MIDI Keyboard with Frickin’ Laser Keys

MIDI instruments are cool, but they’re not laser cool. That is, unless you’ve added lasers to your MIDI instrument like [Lasse].

[Lasse] started out with an old MIDI keyboard. The plan was to recycle an older keyboard rather than have to purchase something new. In this case, the team used an ESi Keycontrol 49. They keyboard was torn apart to get to the creamy center circuit boards. [Lasse] says that most MIDI keyboards come withe a MIDI controller board and the actual key control board.

Once the key controller board was identified, [Lasse] needed to figure out how to actually trigger the keys without the physical keyboard in place. He did this by shorting out different pads while the keyboard was hooked up to the computer. If he hit the correct pads, a note would play. Simple, but effective.

The housing for the project is made out of wood. Holes were drilled in one piece to mount 12 laser diodes. That number is not arbitrary. Those familiar with music theory will know that there are 12 notes in an octave. The lasers were powered via the 5V source from USB. The lasers were then aimed at another piece of wood.

Holes were drilled in this second piece wherever the lasers hit. Simple photo resistors were mounted here. The only other components needed for each laser sensor were a resistor and a transistor. This simple discreet circuit is enough to simulate a key press when the laser beam is broken. No programming or microcontrollers required. Check out the demonstration video below to see how it works. Continue reading “MIDI Keyboard with Frickin’ Laser Keys”

Bluetooth Boombox for that 80s Nostalgia

Sure, anyone can go buy a bluetooth speaker for their portable music needs. But for something a little more unique, at least in this decade, [Daniel] aka [speedfox] went with an 80s-style boombox and outfitted it with a bluetooth module.

The retro boombox was delivered with a few scratches and a broken radio, but the tape decks were still in decent shape so it was ready to be hacked. [speedfox] tied the Bluetooth audio output to the tape reader on one of the boombox’s tape decks, but this revealed a problem: the bass was overwhelming the rest of the sound. [speedfox] fixed this by adding a filter which worked until the power was tied in to the Bluetooth module and produced a lot of RF noise in the audio output. THIS problem was finally resolved with an audio transformer on both sides of the stereo signal. Finally!

After putting all of the new electronics in the case (and safely out of the way of the 120V AC input!) [speedfox] now has a classy stereo that’s ready to rock some Run-D.M.C. or Heavy D. He notes that the audio filter could use a little tweaking, and he’d also like to restore the functionality of the original buttons on the boombox, but it’s a great start with more functionality than he’d get from something off-the-shelf!

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”

The Effects are IN the Guitar? It’s so Simple…

We’ve all had that problem. Up on stage, rocking out Jimi Hendrix-style on guitar with your band, but frustrated at having to mess around with foot pedals to control all of the effects. [Richard] solved this problem in a unique way: he put a preamp and a microcontroller in a guitar that can create some very interesting effects.

For the musically challenged, electric guitars often have several sets of electromagnetic pickups that detect vibrations in the strings at different points along the strings. Selecting different pickup combinations with a built-in switch changes the sound that the guitar makes. [Richard] wired the pickups in his Fender Stratocaster to the microcontroller and programmed it to switch the pickups according to various patterns. The effect is somewhat like a chorus pedal at times and it sounds very unique.

The volume and tone knobs on the guitar are used to select the programmed patterns to switch various pickups at varying speeds. This has the added bonus of keeping the stock look of the guitar in tact, unlike some other guitars we’ve seen before. The Anubis preamp, as it is called, is a very well polished project and the code and wiring schematic are available on the project site along with some audio samples.

Inductive Charger Mod Allows for Non-Stop Wireless Rocking

When you want to jam out to the tunes stored on your mobile devices, Bluetooth speakers are a good option. Battery power means you can take them on the go and the Bluetooth connection means you don’t have to worry about cables or wires dangling around. Unfortunately the batteries never seem to last as long as we want them too. You can always plug the speaker back in to charge up the battery… but when you unhook those cords they always seem to end up falling back behind the furniture.

[Pierre] found himself with this problem, but being a hacker at heart meant that he was able to do something about it. He modified his JAM Classic Bluetooth Wireless Speaker to include an inductive charger. It used to be a lot of work to fabricate your own inductive charging system, or to rip it out of another device. But these days you can purchase kits outright.

The JAM speaker was simply put together with screws, so no cracking of the plastic was necessary. Once the case was removed, [Pierre] used a volt meter to locate the 5V input line. It looks like he just tapped into the USB port’s power and ground connections. The coil’s circuit is soldered in place with just the two wires.

All [Pierre] had left to do was to put the speaker back together, taking care to find space for the coil and the new circuit board. The coil was taped to the round base of the speaker. This meant that [Pierre] could simply tape the charging coil to the underside of a glass table top. Now whenever his Bluetooth speaker gets low on battery, he can simply place it on the corner of the table and it will charge itself. No need to mess with cables.



Tasting Music, with a Side of Meatballs

Imagine eating food customized just for you based on your music preferences. This is exactly the premise behind a student-developed application called BeatBalls. This musical cooking platform translates artists and songs into delicious meatball recipes.

BeatBalls uses a computer algorithm that takes into account a variety of factors including key, tempo, cadence, and duration of the song to manifest a unique combination of ingredients. [Maria], who tipped us off about the project, told us in an email that Beatballs used the echonest API to determine elements of each song.

Anyone can go to the BeatBalls’ website and enter their favorite musician, group, or track into the online meatball generator, which outputs unique components to the screen. A few good suggestions are Meat Loaf, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Bassnectar, which produce some delectable results.

Students involved in the project also created a machine to mix, roll, and cook the meatballs automatically. Team member [Samuel] told us that the system has three Arduino controllers that are hooked up to a remote server with an Ethernet shield and WiFi router. A set of servos and a DC motor controls the mechanisms that pushes the meat through and adds spices to the ingredients.

Continue reading “Tasting Music, with a Side of Meatballs”

A Beverage Cooler with a Stereo


If you are looking for a way to spice up your summertime parties, try following [Pastryboy’s] lead. After letting the idea rattle around in his head for a few years, he finally built himself the cooler he always dreamed of.

[Pastryboy] was originally inspired by a YouTube video he found a few years ago. He took the basic concept and rolled with it. He started out with a mini fridge he found for $10. He removed the compressor and other plumbing bits. He also removed all of the internal shelving. Any leftover holes were patched up with silicone. Now when the fridge is laid on its back, it’s essentially the same as an ordinary cooler.

Next [Pastryboy] purchased two 6.5″ Boss speakers and an inexpensive head unit. He drilled a few pilot holes in the side of the refrigerator and then used a jigsaw to cut the holes to the proper sizes. Once the speakers were mounted in place, he needed to find a way to waterproof the inside. This was accomplished by using some small plastic bowls. The edges of the bowls were attached to the cooler wall using silicone.

[Pastryboy] was able to run most of the cabling through the inside of the cooler’s walls. The system is powered by a 12V lead acid battery. He chose a specific model of battery that can be stored in any orientation and that can handle being knocked around a little bit.

Next he added a couple of handles to the sides to make it easier to transport. A small bit of ski rope was attached to the inside of the lid, preventing the lid from flopping completely open. [Pastryboy] also added a drain to the bottom to make it easier for one person to empty the cooler. The final touch was to pretty it up a bit. He sanded down the entire thing and gave it several coats of red paint. The end result looks very slick.

[via Reddit]