Using MIDI and Magnets to Produce Tones with Tines

Normally you’d expect the sound of a pipe organ to come from something gigantic. [Matthew Steinke] managed to squeeze all of that rich melodic depth into an acoustic device the size of a toaster (YouTube link) which uses electromagnetism to create its familiar sound.

[Matthew ’s] instrument has a series of thin vertical tines, each coupled with a small MIDI controlled electromagnet. As the magnet pulses with modulation at a specific frequency, the pull and release of the tine causes it to resonate continuously with a particular tone. The Tine Organ is capable of producing 20 chromatic notes in full polyphony starting in middle C and can be used as an attachment to a standard keyboard or a synthesizer app on a smart phone. The classic style body of the instrument is made out of mahogany and babinga and houses the soundboard as well as the mini microcontroller responsible for receiving the MIDI and regulating the software oscillators sending voltage to the magnets.

[Matthew’s] creation is as interesting to look at as it is to listen to, so I’d recommend checking out the video below to hear the awesome sound it produces:

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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.


Here’s something that’s just a design study, but [Ivan]’s Apple IIe phone is a work of art. You’re not fitting a CRT in there, but someone out there has a 3D printer, an old LCD, and a GSM module. Make it happen. See also: the Frog Design Apple phone.

A few days ago we posted something on an old ‘286 machine that was able to load up the Hackaday retro site. For a few people, this was the first they’ve heard about our CSS and Javascript-less edition designed specifically for old computers. They dragged out some hardware, and [WTH] pulled up the site on a Dell Axim.It’s actually somewhat impressive that these machines have SD cards…

[Arduino Enigma] created a touchscreen Enigma machine. Why haven’t we seen an Arduino Colossus yet?

The crew at Adafruit now have a Flying Toaster OLED, which means we now have flying toaster bitmaps for all your OLED/graphic display projects.

[Ian] had an old rackmount programmable voltage standard. This was the remote programmable voltage standard, without front panel controls. No problem, just get an Arduino, shift register, and a few buttons. Video right here.

A few months ago, [Jan] released a neat device that stuffs a modelling synth inside a MIDI plug. He’s selling them now, and we’d love to see a few videos of this.

A Simple Floppy Music Controller

While playing music with floppy drives has been done many times over, making any device with a stepper motor play music still appeals to the hacker in all of us. [Tyler] designed an Arduino shield and a library which lets you get up and running in no time. [Tyler]’s shield includes pin headers to connect 4 floppy drives, which plug directly into the shield. The drives don’t need any modification before being used.

While you could simply wire a few floppy drives up to an Arduino with some jumpers, this breakout shield makes connecting your drives trivial. In addition to designing the shield, [Tyler] released an Arduino library to make things even easier. The library lets you simply set the frequency you want each drive to play, which saves a bit of legwork.

The floppy-controlling Arduino library is available on GitHub and a video of the controller is included after the break.

Continue reading “A Simple Floppy Music Controller”

Sweet Stepper of [Jeremy]’s Rocks Out with its Box Out

Inspired by the floppy drive orchestras of others, [Jeremy] has built a Pi-driven MIDI music box with stepper motor resonators and outlined the build on

Control for the motors comes from an Iteaduino Mega 2560. The music starts as a MIDI file, gets processed into a text file, and is played over serial by a Raspberry Pi. He’s added percussion using K’NEX instruments and 9g servos, which we think is a nice touch. It can be powered via LiPo or from the wall, and [Jeremy] baked in protection against blowing up the battery. As he explains in the tour video after the break, the box is clamped to a wooden table to provide richer sound.

[Jeremy]’s favorite part of the build was enclosing the thing as it was his first time using panel-mount components. Stick around to see a walk-through of the guts and a second video demonstrating its musical prowess.

Continue reading “Sweet Stepper of [Jeremy]’s Rocks Out with its Box Out”

PS/2 Synth Will Knock You Off Your Broom


Here’s a hack centered around something a lot of people have sitting around: a PS/2 keyboard. [serdef] turned a Harry Potter-edition PS/2 into a combination synth keyboard and drum machine and has a nice write-up about it on

For communication, he tore up a PS/2 to USB cable to get a female mini DIN connector and wired it to the Nano. He’s using a Dreamblaster S1 synth module to generate sounds, and that sits on a synth shield along with the Nano. The synth can be powered from either the USB or a 9-volt.

Keymapping is done with the Teensy PS/2 keyboard library. [serdef] reused a bunch of code from his bicycle drummer project which also employed the Dreamblaster S1. [serdef] is continually adding features to this project, like a pot for resonance control which lets him shape the waveform like an analog synth. He has posted some handy PS/2 integration code, his synth code, and a KiCad schematic. Demo videos are waiting for you across the link.  Continue reading “PS/2 Synth Will Knock You Off Your Broom”

The Hacklet #7 – MIDI


This week’s Hacklet is all about projects which use MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface for the uninitiated. MIDI was designed from the ground up as an open communications standard for musical instruments. Nearly every major instrument company participated in the design of the standard. MIDI was first demonstrated in January of 1983, with the communications standard document following in August. Hackers, makers, and musicians immediately ran with it, using MIDI to do things the designers never dreamed of.

SAMSUNG[Robert’s] 9×9 Pixel Muon Detector/Hodoscope  is a great example of this. [Robert] is using 18 Geiger Muller Tubes to detect cosmic particles, specifically muons. The tubes are stacked in two rows which allows him to use coincidence detection. Rather than just plot some graphs or calculate impact probabilities, [Robert] hacked a Korg Nanokey 2 MIDI controller to output MIDI over USB messages corresponding to the detected muons. Check out his video to see a sample of the music of the universe!


diyMPCNext up is [Michele’s] DIY MPC style MIDI controller. [Michele] needed a simple low-cost drum controller that wouldn’t wake his neighbors. He loved Akai MPC controllers, so he rolled his own. [Michele] investigated force sensitive resistors but found they were very expensive. At a cost of $8 USD each, his resistors alone would be nearly the cost of a low-end MPC!  [Michele] created his own sensitive pads using a sandwich of copper tape and 3M Velostat conductive sheets. An HCF4067 routes all the analog lines to a single pin of Teensy 3.0, which then converts the analog resistor outputs to MIDI messages.

pic-midi-1vo[Johan] loves his analog synths, and wanted them to be able to talk MIDI too. He built MIDI2VC, a circuit which converts MIDI to 1V/Octave (similar to  CV/Gate). 1V/Octave is an analog control system used in some early synthesizers, as well as many modern analog creations. Pitches are assigned voltages, and as the name implies, each octave is 1 volt. A4 on the keyboard is represented by 4 volts, while A5 is 5 volts. [Johan] used a Microchip PIC16LF1823 to receive and convert the MIDI signals. The PIC outputs I2C data to an MCP4725 DAC which drives the analog side of the house.

eldanceLong before DMX512 came on the scene, hackers were controlling lights via MIDI. [Artis] continues this with El Dance, a wireless system for controlling electroluminescent wire worn by dancers. Similar in function to  [Akiba’s] EL wire system, [Artis] took a lower cost route and used the venerable NRF24L01 radio module. He added an antenna which gives the modules a range of about 30 meters. The computer running the dance routine’s music sees the transmitter side of the link as a MIDI instrument. Standard note on and off commands activate the EL wire strings.

midi-vibeOur final hack comes from [Jen] who built a MIDI Vibrator Inductor Synth. [Jen] performs in an experimental music band called My Wife, with instruments as varied as violins and sewing machines. [Jen] must be a fan of Van Halen’s Poundcake as she’s using a similar technique, with a MIDI twist. An Arduino converts MIDI notes to analog values, which are sent to a motor controller board. The motor controller uses PWM to drive a vibrator motor at the frequency of the note being played. Like all DC motors, the vibrator puts out a ton of electromagnetic noise, which is easily picked up by [Jen’s] electric bass.

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet! Tune in next week for more projects from!