An Open Controller For Woodwind Instruments

Engineers, hackers, and makers can most certainly build a musical gadget of some kind. They’ll build synths, they’ll build aerophones, and they’ll take the idea of mercury delay line memory, two hydrophones, and a really long tube filled with water to build the most absurd delay in existence. One thing they can’t seem to do is build a woodwind MIDI controller. That’s where [J.M.] comes in. He’s created the Open Woodwind Project as an open and extensible interface that can play sax and clarinet while connected to a computer.

Early prototype to test out variable resistive pressure pads

If you want to play MIDI, there are plenty of options for keyboards, drum sets, matrix pads, and even strings. If you want to play a MIDI saxophone, there aren’t many options. Keytars, for example, are more popular than MIDI woodwind controllers. [J.M.] is changing this with a MIDI controller that recreates electronic aerophones electronically.

The controller itself uses a Teensy 3.2 loaded up with an ARM Cortex M4, two MPR121 touch controllers for 24 channels of capacititve touch capability, and a pressure sensor to tell the computer how strong the user is blowing. All of this works, and [J.M.] has a few videos showing off the capabilities of his homemade controller. It’s a great piece of work, and there are a few extentions that make this really interesting: there’s the possibility of adding CV out so it can be connected to modular synths, and the addition of accelerometers to the build makes for some very interesting effects.

Check out the video below.

6 thoughts on “An Open Controller For Woodwind Instruments

    1. I certainly give credit to the wx7, EWI and other existing woodwind controllers, and I own an EWI.

      The reason this project started in earnest was to have custom fingering paradigmd to combat the EWI octave “glitch” and to add things such as an IMU and wireless MIDI to the project.

    1. My final configuration uses more than 18 channels and was originally not on a Teensy, hence the use of the MPR121s. There’s still future plans to add things like menu, panic, and configuration keys.

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