A Tidy Octave Mod For The Casio SK-1

1985 saw the release of the Casio SK-1, a compact sampling keyboard that brought the technology to a lower price point than ever before. However, one drawback of this was that it comes stock with only a 2.5 octave keyboard. [Jonas Karlsson] wanted a little more range out of the instrument, so set about hacking in his own octave mod.

The build consists of fiddling with the SK-1’s microprocessor clock to change the pitch of the notes generated by the instrument. The original clock is generated by a simple LC circuit, which in this mod is fed to an inverter, and then a pair of flip-flops to divide the clock by four. The original clock and the divided version are then both sent to a mux chip. With the flick of the switch, either the original or downshifted clock can be sent to the microprocessor.

With the slower clock feeding the microprocessor, all the notes are downshifted an octave. The resulting sound, which you can listen to on Soundcloud, is similar to what you get when chopping down sample rates. It bears noting, however, that as this mod changes the master clock, other features such as rhythms are also effected.

It’s a great mod which gives the instrument a gloomier, grittier sound on demand. The Casio SK-1 has long been prized for its hackability; we’ve seen them completely worked over in previous mods. If you’ve got your own twisted audio experiments cooking up in the workshop, be sure to drop us a line.

Cheap, Expandable Floor Piano Plays With Heart And Soul

Ever since we saw the movie Big, we’ve wanted a floor piano. Still do, actually. We sometimes wonder how many floor pianos that movie has sold. It’s definitely launched some builds, too, but perhaps none as robust as this acrylic and wooden beauty by [FredTSL]. If you want more technical detail, check out the project on IO.

The best part is that this piano is modular and easily expands from 1 to 8 octaves. Each octave runs on an Arduino Mega, with the first octave set up as a primary and the others as secondaries. When [FredTSL] turns it on, the primary octave sends a message to find out how many octaves are out there, and then it assigns each one a number. Whenever a note is played via conductive fabric and sensor, the program fetches the key number and octave number and sends the message back to the primary Mega, which plays the note through a MIDI music shield.

We think this looks fantastic and super fun to dance around on. Be sure to check out the build log in photos, and stick around after the break, because you’d better believe they busted out some Heart and Soul on this baby. After all, it’s pretty much mandatory at this point.

Wish you could build a floor piano but don’t have the space or woodworking skills? Here’s a smaller, wireless version that was built in 24 hours.

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12-Arduino Orchestra Plays Star Wars Fanfare

Back in the early days of the musical synthesizer, some designers who wished for polyphony in their instruments would simply build multiple tone-generators for as many notes as they wished to play. [Kevin] took that same approach with his Arduino orchestra, and set about having it play the closing number from Star Wars: A New Hope.

The build consists of twelve Arduino Nanos, each wired up to power, a speaker, and the same MIDI cable. The MIDI cable carries note data for each Arduino on a separate MIDI channel, allowing each to play its own role in the orchestra. [Kevin] then set about arranging the Star Wars music into a MIDI file suitable for the Arduinos, roughly setting six voices to high parts and six voices low. The Arduinos play the notes received using the simple tone() function. The result is a very chiptune rendition of the end of the fourth episode of the world’s most famous space opera.

It may not be neat, tidy, or efficient, but it certainly is fun. Twelve Arduinos bleeping away with their flashing LEDs and cute little speakers makes quite the conversation piece. It’s a similar approach to the Floppotron, which plays more notes by adding more floppy drives. We’ve also seen the same thing done with SEGA sound chips. Video after the break.
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Old Phone Becomes MIDI Controller

MIDI controllers come in all shapes and sizes. Commercial products based on keyboards or matrixes of buttons are popular, but there’s nothing stopping you from whipping up your own creations out of whatever strikes your fancy. [Kevin] has done just that, turning an old telephone into a working MIDI device.

The phone in question is a Doro X20 wired landline phone. Being surplus to [Kevin’s] requirements left it ripe for the hacking. A Raspberry Pi Pico was wired in to the phone’s keypad, slimmed down with a hacksaw in order to allow it to neatly fit inside the original enclosure. Then it was a simple matter of whipping up some code to read the buttons and output MIDI data via the Pico’s serial output.

Later, [Kevin] brought the design into the modern world, setting it up to talk USB MIDI using the Pico’s onboard USB hardware. This makes using it with a computer a cinch, and lets [Kevin] control a DAW using the handset controller.

It’s a fun build, and one that shows how you can easily build your own MIDI hardware using nothing but a soldering iron, some buttons, and a modern microcontroller. From there, the sky really is the limit. Whether you like big knobs, easy playing, or have your own personal tastes, you can build what you like to suit your own style. When you do, drop us a line! Video after the break.

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Hi-Fi Combines Best Of 60s And 90s Technology

The 90s were a dark time for audio equipment, literally and figuratively. Essentially the only redeeming quality from the decade of nondescript black plastic boxes was the low cost. Compared to the audio equipment of the 60s, largely produced in high-end enclosures with highly desirable tube amplifiers, the 90s did not offer much when it came to hi-fi stereo sound. However, those cheap black boxes from the 90s turn out to be surprisingly perfect for project enclosures for other amplifier builds, such as this 60s-era tube amp recreation.

This mesh of the best of two distinct decades comes from [Alvenh] and begins by preparing the old enclosure for its new purpose. This means a lot of work fabricating a custom metal face plate for the new amplifier and significantly modifying the remaining case. After the box is complete, the amplifier build began. It uses a tube-based preamp and a solid-state power amplifier since [Alvenh]’s experience suggested that the warm tube sound was generated mostly in the preamp. This means that his design is a hybrid but still preserves the essential qualities of a full tube build.

The build also includes a radio module that has the ability to cover the 2m and 70cm bands popular in ham radio. This module also has been found to have much better audio quality than the standard AM/FM receiver typically used in projects like this. With the radio module added to the custom enclosure, as well as a phono amp and a power supply, [Alvenh] has an excellent audio amplifier in an inexpensive case which preserves the tube sound from the true hi-fi eras of decades past.

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Neural Networks Emulate Any Guitar Pedal For $120

It’s a well-established fact that a guitarist’s acumen can be accurately gauged by the size of their pedal board- the more stompboxes, the better the player. Why have one box that can do everything when you can have many that do just a few things?

Jokes aside, the idea of replacing an entire pedal collection with a single box is nothing new. Your standard, old-school stompbox is an analog affair, using a combination of filters and amplifiers to achieve a certain sound. Some modern multi-effects processors use software models of older pedals to replicate their sound. These digital pedals have been around since the 90s, but none have been quite like the NeuralPi project. Just released by [GuitarML], the NeuralPi takes about $120 of hardware (including — you guessed it — a Raspberry Pi) and transforms it into the perfect pedal.

The key here, of course, is neural networks. The LSTM at the core of NeuralPi can be trained on any pedal you’ve got laying around to accurately reproduce its sound, and it can even do so with incredibly low latency thanks to Elk Audio OS (which even powers Matt Bellamy’s synth guitar, as used in Muse‘s Simulation Theory World Tour). The result of a trained model is a VST3 plugin, a popular format for describing audio effects.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen some seriously cool stuff from [GuitarML], and it also hearkens back a bit to some sweet pedal simulation in LTSpice we saw last year. We can’t wait to see this project continue to develop — over time, it would be awesome to see a slick UI, or maybe somebody will design a cool enclosure with some knobs and an honest-to-god pedal for user input!

Thanks to [Mish] for the tip!

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Web Assembly, Music Synthesis, And The Beauty Of Math

The electronics hobby has changed a lot since the advent of the microprocessor. Before that — and with the lack of large-scale integrated circuits — projects in magazines tended to be either super simple or ultra complex. However, one popular type of project dealt with music synthesis. Fairly simple circuits could combine to make a complex synthesizer so it was sort of the best of both worlds. Nowadays, you are more likely to tackle a music synthesizer in software like [Tim] did when he created Abelton in Web Assembly and C++. Along the way, he learned a lot about the relationship between math and music.

[Tim] covers what he learned about the Nyquist theorem and how to keep synthesis data flowing in real time with buffers. However, there are some problems trying to do all this in a cross-browser context. The AudioWorklet class appears to have widespread support, though, and [Tim] managed to get that working.

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