Circuit Bent Toy Keyboard is MIDI Controlled

tymkrsKeyboard
The [Tymkrs] crew has come up with a pretty neat circuit bent toy keyboard hack. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a good circuit bending hack. This project started as a way to demo the [Tymkrs] “MIDI In Me” kit. A cheap toy keyboard was sacrificed for its sound generator board. Like many cheap mass-produced toys, this board is based upon a COB (chip on board) package. The silicon die of the main ASIC is placed directly on the PCB and bonded out to pads. A round epoxy blob keeps everything protected.

The [Tymkrs] found a number of the chip’s pads were unused in their keyboard. The inputs appeared to trigger drums, possibly for use in a different toy. These inputs, coupled with the ‘demo song’ buttons turned out to be the basis of this hack. MIDI input is sent to a Parallax Propeller. The prop runs a program that will set its I/O pins based upon MIDI Note On/Off commands. The I/O pins then drive transistors which inject signals into the button inputs of the keyboard.

The [Tymkrs] even went so far as to use a voltage divider on the main clock circuit of the keyboard. Changing the main clock causes a sort of pitch bend effect often heard with circuit bent toys. As with the buttons, a MIDI signal commands the prop to enable or disable oscillator signal injection. A potentiometer is used to tweak the oscillator frequency.

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Turning toy pianos into MIDI keyboards

Building a MIDI device is always a great microcontroller project, and nearly everyone has an old toy keyboard lying around in the back of a closet or in the basement. [JenShen] decided to take one of these toy keyboards and build a MIDI keyboard.

The keyboard [JenShen] used was a simple Casio keyboard with built-in voices. After tearing out the guts of the keyboard, the only thing that remained is the row of push buttons underneath the keys. These buttons were laid out in a row/column matrix, so [JenShen] needed to decode this matrix before sending the result to an Arduino for processing.

A 74HN595 shift register was used to read the 8 rows of buttons underneath the keys, while the rows were tied to different input pins on the ‘duino. This allowed [JenShen] to scan the keyboard matrix with an Arduino and generate MIDI notes and send them to other synths.

In the video after the break, you can check out [JenShen]‘s circuit and code that allowed him to turn a toy keyboard into a proper 32-note MIDI keyboard. It’s not velocity sensitive, but he says he’ll show everyone how to accomplish that in a future post.

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