Pipa Hero is a tool/game that educates through simplicity. By using a pentatonic scale rather than any entire tonal family, a familiar Guitar Hero-like interaction can be utilized to inspire music theory education.
In many ways I was inspired by the work of Harry Partch, Don Buchla, Make Noise, and more. However, rather than a tool to help expand capability, I wanted to apply Game Design-style lesson teaching as games often take the approach of limited-scope education and practice. A popular criticism of Guitar Hero is that it was simply a game and not really a tool for learning guitar. Though Pipa Hero as well will not teach you where to put your hands on any real instrument, by having each note express a particular note (at any octave), players may in a well understood and fun format and learn scales and tonal relationships in a guided, natural, and non-overwhelming manner. In addition, the application of real Chinese tonal systems may introduce many to the ideas of microtonality and non-Western scales and tonal systems.
For the hardware, I just had a series of 5 push buttons. The Arduino ran Firmatta so the settings could be adjusted in Processing.
As demonstrated by the last video, the hardware is used to control the pitch and amplitude of a synthesizer voice based in Processing. The scale has been chosen and quantized in accordance to a song planned to be in the accompanied game. However, that part did not come together.
A Guitar Hero-like companion game was nearly running. However, I could not solve a lack of syncing between the audio and the scrolling notes, making it virtually non-functional.