Don’t Forget Your Mints When Using This Synthesizer

While synthesizers in the music world are incredibly common, they’re not all keyboard-based instruments as you might be imagining. Especially if you’re trying to get a specific feel or sound from a synthesizer in order to mimic a real instrument, there might be a better style synth that you can use. One of these types is the breath controller, a synthesizer specifically built to mimic the sound of wind instruments using the actual breath from a physical person. Available breath controllers can be pricey, though, so [Andrey] built his own.

To build the synthesizer, [Andrey] used a melodica hose and mouthpiece connected to a pressure sensor. He then built a condenser circuit on a custom Arduino shield and plugged it all into an Arduino Mega (although he notes that this is a bit of overkill). From there, the Arduino needed to be programmed to act as a MIDI device and to interact with the pressure sensor, and he was well on his way to a wind instrument synthesizer.

The beauty of synthesizers is not just in their ability to match the look and sound of existing instruments but to do things beyond the realm of traditional instruments as well, sometimes for a greatly reduced price point.

11 thoughts on “Don’t Forget Your Mints When Using This Synthesizer

      1. Actually I just reminded myself that my first encounter with a 2’s complement number was with the DX-7. The system exclusive messages used for sending and receiving patches use a 2’s complement checksum. This was pre-internet and it took me a month to figure out what it was and I got the answer from some older working engineers. I was about 15 when I wrote the program.

      2. There’s some programs that do that on AMiga and Atari but new homebrew in this niche are always welcomed so by all means if you put your hand on it don’t hesitate to share it. I still have my TX7 and my ST4 ready to try new things : )

  1. Those hoses for CPAP are just the thing, light and non restricted for tooting on . Jamaican Dub wouldn’t be without the Melodica, keep it running.

    I made one for my Casio with a bellows blocking light from a photoresister.

  2. I created something like this for my C64 – the “sensor” was a hydraulic pump from my Märklin train model set and a z-diode chain for the “AD” conversion from the motor’s output to the C64’s parallel port.
    It did work. To some degree. Until I blew one of the C64’s IO chips which were incredibly expensive at that time. After that I specialized on software :-D

  3. “Available breath controllers can be pricey”
    Yamaha no longer makes the BC3A, I see a used one recently went for $164.
    A commercial replacement that claims compatibility goes for $200.
    I think I could build this for about $50. Bonus points, [Andrey]!
    Next step would be to add a bite force sensor for another channel of control, like Yamaha WX or Akai EWI woodwind controllers do.

    1. I like the biteforce sensor idea ya have there. That would be useful and intuitive.
      Indeed kudos to Andrey. The one I built with the Arduino had issues. I think I was trying to make it too compact.

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