TuneShroom Is An Artistic Mushroom-Themed MIDI Controller

Most MIDI controllers are modelled after traditional instruments, like pianos, flutes, or guitars. [Oliver Child] went in a different direction for the TuneShroom, instead modelling his DIY controller after the terrifying, unclassifiable living organism we call the mushroom.

The project was a fun way for [Oliver] to try creating a project with an artistic PCB design, and it worked out well in that regard. He penned a circuit board in the shape of a toadstool, with conductive pads serving as capacitive touch points to activate various notes.

The design is based around the Sparkfun Pro Micro, but it’s not programmed in Arduino. [Oliver] wanted to make full use of the ATmega32U4 microcontroller and have freedom to use the pins at will, so instead the project was programmed with a patched version of LUFA to handle the USB side of things. MIDI data is naturally piped out over this interface to an attached computer.

Files are on Github for the curious. Alternatively, contemplate turning an entire saxophone into a MIDI controller in your spare time. Video after the break.

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High-Resolution MIDI Controller

For an older standard, MIDI has remarkable staying power in the music industry. It remains the de facto digital interface between computers and instruments thanks to its open nature, but its age does show a little bit. Sending control change (CC) messages, for example, was originally designed to fit within seven bits, which doesn’t give particularly fine resolution compared to more capable modern computers. To work around that, a fourteen-bit message is possible, doubling the resolution, and this MIDI interface uses this larger amount of data to send these high-resolution CC messages.

The 14-bit messages are actually fairly well documented but are a bit obscure, with very limited hardware support. To that end, [Gero] set about building this control interface to solve that problem. It’s made up of only eight knobs, each of which is mapped one-to-one to a parameter on the computer, allowing the interface to feel more like an analog device where the knob corresponds directly to a change in an aspect of the sound. The platform is built around a Teensy 4.0 and some multiplexers to handle all of the knobs, with the open source software available for anyone to use to modify their actions. [Gero] was aiming for high fidelity for all aspects of this controller, not just the improved digital resolution, and made a number of other improvements to it as well like re-greasing the potentiometer knobs and a custom 3D printed enclosure.

All of the software is available for use, as well as the files to print the case. [Gero] is also working on a PCB to make the construction of the device a little more streamlined, but for now, it requires a bit of soldering off-the-shelf parts together. The MIDI standard is open as well, which allows for a lot of innovation in the creation of musical instruments from unique hardware. This project builds a MIDI synthesizer with parts from a Sega Genesis.

Turning A Saxophone Into A MIDI Controller

Most of the time, if you’re looking for a MIDI controller, you’re going to end up with some kind of keyboard or a fancy button pad. The saxophone is an altogether more beguiling instrument that makes for one hell of an interface, but there’s a problem: they’re seldom MIDI-compatible. This build from [AndrewChi] changes all that.

This digitized sax relies on a SparkFun ESP32 Thing as the brains of the operation. It uses Hall effect sensors, the digital switch type, to detect the action of the keys of the sax. Choosing parts that are quick to respond is key for musical use, so [AndrewChi] selected the Texas Instruments DRV5023 for its unipolar operation, short output delay and fast rise time. Beyond setting up the basic keys to send MIDI notes, the instrument also received additional octave controls for greater range. With sensors and magnets attached to the saxophone and keys with Sugru, the instrument is ready to serve as a capable MIDI controller. Thanks to the ESP32, it’s capable of sending MIDI data wirelessly over Bluetooth for the maximum freedom of performance.

It’s a nifty build, and a great way for wind players to get into the world of controlling digital synthesizers in an intuitive fashion. We’ve seen some great MIDI controller builds before, too.

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Nanoaetherphone Is A Special MIDI Controller

MIDI controllers can be simple straightforward keyboards, or wild magical devices that seem to snatch notes from the very aether itself. As you might expect from the name, the Nanoaetherphone II is one of the latter.

The device is inspired by the Theremin, and was built to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The Nanoaetherphone II is all about using sensors to capture data from wireless hand-wavey interactions, and turn it into MIDI messages. To this end, it has an LDR sensor for detecting light levels, which determines volume levels. This is actuated by the user’s thumb, blocking the sensor or allowing ambient light to reach it. At the front of the handheld unit, there is also an ultrasonic range sensor. Depending on how close the sensor is to the user’s hand or other object determines the exact note sent by the device. As a MIDI controller, it is intended to be hooked up to an external synthesizer to actually generate sound.

The overall concept isn’t too complicated, and the design makes it easy to pickup and play. We imagine it could even be foolproofed by programming it only to play notes from a given scale or mode, allowing for easy soloing without too many of those ill-tempered blue notes. Jazz enthusiasts might prefer it to just spit out any and all notes, of course.

We love a good MIDI controller around these parts, and we’ve seen everything from knitted models to those made out of old phones. Video after the break.

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MIDI Controller Looks Good, Enables Your Air Guitar Habit

We all want to be guitar heroes, but most of us have to settle for letting a MIDI board play our riffs using a MIDI controller. [Joris] thinks a MIDI controller should look like a cool instrument and thus the Ni28 was born. Honestly, we first thought we were looking at wall art, but on closer look, you can see the fretboard and the soundhole are festooned with buttons.

Actually, they aren’t really buttons. The Ni in the name is because the buttons are nickel-plated brass plates that act like touch switches. There’s virtually no activation force required and you can easily touch more than one plate at a time.

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Rotary Phone MIDI Controller Still Makes Calls

[Kevin] has long wanted to do something musical with a vintage rotary phone and an Arduino, and has finally done so and committed the first of several experiments to HTML in a five-part series. He found a nice old British Telecom number, but it had been converted to plug and socket wiring to work on the modern system. Because of this, [Kevin] wanted to keep it completely functional as a phone. After all, it ought to work fine until 2025, when pulse dialing will no longer be supported in [Kevin]’s locality.

As you can likely understand, [Kevin] was keen to interface with the phone from the outside and leave the inside untouched. He used a sacrificial ADSL filter’s PCB to break out the socket, and added a pull-up resistor between the pin and 5 V.

Pretty quickly, [Kevin] figured out that when the phone is on the hook, it gives a constant high signal, where as the picking up the phone presents as a high signal going low, and dialing each number results in pulses of that quantity that alternate between high and low. Continue reading “Rotary Phone MIDI Controller Still Makes Calls”

A musical cyberdeck

Musical Cyberdeck Is Part Synth, Part MIDI Controller, And All Cool

When a new project type starts to get a lot of exposure, it’s typically not long before we see people forking the basic concept and striking out in a new direction. It happened with POV displays, it happened with Nixie clocks, and now, it seems to be happening with cyberdecks. And that’s something we can get behind, especially with cyberdecks built to suit a specialized task, like this musical cyberdeck/synth.

Like many musicians, [Benjamin Caccia] felt like he needed a tool to help while performing with his band “Big Time Kill.” He mainly needed to trigger track playbacks on the fly, but also wanted something to act as a mega-effects pedal and standalone synth. And while most of that could be done with an iPad, it wouldn’t look as cool as a cyberdeck. The build centers around a Raspberry Pi 4 and a 7″ LCD display. Those sit on top of a 25-key USB MIDI keyboard and a small mixer. Alongside the keyboard is a USB keypad, which has custom mappings to allow fast access to buried menu functions in the cyberdeck’s Patchbox OS. Everythign was tied together on a 3D-printed frame; the video below shows it in action, and that it sounds as good as it looks.

We think [Benjamin]’s cyberdeck came out great. Need to see some other specialized cyberdecks? Why not take a look at this battle-ready cyberdeck, one that aims to be distraction-free, or a cyberdeck for patrolling the radioactive wastelands.

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