Add disco lights to your Raspberry Pi using the PiGlow add-on

What is the PiGlow?

The PiGlow was one of the earliest add-on boards for the Raspberry Pi, and it's still on sale now. It only requires 20 GPIO pins, so it works with the earliest models of the Raspberry Pi, as well as the latest generations, including the Raspberry Pi 4.

The PiGlow adds 18 LEDs to your Raspberry Pi, arranged in a spiral made up of three legs of six LEDs. Each LED has a fixed colour: you can't make the red LEDs light up green, for example.

The PiGlow reminds me of the boxes of disco lights you see around a DJ deck at a wedding, so I thought I'd see whether the lights can be animated while music plays.

The PiGlow add on board, with three spirals of six LEDs illuminated.

You can use the PiGlow board to add disco lights to your Raspberry Pi!

Using Pygame to play music

I'm using the Python playsound module to play the music in Raspberry Radio, because it's concise and easy to use. You can alternatively use Pygame. The downside is that you need to convert your MP3 files to OGG format. The upside is that you can run animations, such as disco lights, while the music is playing.

Here's how to convert your MP3 files to OGG format:

  1. Install Soundconverter. You can use the Add/Remove software tool or enter: sudo apt install soundconverter in the terminal.
  2. Run Soundconverter and click the tool icon to access the settings. Choose where the OGG files should be stored, and check the file conversion settings are right. Click Close when you've finished.

    Soundconverter menu options, showing you can change where the OGG files are stored.

  3. Click the folder icon to browse to the folder of MP3s you'd like to convert. Then click the Convert button in the top left.

    Soundconverter main window showing list of files.

    How to play music using Pygame and add PiGlow animations while the music plays

    Here's the code to play an OGG file using Pygame, with an LED animation on the PiGlow add-on board. It uses Pygame to play the audio, and while it is playing, it runs an animation sequence on the PiGlow. This animation sequence code is taken from the PiGlow documentation.

    Change the audio filename to your chosen song. You can combine this code with my Raspberry Radio code to play lots of tracks with illuminations.

    import pygame
    import piglow, time
    def play_mp3(mp3_filename):
        mixer = pygame.mixer
        sound_to_play = mixer.Sound(mp3_filename)
        sound_to_play.set_volume(0.5)  # tweak to balance with voice volume
        channel =
        i = 0
        while channel.get_busy():  # Don't return until MP3 finishes playing
            piglow.set(i % 18, [15, 31, 63, 127, 255, 127, 63, 31, 15])
            i += 1

    More Raspberry Pi projects

    Find more Raspberry Pi projects and tutorials here.


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