Pair of MIDI dongles to inspire some weekend music hacking

pair-of-midi-dongles

This pair of dongles is a fun way to get your feet wet working with MIDI hardware. They’re called MIDIvampire-I and MIDIvampire-II. Just plug one end into your MIDI-ready instrument and the other into a pair of speakers and you’re off and running. Mark I is a polyphonic synth, and Mark II is a drum machine, but both use basically the same hardware which you may already have on hand.

The single chip on each board is an ATmega328 often found anchoring Arduino boards. The other silicon component is an S1112B30MC voltage regulator. The rest of the components are passives, with MIDI and headphone jacks for connectivity. They’re selling these if you want the easy way out, but we thought we’d bring them to your attention in case you needed a breadboarding project this weekend. The firmware, BOM, schematic, and board artwork are all available on the Wiki pages linked in the articles above. After the break you can see a couple of demo videos which walk through all of the features.

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Turning a tiny Linux box into a synthesizer

waveforms

For all the cool things the Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, and other low-power Linux boards can do, there’s one thing we haven’t seen much of: creating music with software synthesizers. Yes, soft synths have been around for ages now, but compiling them for these ARM boards is something we haven’t seen much of (to say nothing of the Linux audio system). Luckily, [Paul] and [Trev] have put together a tutorial for making synthesizers on these small Linux boards using Csound, the premier audio programming language for Linux.

[Paul] and [Trev] have already put together a few Csound instruments that include a Vangelis-inspired synth, a Lorenz Strange Attractor FM synth, a drum machine, and a classic monophonic style synth. All these instruments are ready to play on a Raspi or BeagleBone and we’re sure we’ll see a few more applications of this great tool for creating musical instruments as more musicians are turned onto these small Linux boards.

Making a real instrument out of a Kaoss pad and ribbon controllers

swinger

MIDI guitars have been around since the 80s, and nearly without exception they are designed as direct, one-to-one copies of their acoustic and electric brethren. [Michael] has been working on turning this convention on its head with the Misa Tri-Bass, a MIDI guitar designed to be the perfect guitar-shaped synthesizer interface.

The tri-bass doesn’t produce any sound itself; instead, it’s a polyphonic MIDI controller with three channels controlled by three ribbon controllers on the neck. The body contains a huge touch screen divided into four MIDI channels, essentially turning this guitar into an instrument designed for electronic music first, and not an acoustic instrument kludged into filling an electronic role.

Unlike a whole lot of other digital guitar-shaped MIDI controllers, the tri-bass is actually made out of wood. Yes, the neck is made out of maple (inlaid with the three ribbon controllers, of course), and the body comes directly from a tree, with the styling inspired by a forgotten retro-modern design. It’s an impressive piece of kit, and we can’t wait to see [Michael]‘s handiwork in the hands of digital guitarists the world over.

You can check out a video of [Michael] rockin out below.

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Building a synth on a breadboard

synth

Building an analog synth is a challenge, but with the [Tymkrs] protosynth, it’s easier than ever. It’s a 25-key keyboard attached to a stack of solderless breadboards to make analog synth prototyping a snap.

Earlier, [Tymkrs] acquired a whole bunch of solderless breadboards and decided to put them to use by making a component-level modular synth. The earlier incarnation tied each key on the keyboard to a few wires behind the breadboard and tied them in to a shift register so they could be read with a Propeller dev board loaded up with a Commodore SID emulator. The new version keeps the very clean through-the-back keyboard connector, but this time the [Tymkrs] are adding a few more components that add a sequencer setup and a rotary encoder.

The eventual goal for this really cool breadboard synth is to explore the world of Moogs, Arps, and other analog synths easily on a breadbaord. The [Tymkrs] have already put together a breadboard-compatible low pass and high pass filter. While there’s still a lot of work to be done to make an analog synth a reality, the [Tymkrs] are off to a great start.

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Quick and dirty touch-sensitive keyboard project

quick-dirty-touch-sensitive-keyboard

You don’t have to have high-quality parts to play around with electronics and here’s a great example. [Vishal] used junk to play around with CapSense, the touch sensitive Arduino library. What he ended up with is this touch-based piano keyboard.

We’ve featured the CapSense library in the past, but even that example uses a very meticulously crafted test rig of foil tape, protoboard, and some resistors. If you still haven’t given it a try follow this example of using aluminum foil, electrical tape, and a cardboard box.

[Vishal] just sandwiched the end of jumper wire between two pieces of foil to make each ‘key’. We believe the other end of the wire is soldered to the bias resistors where they connect to a couple of pin headers. The headers were hot-glued in place through holes in the bottom of the box, making the entire rig simple to plug into the Arduino board driving it. After adding in a small speaker and flashing the code he’s finished. It certainly makes for a short afternoon project which you won’t feel bad about taking apart later since you didn’t sink a ton of time or resources into the build.

Hackaday Links: Sunday, May 26th, 2013

hackaday-links-chain

The warmer months cometh and it’s time to think of this year’s Burning Man. [Matt's] already set himself up with a sound-reactive LED project he calls the Seed of Life.

Older readers, and those who really know their hobby electronic history, will know the name Heathkit. Many readers tipped us off about their triumphant return. We’re not sure what form this reincarnation will take, but you can help shape it by participating in the survey.

Dust off that MSP430 launchpad and turn it into a composite video Pong console.

Here’s a way to use your Android phone as a computer mouse.

We’re not quite sure what this is, but turn your volume down before watching the video about a modular sythesizer hack.

[Arkadiusz Spiewak] wrote in to share some of the printing success (translated) he’s had recently with the H-bot style printer we saw a while back.

Strap an Arduino and an Electric Imp to your arm (and everyone else’s) and it’ll remember everyone you meet. You know, kind of like Google Glass but with geeky arm-wear instead of geeky headgear?

And finally, [Nerick] has just finished a thermometer project using Nixie tubes (translated).

Atari punk stick puts a synth in a joystick

The Atari Punk Console, a tiny synthesizer based on the ubiquitous 555 timer chip, is the first build de rigueur for any budding electronic wizard wanting to build musical devices. With just a handful of caps, resistors, and a pair of pots, the APC is a fabulously fun and easy build made even cooler by [Pat]‘s addition of a joystick.

The circuit of the Atari Punk Console consists of a 556 chip – basically two 555s put into the same package – and a pair of potentiometers to control the frequency and output of this very basic synth. Since most joysticks are just two pots arranged on an X-Y mount, [Pat] thought it would be cool to control his APC without twiddling knobs, and instead sweeping a joystick around.

After acquiring an old Microsoft joystick from his local Goodwill, [Pat] wired up his Atari Punk Console to the joystick, using the ‘fire’ button to turn the output on and off. The result is everything between a low machine gun-like tone to a nasal square wave that will hopefully keep pace with your chip-based audiophile friends.

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