Parsing Digital Sheet Music MXL Files – Stranger Things Theme Song on Arduino

Arduino Stranger ThingsI’ve been toying around with playing music using simple tones on the Arduino. I’m no composer or musician so looking around for sheet music I eventually stumbled across MXL files on a few sites like Below I have posted a sample of the Arduino playing the Stranger Things theme song.

MXL is a compressed XML file that contains the Sheet Music data, Credits, Parts, Voice Definitions, Notes, Tempo and Durations along with other information. Basically a universal format designed for composing music, project sharing and several additional applications.

Ok so MXL files, what I keyed in on was that the MXL file contained the Notes and their Durations. This is perfect because you can create a simple Arduino code to play notes if you have this information. Sorting through these files is very daunting and time consuming so I decided to create a simple app to parse this information to use it more easily.

This app was banged out pretty quickly so please forgive possible errors. Because some MXL files are compressed and others are not I built in the code necessary to unpackage the XML before parsing. The app allows me to separate the notes by voice with their durations. In addition I placed a numeric control that limits the amount of notes that get parsed. A screenshot example is on the left.

Huge thanks to Shvelo who’s Ruby code got me pointed in the right direction.

I have this project posted on GitHub where you can obtain the code for the app as well as the Arduino sample code.

You can download the compiled app from GitHub.

Arduino SetupPlaying the Stranger Things theme song on the Arduino was a bit tricky tweaking the tempo to make it sound right but way easier without having to manually extract the notes and durations. To the left is the simple Arduino setup using piezo from a walkie talkie wired to pin 8 and ground on the controller. Ignore the other wires because they’re not used here.

A thanks to Riley Apperson on MuseScore for his/her Composition of the Stranger Things Theme.

Primitive Shelter Building – Lessons Learned

  • Time –  Make sure you give yourself as much time as possible to build your shelter but not so much that you neglect other survival needs. We only had about an hour before we lost daylight. Remember if you are doing this for multiple days you can improve your shelter as time passes.
  • Make sure you have a relatively flat surface to lay down (being on a hill side makes it tough to get comfortable and remain safe)
  • Make sure that you cover as much surface area with branches and sticks
  • Height – During warming temperatures you will want the roof of your shelter higher and leave open the sides to allow for air flow. In the colder periods you will want the roof lower and as much of the sides closed so that the dead air space will aide in trapping warmth. Note you will not want it so low that you can’t sit up (very uncomfortable) and if you have a fire this will increase your chances to pose a danger of drying out your shelter and it possibly catching fire. I wish I would have made the shelter a bit higher and more closed in on the sides.
  • Bedding – You will want to pad the ground with as much as possible but prepare for some aches in the following days regardless.
  • Fire – One of the most essential tools to survival. You will want this a reasonable distance from your shelter but not so much that it does not provide heat for you. I may have had the fire a little close to the shelter because some of the shelter materials started to dry out and blacken through out the night. I’m not going to complain too much because it kept me warm and I was never asleep very deep or for more than 45 minutes at a time. We did one thing right! When gathering fire wood make sure you get enough to last the night. You will not want to burn more than absolutely needed so that your supply lasts the night plus it makes tending the fire a lot easier and safer to maintain. If you’re relying on the fire for warmth you will not want to sleep for long periods, I mean you will but won’t have a hard time when you get cold or uncomfortable,  because you will need the hot coals to build the fire back up when it dies down which also reminds me that you will need various types and sizes of fuel to include small sticks and twigs to thumb size pieces, dry leaves & grass.
  • You will not want to skip the step of smoking out your shelter to remove insects and other creatures. Almost all living creatures have a natural disposition to fire. When we did this to the shelter a quarter size scorpion came out from the shelter and from under Mick.

Preparedness vs Reaction

Being prepared and reacting are two separate things. Preparedness is what resources, training and the mindset you have. Reaction is how you respond to a situation. You may be saying to yourself those are directly related and not necessarily something that can be compared. Just as an example everyone has either met or heard of that guy who has every tool known to man without a clue when it comes to using them or at least using them correctly. Point is that when comes to being prepared and reacting you can’t have one in its fullest capacity without the other.

Imagine yourself  having wrecked while driving down the road with friends or loved ones in the vehicle. What is your initial reaction? You see two people injured, who do you help first? If that’s not enough of a stressful situation, if you haven’t had first aid training in a while or not at all you are probably not going to do anyone any good and you may hinder the situation.

If you haven’t trained or practiced in a while, well you know that statement like riding a bicycle? It is never that easy not even with a bicycle. There can’t be enough emphasis on training and practice. With training and practice in place it will be much easier to make those critical quick mental notes and assessments while remaining calm which is the key to dealing with any situation.

In conclusion, you can’t just buy preparedness. Be prepared, be trained and be practiced.



Consider this to be a living document and will be updated and revised when necessary.

Urban Survival Part 1

What is Urban Survival? Part 1

So when most people think about disasters they most likely associate Fema and the Red Cross. Others may stumble across wiki articles on survivalsurvival websitessurvival blogs, simple search results, etc. Don’t misunderstand, these may be good resources or starting places and you should consider reviewing them. Just remember that you can know anything but if you don’t practice that knowledge could be useless.

Boiled down to the basics for Urban Survival

  • Be aware
  • Know your surroundings
    • Threats and/or Dangers (Environmental, Structural, People)
  • Know what resources you have and note the unlikely resources (Environmental, Structural, People)
    • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
  • Do what’s neccessary
  • Inventory
  • Make a plan
  • Shelter options
  • Water
  • Food
  • Energy
    • Normally fire and still could be but can also include power, lights, etc
  • Don’t take unnecessary risks

Good resources for those starting out

In The Rabbit Hole Urban Survival Podcast What’s easier than listening while carrying out other tasks like driving? Disaster types and response plans

Consider this to be a living document and will be updated and revised when necessary.

Wilderness Survival Part 1

What is Wilderness Survival?

Wiki entry for Survival Skills states that “Survival skills are techniques a person may use in a dangerous situation”. Dared to Survive says that Wilderness Survival is the ability to survive in the wilderness throughout various seasons and weather conditions.

People are most likely to use these skills when they have found themselves to be lost or injured in the wilderness.

Rules of Three

If you know a little about the outdoors then you have probably heard of the rules of three. These are very basic rules to follow when establishing priorities of survival.

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

In addition to these people often look at psychology and the human need for companionship as a key component of any type of survival.

Situational Awareness

  • Make Lists
  • Threats
    • Injury
    • Weather
    • Terrain
    • Wildlife (to include plants, insects)
  • Resources
    • Know what resources you may have based upon geographic
    • Establishing a safe place to for your shelter.
    • Explore (wagon wheel method) area for resources.
  • Not taking unnecessary risks.


FM 21-76 Army Survival Manual

Survival Actions at



Consider this to be a living document and will be updated and revised when necessary.