The Raspberry Pi is a remarkable little gizmo. You can turn it into almost anything digital you can think of. And so several of our musically inclined tinkerers did. From a fantastic music player to a full-fledged audio workstation, these Pi Music projects will blow your mind.
For all of these, you’ll need a starter’s Raspberry Pi kit, along with additional parts according to the project. None of them are too expensive, but some might require you to tinker with code and solder parts.
Beginner: Pi Musicbox and RuneAudio
The Musicbox is the online Pi community’s favorite thing to build a music player out of the Raspberry Pi. And you can see why, when the Pi Musicbox makes everything so easy. Anyone who has never even used a Pi before can make this.
There’s a brief how-to on the Musicbox site, but if you want more detailed step-by-step instructions, follow this guide on CodeProject. You’ll soon be able to use the Pi to stream Spotify, Google Play Music, or anything else you want. And it doesn’t need a screen once set up. Heck, if you want, add an old speaker for a standalone player. You can control everything from a phone, tablet, or a computer.
And Apple fans, there’s some good news. The Musicbox supports Airplay, making it perhaps the cheapest Airplay receiver out there.
A similar project, RuneAudio touts itself as the better option for audiophiles. Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be much to differentiate the two, and Pi Musicbox supports more services. But nonetheless, try both out. I liked RuneAudio’s interface a bit more, but ended up going back to the Musicbox because of Google Play Music.
With either choice, you can also add a touchscreen to the Pi and control music directly from it. In this case, it’s also a good idea to load up plenty of songs on a USB drive and stick it into the Pi, so that Musicbox or RuneAudio reads it.
Beginner: YouTube-Based Party Jukebox [No Longer Available]
The partytube jukebox is a wonderful idea for parties. Based on YouTube, the end result is a QR code that anyone can scan to connect to the party’s playlist. Once they’re in, they can add any song from YouTube to the playlist.
The actual build is surprisingly easy too. You’ll only need a Pi with Raspbian and a few simple scripts that you can download off Github. If you want, the guide also tells you how to add NFC support, but you can skip this step. It’s a lot of unnecessary work.
Beginner: Play One Song, and That One Song Only
What’s the point of having a cheap Pi with you if you aren’t going to do something silly with it? The P.S.S.P. (Pi Single Song Player) is the perfect project to annoy your friends or celebrate something cool.
As the name suggests, this thing will play one song every time you trigger it. You get to choose the song in advance, of course. The setup requires hardly any work in terminal, so go on, give this strange one a whirl — it’s not even in the top 10 weirdest Raspberry Pi projects we have seen.
Beginner: Learn to Code Through Music
The Sonic Pi is one of the oldest and best beginner projects for kids and adults. It essentially helps you learn to code through music. The idea is to “build” or write music through the use of sounds.
Using samples, scales, chords, and other musical sounds, operators have to lay together a tune. But all of the laying happens through code, so you are learning basic programming language skills as you go.
Beginner: Turn Pi Into a Cheap Audio Workstation
This isn’t a project as much as an additional gizmo, but PiSound is a miraculous device for amateur musicians. It’s a €99 ($117) addon that turns the Pi into a full-fledged audio workstation, with both MIDI and stereo ports.
The PiSound also has a single button that can be custom-coded to do anything you want. The idea is to turn PiSound into a headless device for musicians (i.e. without keyboard, mouse, or monitor). But hey, you might just want to check some of these free music creation tools for Linux.
Intermediate: Sonos-Like Multi-Room Music Player
The Sonos music system has an excellent (albeit expensive) idea. Set up wireless speakers in different rooms of your house, and the same music plays on all. With a Raspberry Pi, you can make that setup at home.
There are quite a few guides for this online, but Instructables user Piney offers the best, in our opinion. Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of code that appears in the tutorial. It’s all a matter of copy-pasting it into the Terminal window. In fact, the most difficult part of the article is setting up your static IP and SSH, which is fairly straightforward.
Intermediate: Private Streaming Music Player With Subsonic
While Spotify and Apple Music are great, they don’t have everything for everyone. If you have a large collection of your own music files, you can set up your own private streaming music player. All you need is a Raspberry Pi and a subscription to Subsonic Premium.
Essentially, this is your own private Spotify, but a little better. You’ll need to load up all the music on your Pi, so maybe connect a large portable hard drive. In the end, you get to share the music with your friends and build collaborative playlists. It costs just one buck every month, so it’s quite worth it.
Advanced: Broadcast Your Own Radio Station
This is one of the most advanced projects in this list, which requires a bit of soldering and tinkering with code. Well, code is taking it too far, it’s simply changing a few lines in a text file.
Once you have built and attached the antenna as illustrated in the guide, things get easy. In fact, because of the size of the whole thing, you can actually carry it around with you. Imagine that, you can broadcast your own FM radio station from anywhere in the world.
Advanced: Gesture Controlled Pi Music Player
When you can control your Windows PC with Kinect and your Mac with Leap Motion, what’s stopping you from waving your hands to control a Pi music player? This gesture-controlled “Wavepad” is surprisingly easy to build and use too.
Look, it’s no surprise that you’ll need a little bit of soldering in this one, but the end result is worth it when you look at the video. With a wave of your hand, you can skip forward or back, and increase or decrease the volume. So cool!
Advanced: Play a Theme Song When You Enter a Room
Why should WWE wrestlers have all the fun? John Cena might be the world champion, but you are the champion of your own house. So give yourself a grand entrance theme into your abode with this project.
Advanced: Pi Music Fingers
This is one of the coolest and most advanced projects you can undertake with the Raspberry Pi. It’ll require plenty of soldering, 3D printing, some hot glue, and a bunch of add-ons. And that’s not even counting all the code you’ll have to get into. But just look at that end result above. Is that not worth it?
Super Advanced: Piano Stairs
To call this project “advanced” is to do it disservice. But Bonnie Eisenman’s incredible piano stairs are actually possible to make. It’s complex and nuanced, but with her clear instructions, plenty of others have replicated it.
Eisenman’s technique uses both an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi, and plenty of other doodads like photoresistors and small LEDs. But set it up right and you’ll be the most popular person around.
What Did We Miss?
We made this list only with those projects which have a tutorial on how to accomplish them. There are several others without instructions, such as the fantastic Easy As Pi system to learn how to play piano chords, or how about this awesome FM Touch Synth?
If Arduino is more your style, why not take a look at how to make a MIDI controller with an Arduino — it’s a perfect companion to these Pi music projects!
Are there other cool music-based projects with the Raspberry Pi that we missed? Which is your favorite of those listed here? Let us know in the comments below!