Logic Noise: Sequencing in Silicon

In this session of Logic Noise, we’ll combine a bunch of the modules we’ve made so far into an autonomous machine noise box. OK, at least we’ll start to sequence some of these sounds.

A sequencer is at the heart of any drum box and the centerpiece of any “serious” modular synthesizer. Why? Because you just can’t tweak all those knobs and play notes and dance around at the same time. Or at least we can’t. So you gotta automate. Previously we did it with switches. This time we do it with logic pulses.

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Logic Noise: The Switching Sequencer Has the Beat

Logic Noise is all about using logic circuits to make sounds. Preferably sound that will be enjoyable to hear and useful for making music. This week, we’ll be scratching the surface of one of my favorite chips to use and abuse for, well, nearly anything: the 4051 8-way analog switch. As the name suggests, you can hook up eight inputs and select one from among them to be connected up to the output. (Alternatively, you can send a single input to one of eight destinations, but we won’t be doing that here.)

Why is this cool? Well, imagine that you wanted to make our oscillator play eight notes. If you worked through our first installment, you built an abrasive-sounding but versatile oscillator. I had you tapping manually on eight different resistors or turning a potentiometer to eight different positions. This week, we’ll be letting the 4051 take over some of the controls, leaving us to do the more advanced knob twiddling.

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Meet Registroid – Mutant Cash Register Music Sequencer

73 years ago WWII was in full swing, the world’s first computer had not yet crunched atomic bomb physics and department store cash registers had to add up your purchases mechanically. Back then, each pull caused the device to whirl and kerchunk like a slot machine. [David] & [Scott] kidnapped one of those clunkers and forced it to sing a new tune. Thus the Registroid was born, a self-described “mutant vintage cash register that is a playable, interactive electro-house looping machine.” Why did no one else think of this yet?

Inside, the adding gears and tumbling counters were gutted to make room for the electronics, amp and speaker. Keys were converted to Arduino inputs that then feed to MAX/MSP which serves as a basic midi controller. On top, five “antennae” lamps with LEDs serve as a color organ where they pulse with the audio as split up by an MSGEQ7 equalizer chip. Each row of latching keys corresponds to a different instrument: drum beats, baselines, synths, and one-shots.

We have seen similar things done to a Game Boy and typewriter before, but a cash machine is new to us. Perhaps someday someone will flip the trend and type their twitter messages from an antique harpsichord.

The Registroid appears quite popular when on display at local events, including some wonder when a secret code opens the cash drawer.

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Turning Lego Into A Groove Machine

lego

Last weekend wasn’t just about Maker Faire; in Stockholm there was another DIY festival celebrating the protocols that make electronic music possible. It’s MIDI Hack 2014, and [Kristian], [Michael], [Bram], and [Tobias] put together something really cool: a Lego sequencer

The system is set up on a translucent Lego base plate, suspended above a webcam that feeds into some OpenCV and Python goodness. From there, data is sent to Native Instruments Maschine. There’s a step sequencer using normal Lego bricks, a fader controlling beat delay, and a rotary encoder for reverb.

Despite being limited to studs and pegs, the short demo in the video below actually sounds good, with a lot of precision found in the faders and block-based rotary encoder. [Kristian] will be putting up the code and a few more details shortly. Hopefully there will be enough information to use different colored blocks in the step sequencer part of the build for different notes.

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Breadboard Sequencer Does a Lot with Very Little Hardware

breadboard-sequencer

[Jan Cumpelik] squeezes a lot of performance out of very few components with his breadboard sequencer which he calls Lunchbeat. We really like his awesome breadboard which has a series of trenches perpendicular to the bus strips framing the long sides. All of our breadboards have just one trench down the middle. This, combined with his mad breadboard skills, results in a really clean prototype.

The chip nearest his hand is the ATmega328 which drives the sequencer. It takes inputs from that row of 10k trimpots as well as a series of tactile switches. Feedback is given with the row of eight LEDs. Those are driven from a 595 shift register to save pins on the microcontroller. The remaining chip is an OpAmp which works in conjunction with a 3-bit R2R ladder DAC to output audio. Turn your speakers down just a bit before taking in the demonstration below. There you will also find an image version of his schematic that we made for your convenience. It is only available as a PDF in the code repository he posted.

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Arduino-controlled MIDI sequencer

am808vx3-arduino-synth

[Christian] wrote in to tell us about his third-generation Arduino MIDI sequencer (translated) called the AM808 VX3. He had already laid a strong base for the project in his previous versions. But the user interface was still frustrating at times and that’s where this version comes in. it features a nice clean dashboard like interface, but also includes a configurable virtual interface.

The obvious components seen above include the slider and potentiometer band, as well as the repository of buttons mounted below that. But in the center of the board is a touchpad which [Christian] pulled out of an old Laptop. It interfaces as a PS2 device which makes it pretty simple to use in conjunction with the Arduino. But that’s not the only touch-enabled input device. The rectangle to the right of the touch pad is an LCD screen with a touch overlay. As you can see (and hear) in the clip after the break, the touch screen made it possible for him to rework the controls until they became simple and intuitive.

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Turning a MIDI sequencer display into a Tetris clone

led-midi-display-tetris

Tetris is unquestionably a game for the ages. Despite its simplicity, someone, somewhere will always find a way to port the game (Translation) to just about any electronic device that can handle it.

Earlier this year we showed you a slick MIDI sequencer project that was constructed using an Arduino Mega, which also happened to drive an incredibly detailed touch screen display. [Christian] must have gotten bored with his awesome creation one day, because he pulled the drum level display out of his Arduino Sequencer 808, and turned the LED array into a mini Tetris game.

As you can see in the video below, the game runs pretty well, though from what we can see it lacks any sort of score keeping. We dig it because we never really tire of Tetris clones, and we think it’s great that he kept his 808 sequencer design modular enough that he can pluck different components out for reuse in other projects.

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