Forgotten Rock Band Drum Controller as a MIDI Instrument

Happen to have an old Rock Band drum controller collecting dust in your living room? If you also have a spare Arduino and don’t mind parting with that plastic college memento then you’ve got the bulk of what could potentially be your new percussive MIDI instrument. In his project video [Evan Kale] outlines the steps necessary to turn that unloved plastic into a capable instrument for recording.

The whole process as outlined by [Evan] in under seven minutes. This looks like a great weekend endeavor for those of us just starting out with MIDI. After cracking the back of the Guitar Hero drum kit controller open, the main board within is easily replaced with a standard sized Ardunio (which matches the present mounting holes exactly). About 4:50 into the video [Evan] explains how to add a basic perf-board shield over the Arduino which connects the piezo sensors in each of the drum pads to the analog pins of the micro-controller. The MIDI jack that comes built into the back of the kit can also be reused as MIDI out when wired to the Arduino’s serial out pin. By adjusting [Evan’s] example code you can dial in the instrument’s feedback to match the intensity of each hit.

The video with all of the details is after the jump. Or you can check out a MIDI hack that goes the other way and uses a drum kit as a Guitar Hero or Rock Band controller instead

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Pendulum MIDI Controller Really Swings

Once in a while, we see a project that makes us want to stop whatever we’re doing and build our own version of it. This time, it’s Modulum, a pendulum-based MIDI controller. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The swinging pendulum acts as a low-frequency oscillator. In the demo video configuration, you can hear it add a watery, dreamlike quality, sort of like a lap steel guitar on LSD.

The pendulum’s motion is detected by four pieces of stretchy, conductive cord. These are wired to an Arduino Nano in a voltage divider fashion. [Evan and Kirk] used the Maxuino library to determine x and y mapping of possible pendular positions as well as perform the necessary MIDI processing. Get your groove on after the break, and check out some of the many other fantastic MIDI controllers we’ve had the pleasure of covering.

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The Hard Drive MIDI Controller

[shantea] builds MIDI controllers, and after a successful first endeavor with a matrix of buttons and knobs, he decided to branch out to something a little bit cooler. It’s called Ceylon, and it’s effectively a turntable controller built from an old hard drive.

As a contrast to the first MIDI controller, this would be a stripped-down build, with just three faders, LEDs for eye candy, a pair of pots for gain control, and a hard disk surrounded by six anti-vandal buttons. The hard disk is the star of the show, acting as a rotary encoder.

When manually spun, the hard disk generates a few phases of sinusoidal waves. The faster you spin it, the higher the amplitude and frequency. These signals are far too weak to be sampled directly by a microcontroller, and for digital control – as in, MIDI – you don’t need to read the analog signals anyway. These signals were turned digital with the help of an LM339 quad comparator. With two of these comparators and signals out of the hard disk that are 90 degrees out of phase, quadrature encoding is pretty easy.

The software for this MIDI controller is based on the OpenDeck Platform, a neat system that allows anyone to create their own MIDI controllers and devices.  It’s also a great looking board that seems to perform well. Video below.

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A Custom Control Surface for Audio/Video Editing

Control surfaces (input devices with sliders, encoders, buttons, etc) are often used in audio and video editing, where they provide an easy way to control editing software. Unfortunately even small control surfaces are fairly expensive. To avoid shelling out for a commercial control surface, [Victor] developed his own custom control surface that sends standard MIDI commands which can be interpreted by nearly any DAW software.

[Victor]’s control surface includes several buttons, a display, and a rotary encoder. His firmware sends MIDI commands whenever a button is pressed or the rotary encoder is turned. [Victor] plans on adding menu functionality to the currently unused LCD display which will allow the user to change the scrubbing speed and other various settings.

One advantage of making your own control surface is that you can customize it to your own needs. [Victor] has posted a model of his 3d-printed enclosure and his source code on the project page so you can easily modify his design with any button configuration you might want.

The 128 Button, 6 Axis, 17 Slider, 4 POV Hat Switch Joystick Controller

stick

[Paul Stoffregen], creator of the Teensy series of dev boards, previously implemented a six-axis joystick for Teensyduino, the Arduino library for the Teensy. He had originally tried 8 axes, but a few problems cropped up, deadlines approached, and he left it as is. A few recent projects gave him some insight into how to implement a joystick with more than six axes as a USB HID device, so he started looking at how to read an improbable amount of pots and buttons for a USB joystick.

So far, the biggest problem is figuring out what software can actually use an HID joystick with this many controls. The answer to that question is none. The Linux-based jstest-gtk is able to read 6+17 pots, the four hat switches, but only 64 of the 128 buttons. A user on the Teensy forums, [Pointy], has been working on his own joystick test app that works on Linux Windows, but testing the joystick on Windows is an exercise in futility for reasons no one can figure out.

As for why anyone would want a six-axis, 17-slider, 128-button joystick, think about this: with this much control, it would be relatively simple to build the MIDI controller to end all MIDI controllers, or a cockpit simulator for everything from a C172, 737, to a Kerbal interplanetary cruiser. That’s an impressive amount of control, and all from a $20 Teensy dev board.

Further testing of this Teensy joystick is desperately needed, so if you’re able to help out drop a note in the forum thread.

FlightDeck: A “Touchless” MIDI Controller

flightdeckmidi

[Edward] wanted a different way to modulate notes on his MIDI controller, so he decided to go touchless. Inspired by the pressure-sensing modulation on his Edirol keyboard, [Edward] aligned eight sensors into a row of playable notes and used infrared to sense the distance of a player’s hand from the keys. He also included some function buttons to cycle through 10 octaves and RGB LEDs beneath the table that perform alongside the music.

He chose SHARP GP2D120 sensors (direct link to datasheet) for their low threshold, which allowed the board to detect distance close to the sensor. Each is mounted onto a sheet of frosted acrylic along with its own “hold note” button and an LED to indicate the key is playing. The lower panel houses an Arduino Mega that drives the system along with an RGB LED strip and its driver board. [Edward] used Maxuino and OSC-Route to interface the Mega to a Max/MSP patch which runs the show.

Learn more about the FlightDeck’s features in a video demonstration of the controller and the software after the break, then check out some other MIDI hacks like this organ pedal or the Arduino-driven MIDI sequencer.

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Open Hardware Summit 2013 – Part 1: Demos

Open Hardware Summit 2013

The 2013 Open Hardware Summit took place on September 6th at MIT. There was a wide array of demos and talks covering Open Hardware methodologies and projects. After the break I’ll be covering the demo area of the conference, and sharing some of my favorite demos.

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