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Picture of Customizable Piano Music Box

A musical gift for someone NOTEable...

A friend surprised me with a birthday gift, and I wanted to return the favor by creating something personalized to his interests. He's pretty amazing on the piano, so I had originally planned to record one of the clips he's sent me on a recording greeting card and write a note... boring, I know. When I got the card, however, I noticed that the electronics formed a shape similar to a grand piano.

Essentially, I built a mini piano and rigged the recording greeting card to play a song whenever the piano's cover is lifted past a threshold. There's a spring on the underside of the cover so that when a finger presses and releases the cover, it causes the spring to hyperextend past the threshold and trigger the song (go to this link for music box in action; the video is also attached below for convenience). The recording only plays for 30 seconds, but you can also press down on the lid until it turns off.

Step 1: Materials

  • Recording greeting card
    • You can choose to buy just the recording module for ~$3 or a full greeting card version for ~$12. The card is completely unnecessary, but I got that option because it was from Amazon prime so I could get it quickly within 2 days. The recording module would take around 4 weeks to ship from China, even though it costs much less.
    • There are different shapes for the circuit, so you might need to play around with the piano cutting files that I provide. The circuit in the Amazon card happened to be almost perfect for a grand piano shape, but this one for example is suboptimal because the circle is above the center of the rectangle instead of tangent to the left edge.
  • laser cutter access
    • I have this courtesy of my university, but for those who don't have this, you could outsource to online services such as or talk to a makerspace near you
  • acrylic or wood to laser cut
    • To get the black grand piano aesthetic, I used 1/8" thick black acrylic. I made prototypes in 1/8" wood since it's cheaper though. You could also use black stain on wood, but laser cut wood edges won't match your color scheme.
  • glue (super glue works well for acrylic)
  • tape
  • printer (the keyboard keys are printed on paper and cut out)
  • retractable pen that you don't care about (this is the type that you press a button to reveal the ballpoint: you just need to take it apart for the spring)
  • laser cutting files (attached at the bottom of this step)
  • If you want to design your own laser cut box:
    • CAD software: I used SolidWorks, but Autodesk Fusion 360, CATIA, or Pro/E are alternatives
    • graphic design software: I used Adobe Illustrator, but Corel Draw or Inkscape (free!) are alternatives
piano.ai251 KB
1000230391 year ago

but can it play we are number one?

cdavenport1 year ago

Excellent Instructable! The ebay source for the inexpensive module-only option is sold out as of 12/21/17. While I have no doubt the item will be in stock again, for those who must have the module right now, Amazon has the same basic item, 109 seconds of recording time, for $6.45, shipping included. Here's the url:

watchmeflyy (author)  cdavenport1 year ago

Ah, thank you for the heads up! I preferred 2 day shipping courtesy of Amazon Prime, and for that the modules alone are $13+. It's surprising because the card version costs less than that...


watchmeflyy (author)  LegoSurvivor1 year ago

Thank you!