The Theremin Gets A Voice

Every once in a while, we come across a project that adds a ridiculously good twist on an existing design. This is exactly what [Xiao Xiao] and the team at LAM research group at the Institut d’Alembert in Paris have done. Their project T-VOKS is a singing and Speaking Theremin that is sure to drive everyone in the office crazy. (YouTube link, embedded below for your viewing pleasure.)

For the uninitiated, the Theremin is an electronic music instrument that does not require physical contact. Instead, it uses two antennas to sense the distance of the operators hands and uses that to modulate the pitch and volume of the output audio. From music concerts to movie background music to even scaring the neighbours, this instrument can do it all.

T-VOKS is a different take on the instrument, and it interfaces with a voice synthesizer to sing. There is an additional sensor that is used for the syllable sequencing, and the video below shows the gadget in operation. The icing on the cake is the instrument playing, or should that be singing in an actual concert. There is also a research paper detailing the operation on Dropbox[PDF] if you need the nitty-gritty.

We wonder how a TTS engine would work with this idea and hope to see some more projects like it in the future. Fore those looking to get started, have a look at the build guide for a DIY theremin.

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Clocked 8-Bit Random Pattern Generator For A CMOS Synth

A random noise generator is pretty handy when working with music, and building one using a micro-controller can be pretty trivial. So it’s nice when someone comes along and builds it from a few analog and digital parts. [acidbourbon] built his Clocked 8-BIT Random Pattern Generator for  CMOS Synth  inspired and motivated by the recent article Logic Noise: Sweet, Sweet Oscillator Sounds by [Elliot Williams]. It’s 8-bit output can be used as a random sequencer for DIY CMOS synths.
This pattern generator is suited to to be used in combination with a 4051 8-channel analog multiplexer. But it sounds quite interesting on it’s own (best enjoyed in stereo, check out the video after the break). After building some CMOS synth circuits, [acidbourbon] moved on to make some sequencers and multiplexers which then let him to devise this random pattern generator which could be gated using a clock signal.

The basic principle is straight forward – generate noise, amplify it, apply a clock to get the gated noise output. His design choices for the various sections are well explained, based on constraints that he had to work with. Everything needs to work at 5V, but his noise generator circuit requires 12V to work. He choose to use a charge pump to generate -5V, resulting in a 10V supply, which was barely enough, but worked. A boost regulator might probably have served better to generate 12V, but maybe he already had the ICL7660 charge pump IC lying around in his parts bin. The rest of the circuit uses standard CMOS/TTL devices, and [acidbourbon] provides all of the design files for what looks like a neat, single sided PCB that can easily be made using the toner-transfer method.

Video below.

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Building The Ocarina Of Time With An FPGA

[Joe] and [Evan] wanted to have some fun with their FPGA course at Cornell. When faced with what to do at the beginning of the semester, they figured additive synthesis was a worthy pursuit. They ended up building the Ocarina of Time for their final project.

The guys started by recording a real ocarina and figuring out the relative power levels of each harmonic. Because any sound can be synthesized from a bunch of sine waves, having their Altera FPGA board replicate those frequencies produces a nice ocarina sound

[Joe] and [Evan]’s ocarina has a ‘mouthpiece’ that is just a small microphone. This mic is hooked up to the FPGA board and controls the volume. Sadly, the guys didn’t have time to take apart an N64 controller so 6 red buttons serve as the finger holes.

From the video after the break, [Joe] and [Evan] really pulled together something that sounds like Link’s Ocarina. Great work, guys.

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Reactable: Visual, Interactive Synth

[imajes] brought this sweet project to my attention. The table is reactive thanks to the combination of a projector and a video camera below the surface. The position and unique pattern of each block on the table is used to manipulate the operations of the synth. The software is open source – so you can build your own. (And it’ll run on linux, mac and windows) Check out the videos for a good demonstration. I’m thinking that one of these could be built on a budget using lumenlab/overhead LCD technology.