Please Meet ‘Capability Inquiry’, Part Of The MIDI 2.0 Standard

It may have passed you by in the news, but the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) has recently unveiled more details about the upcoming MIDI 2.0 standard. Previously we covered the prototyping phase start of this new standard. The original Musical Instrument Digital Interface standard was revealed all the way back in August of 1983, as a cooperation between companies including Moog Music, Roland, Yamaha, Korg, Kawai and others. It was the first universal interface that allowed one to connect and control all kinds of musical instruments.

Over the years, MIDI has seen use with the composing of music, allowing instruments to be controlled by a computer system and to easily share compositions between composers. Before MIDI such kind of control was limited to a number of proprietary interfaces, with limited functionality.

The MMA lists the key features of MIDI 2.0 as: Bidirectional, Backwards Compatible, and the enhancing of MIDI 1.0 where possible. Using a new technology called MIDI Capability Inquiry (MIDI-CI), a MIDI 2.0 device can exchange feature profiles and more with other 2.0 devices. 1.0 is the fallback if MIDI-CI finds no new functionality. MIDI-CI-based configuration can allow 2.0 devices to automatically configure themselves for their environment.

Suffice it to say, MIDI 2.0 is a far cry from the original MIDI standard. By transforming MIDI into a more versatile, bidirectional protocol, it opens new ways in which it can be used to tie musical devices and related together. It opens the possibility of even more creative hacks, many of which were featured on Hackaday already. What will you make with MIDI 2.0?

See a brief demonstration of this feature of MIDI 2.0 in the below video:

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MIDI Grid Can Glow Up With The Best Of Them

Traditional musical instruments have a variety of interfaces, some simple, some complex. The piano is a fairly intuitive machine with a key for every note and a couple of pedals you can ignore if you like. The saxophone is a little more complex, with its many interoperable keys used to produce varying pitches. However, modern electronic instruments are not constrained by physicalities, and there has been an explosion in such devices that simply present a MIDI interface and a big pile of glowing addressable buttons. [Gediminas]’s MIDI Grid build is a great example of the type.

The build relies on an STM32 to do the heavy lifting, talking to an 8×8 array of buttons, each with addressable RGB LEDs. These are combined with silicone pads for a wonderfully tactile feel. There are then a further 17 buttons on the side for various purposes, along with two rotary encoders – useful for implementing smooth fades and intoxicating filter sweeps. Unusually for this type of instrument, in addition to USB there’s also a hardware serial MIDI interface. Finally, a Nokia 5110 LCD is implemented to display relevant data.

There are precious few details on the case, but it appears to be made from lasercut wood pieces, with a nice stain giving it a rich color. Buttons also have printed labels for a more professional look.

The build has functionality most similar to Novation’s Launchpad line. [Gediminas] currently has it working primarily with Ableton Live, however there is scope for further work to integrate the device with other DAWs or MIDI hardware.

With electronic instruments such as these, it’s possible to make musical life more accessible through smart design choices – and the Kord Kontroller is another great example.

MIDI Association Announces MIDI 2.0 Prototyping

MIDI was introduced at the 1983 NAMM show as a means to connect various electronic instruments together. Since then, our favorite five-pin DIN has been stuffed into Radio Shack keyboards, MPCs, synths, eurorack modules, and DAWs. The standard basically hasn’t changed. Sure, we have MIDI SysEx messages to configure individual components of a MIDI setup, but at its core, MIDI hasn’t changed since it was designed as a current-loop serial protocol for 8-bit microcontrollers running at 1 MHz.

Now, ahead of the 2019 NAMM show, the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) in conjunction with AMEI, Japan’s MIDI Association, are announcing MIDI 2.0. The new features include, “auto-configuration, new DAW/web integrations, extended resolution, increased expressiveness, and tighter timing”. It will retain backwards-compatibility with MIDI 1.0 devices.

The new initiative, like the release of the first MIDI spec, is a joint venture between manufacturers of musical instruments. The company lineup on this press release is as follows:¬†Ableton/Cycling ’74, Art+Logic, Bome Software, Google, imitone, Native Instruments, Roland, ROLI, Steinberg, TouchKeys, and Yamaha.

This is not an official announcement of the MIDI 2.0 specification. This is the ‘prototyping’ phase, where manufacturers implement the MIDI 2.0 spec as envisioned, write some documentation, figure out what the new logo will look like, and design a self-certification process. Prototyping is expected to continue through 2019, when the final MIDI 2.0 spec will be released on the MIDI Association website.

As far as hardware hackers are concerned, there shouldn’t be any change to your existing MIDI implementation, provided you’re not doing anything new. It should be backwards compatible, after all. The new spec will allow for increased range in expression and ‘tighter’ timing, which might be an indication that the baud rate of MIDI (31,250 baud +/- 1%) may change. There’s some interesting things in store for the last old-school physical layer in existence, and we can’t wait to see what comes out of it.

Video Quick Bit: The Best DIY Musical Instruments

The Hackaday Prize is almost over, and soon we’ll know the winners of the greatest hardware competition on the planet. A few weeks ago, we wrapped up the last challenge in the Hackaday Prize, the Musical Instrument Challenge. This is our challenge to build something that goes beyond traditional music instrumentation. Majenta’s back again looking at the coolest projects in the Musical Instrument Challenge in the Hackaday Prize.

We’re old-school hardware hackers here, and when you think about building your own drum machine, there’s really nothing more impressive than building one out of an Atari 2600. That’s what [John Sutley] did with his Syndrum project. It’s a custom cartridge for an Atari with a fancy ZIF socket. Of course, you need some way to trigger those drum sounds, so [John] is using an Arduino connected to the controller port as a sort-of MIDI-to-Joystick bridge.

If you want more retro consoles turned into musical instruments, look no further than [Aristides]’ DMG-01 Ukulele. It’s a ukulele with a 3D printed neck, bolted onto the original ‘brick’ Game Boy. Yes, it works as a ukulele, but that’s not the cool part. There are electronics inside that sense each individual string and turn it into a distorted chiptune assault on the ears. Just awesome.

How about a unique, new musical instrument? That’s what [Tim] is doing with Stylish!, a wearable music synthesizer. It’s based heavily on a stylophone, but with a few interesting twists. It’s built around an STM32, so there are a lot of options for what this instrument sounds like, and it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful enclosure. It’s some of the best work we’ve seen in this year’s Musical Instrument Challenge.

The Hackaday Prize is almost over, and on Saturday we’ll be announcing the winners at this year’s Hackaday Superconference. Tune in to the live stream to see which project will walk away with the grand prize of $50,000!

Wavetable General MIDI For Everyone

There are only so many ways to generate music with a computer, and by far the most popular method is MIDI. It’s been around for thirty-five years, and you don’t get to be a decades-old standard for no reason. That said, turning MIDI into audio is a pain, but this project in the Musical Instrument Challenge for the Hackaday Prize makes it easy. It’s a Fluxamasynth Module that turns MIDI into something you can hear.

The key to this build is a single chip that takes MIDI data in and spits out audio, according to the 128 general MIDI sounds. This might not sound like much, but if you’ve ever tried to turn MIDI into sound, you’ll find your options are limited. There is exactly one chip that can do this and is easily obtainable: the SAM2695 from Dream Sound Synthesis. This chip was originally designed for cheap toy keyboards, but if you have a chip, you can do anything with it.

The Fluxamasynth Modules are inspired by the original Fluxamasynth, an Arduino shield that is basically a breakout board for the SAM chip. There’s a MIDI in, and an 1/8″ jack for output, and not much else. The Fluxamasynth Modules extend the capability by adding more support, including stereo output, reverb, chorus, flange, and delay effects, and digs down deep into the configurable parameters for tuning.

The hardware is basically an audio appliance for the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and the ESP32, and allows for generative music through code. You can see an example of this project in the video below.

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The Ultimate MIDI Wind Controller Is The Human Voice

When it comes to music, the human voice is the most incredible instrument. From Tuvan throat singing to sopranos belting out an aria, the human vocal tract has evolved over millions of years to be the greatest musical instrument. We haven’t quite gotten to the point where we can implant autotune in our vocal cords, but this project for the Hackaday Prize aims to be a bridge between singers and instrumentalists. It’s a hands-free instrument that relies on vocal gesture sensing to drive electronic musical instruments.

The act of speaking requires dozens of muscles, and of course no device that measures how the human vocal tract is shaped will be able to measure all of them, but the Multiwind does manage to measure breathing in, breathing out, the shape of the lower lip, the upper lip, and its own tilt, giving it far more feedback than any traditional wind instrument. It does this with IMUs and a mouthpiece mounted on a mount that is seemingly inspired by one of those hands-free harmonica neck mounts.

The output for this device is MIDI, although the team behind this build already has data streaming to an instance of Max, and once you have that, you have every musical instrument imaginable. It’s an innovative musical instrument, and something we’re really excited to see the results of.

Hurdy-Gurdy Gets Modernized With MIDI Upgrades

If you’ve never heard a hurdy-gurdy before, you’re in for a treat. Not many people have, since they’re instruments which are uncommon outside of some eastern European communities. Think of a violin that replaces the bow with a hand-cranked wheel, and adds some extra strings that function similar to drones on a bagpipe. The instrument has been around for hundreds of years, but now it’s been given an upgrade via the magic of MIDI.

All of these new features come from [Barnaby Walters] who builds hurdy-gurdys by hand but has recently been focusing on his MIDI interface. The interface can do pitch-shifting polyphony, which allows the instrument to make its own chords and harmonies. It also has a hybrid poly synthesizer, which plays completely different sounds, and can layer them on top of one another. It can also split the keyboard into two instruments, where the top half plays one sound and the bottom half another. It’s an interesting take on an interesting instrument, and the video is definitely worth a look.

The hurdy-gurdy isn’t a commonly used instrument for hacking compared to something like drums or the violin, of course. In fact we had to go back over ten years to find any other articles featuring the hurdy-gurdy, the Furby Gurdy. It was an appropriately named instrument.

Thanks to [baldpower] for the tip!

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