can be a handy "get round a sticking point" device if you need something to be off when it should be on and on when it should be off, and maybe Schmidt triggers also help to avoid unwanted responses if you're using drums and sound activated trigger devices. Buffers can be used to turn one input into up to ten outputs, with limitations you'd have to read about, like all ICs.
Switch debouncing can be done with a resistor and a capacitor in parallel between the input trigger and the triggered device, especially where pushbuttons are concerned; there's often no need for horrendously complex debouncing circuits using ICs in my limited experience, in fact some of the IC debounce circuits are far worse at debouncing than a 1M resistor and a 10nF capacitor in parallel.
Besides recommending looking at OpAmp building blocks, as they are also useful tools and very versatile, Window Comparators to limit what triggers when,
I can't think of anything else.

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