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Make Your Own Digital Music Stand

Over the last few months I’ve been looking at options for setting up a digital music stand. These have been around for a bit, and with the advent of tablets are becoming more accessible. But lets say you have a budget, and a bit of DIY flair. This is a very simple project that with a bit of knowhow, you can do in a weekend.

The Parts

Before you start, you will need the following:

  • Digital Music Stand – Surplustronics
  • Old USB Mouse
  • Box Casing
  • Speaker Wire
  • 2x Momentary Switches
  • Drill
  • Soldering Iron

The Mouse

Find an old USB mouse you aren’t using. The likely hood is, you won’t use it again anyway, so lets put it to good use!
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Once you pull it apart, you’ll notice that the click buttons actually link to two (or three) very small switches. Mine looked like this:

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Remove the left and right switches using a soldering iron to loosen the two attached stems to pull it out. Remember where the pins go into, as you will have to wire in the new switches to these same points – as you can see below (at the top of the circuit board).

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The wires that you wire in place need to be as long as the shaft of your music stand to allow it to be extended. Use speaker wire as this has two wires in one. Solder these wires to some slightly larger momentary switches than the ones from the mouse.

Note: you will be unable to use the standard “footswitches” (see below) that are provided for such projects, as these are latched switches, rather than momentary (meaning that when you click it, it stays “on” until you click it again – essentially holding down the mouse button!)

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The Box

The inside circuit of the mouse needs to have somewhere to sit. I purchased a die-cast aluminuim box, which was a little tall, so I had to cut it down to a more reasonable size with a hacksaw. Initially, I was going to mount the new buttons on this box, and have it as a foot pedal box at the bottom of the stand. Ideally, it would then be attached to one of the legs.

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A brainwave however revealed an idea to just install the switches on a longer wire that run into the legs of the stand. The box could then be installed up the top of the stand where it is out of the way.

The Switch

To get the switch in the leg, drill a pilot hole with a 2mm drill bit. Then use a bit that is slightly wider than the thread on the momentary switch.

Also, whilst the drill is out, get a bit that is slightly thicker than the speaker wire and drill a hole at the top of the leg mount.

Remove the plastic foot off the end of the leg, and slide a guitar string or other firm wire down the hole to the end of the leg. Attach the speaker wire to the guitar string and pull the wire up the leg of the stand, and up through the hole at the leg mount.

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Pull this gently and position the switch in place. It is a bit fiddly, as the switch may not have much room to be put on an angle and slid up into the hole you drilled for it. I used the drill bit again and made the hole slightly bigger so that I could maneuver the switch into place. Wind on the nut to the switch to hold this firmly in place on the leg.

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With that in place, you could decide to also run the “back” button (right mouse button) down to an adjacent leg. Just depends on what functionality you want. For the moment, I have kept the “back” button (right mouse button) on a shorted cable and will have it near the top of the stand.

The Stand

The next task is to drill the mount holes into the stand. To do this, I simply got out a drill bit that fit into the holes in the aluminum box, and made quick indents down these onto the stand. After that, removing the box and applying pressure, four drill holes were made.

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From there, the box with the old mouse circuit board will be mounted underneath.

Run the speaker wire up from the foot leg and solder into the right spot on the mouse circuit board. Then run the USB cable into a laptop and check that it all works. Then put the circuit board into the box, make sure it all fits, and drill a couple of holes on the edge to allow wires to exit.

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Then you can get four bolts and mount the box to the under-side of the stand.

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The Software

The best software I have found that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is a little free program called “VirtMus”. It runs using Java, so you do need to make sure that it’s installed on your operating system. This allows it to run on just about any system. Download it from here: virtmus.com

The cool thing about VirtMus is that it allows you to create playlists – or set lists if you will of your songs. It loads in the PDF song sheets and displays them two up on your screen. Clicking on “Go Live” sends you to fullscreen mode. Left mouse click advances the page. Right click goes back to the previous sheet.

That’s pretty much it.

Here’s little video of it in action.

Digital Music Stand – Alpha 01 from Al Ingham on Vimeo.

A Little History…

Over the last few months I’ve been looking at options for setting up a digital music stand. Now, don’t get me wrong; I know these things have been out for years. But being that the most of my live playing is at church, it is a cheaper option to go with the traditional paper set up. In addition to this, I have actually been slowly memorising the songs by heart so that I don’t actually need the music. However, over the last two years, I have begun worship leading on a regular basis, and have found having the music in front of me a new requirement, as I often forget the words!

So, being the technoDIYgeek I am, I set about figuring out how to build one myself. Many of my projects recently I’ve been looking at building things on next to nothing from reclaimed or recycled materials. I was also lucky in this project to receive a $200 gift voucher, which I used some of to purchase the parts.