Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One Where Shift Happens

It’s been an exciting few weeks for me personally on the clacking front. I got a couple of new-to-me keyboards including my first one with ALPS switches, an old TI/99A keyboard with Futaba MD switches, and a couple of what are supposed to be the original Cherry switches (oh man they clack so nicely!) But enough about my keyboard-related fortuitousness, and on to the hacks and clacks!

Putting My Pedals to the Metal

Kinesis Savant Elite triple foot pedal. It's a keyboard for your feet!I picked up this Kinesis Savant Elite triple foot pedal from Goodwill. It works fine, but I don’t like the way it’s programmed — left arrow, right arrow, and right mouse click. I found the manual and the driver on the Kinesis website easily enough, but I soon learned that you need a 32-bit computer to program it. Period. See, Kinesis never wrote an updated driver for the original Savant Elite pedal, they just came out with a new one and people had to fork over another $200 or figure something else out.

I’m fresh out of 32-bit computers, so I tried running the program in XP-compatibility mode like the manual says, but it just doesn’t work. Oh, and the manual says you can brick it if you don’t do things correctly, so that’s pretty weird and scary. It was about this time that I started to realize how easy it would be to open it up and just replace the controller with something much more modern. Once I got inside, I saw that all three switches use JST plugs and right angle header. Then I though hey, why not just re-use this set-up? I might have to make a new board, but it how awesome would it be to plug these pedals’ JSTs into my own board?

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Page-Turning Pedal Is Pretty Boss

Buying things to make your life easier certainly has its therapeutic joys, but if you really wanna feel good, you gotta make the thing yourself whenever possible. [Bjørn Brandal] happened to have a two-switch BOSS pedal just lying around, so it made sense to turn it into a wireless page turner for reading sheet music.

As [Bjørn] says, the circuit is simple — just two 1/4″ TRS jacks and an ItsyBitsy nRF52840 Express. The jacks are used to connect to the pedal outputs to the ItsyBitsy, which sends keystrokes over BLE.

The cool thing about this pedal is that it can work with a bunch of programs, like forScore, Abelton Live, Garage Band, and more. The different modes are accessed by holding down both pedals, and there’s confirmation via blinking LED and buzzing buzzer.

Our favorite part has to be the DIY light guide [Bjørn] that bends the ItsyBitsy’s RGB LED 90° and points it out the front of the enclosure. Nicely done!

Don’t play anything but the computer keyboard? Put those feet to work with shortcuts behind giant arcade buttons.

Stomp Switches Let You Skip Tracks Hands-Free

You’ve (probably) got four limbs, so why are you only using half of them when you’re working on the computer? Just because your toes don’t have the dexterity to type (again, probably) doesn’t mean your feet should get to just sit there doing nothing all day. In a recent project, [MacCraiger] shows you just how easy it can be to put some functionality under foot by building a pair of media control stomp switches.

Crimp pin connectors grant +50 professionalism.

If the devices pictured above look a lot like guitar effects, that’s because they share a lot of parts. [MacCraiger] used the same sort of switch and aluminum case that you might see on a pedal board, as he figured they’d be better suited to a lifetime of being stepped on than something he 3D printed.

Up on the desk, and this time in a printed case, is the Arduino Leonardo that they connect to. The wiring for this project is very straightforward, with the switches connected directly to the GPIO pins. From there, the Arduino firmware emulates a USB Human Interface Device and fires off the appropriate media control keystrokes to skip to the next track or pause playback depending on which switch has been engaged.

This hardware isn’t exactly breaking any new ground here, but we did like how [MacCraiger] used standard 3.5 mm audio cable and the associated jacks to connect everything up. It’s obviously on-theme for what’s essentially a music project, but more importantly, gives the whole thing a very professional look. Definitely a tip to mentally file away for the future.

For the more accomplished toe-tapper, our very own [Kristina Panos] recently recently took us through the construction of her macro slinging footstool. Between these two examples of bespoke peripherals, you should have everything you need to create your own custom input devices. We suppose you could even make one that’s hand operated if you’re into that sort of thing.

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USB Ableton Foot Controller Reuses Old Keyboard

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No, Hackaday hasn’t started advertising shoes, this is [Matlek’s] foot controller for Ableton Live.

Matlek plays guitar and needed an easy way to control Ableton Live, which he uses as a looper. Ableton normally expects keyboard input, so that’s exactly what he gave it.

An old dell keyboard was gutted down to its controller board. This exposes  the leads the keyboard uses to scan the key matrix.  From there it is simply trial and error connecting different pins together and seeing which keys are printed on the PC screen (A text editor works well for this). Only 8 characters are needed to control the looper, so [Matlek] chose digits 1-8.

Since some of the wires are going to be sharing pins, a small piece of stripboard comes in handy between the buttons and the keyboard controller. [Maltek] used basic momentary push buttons for his mini key matrix, though we think that box looks sturdy enough to support some larger stomp box style buttons.

Everything comes together inside a sturdy shoebox, which also serves to insulate the exposed keyboard PCB from shorting out.

The only major downside to the project is that the box is light enough that it slides easily on the floor when recording or triggering loops. Adding some heavy items (or dare we say, some shoes) would solve this problem. Self adhesive rubber feet on the bottom of the box would help too.

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Tearing Apart An Organ And Making A MIDI Keyboard

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What do you do if you’re in a band and have an old, dead organ lying around? Build a MIDI foot controller, of course.

After dispensing of the old organ guts, [Mark] mounted the pedals in a handsome road case and started working on the electronics. His first inclination was to mount an Arduino Pro Mini on a piece of stripboard, but after that failed decided to learn Eagle and fabricate a PCB. each key of the organ pedals are connected to a switch read by the Arduino which sends data to a Korg Microsampler over MIDI.

The swell pedal from the organ was also reused, but because the old incandescent light in the pedal was toast, this was replaced with an LED. It still works, allowing [Mark] to do volume swells on his new, fancy, MIDI foot controller.

You can check out a video of the controller below.

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Organ Pedals Fill In When Your Bass Player Is Missing

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Since his string bass player isn’t always around [Antoine] built his own electric bass stand-in using the pedals from an old organ. The project — which he calls the Organ Donor — was inspired by a similar standalone organ pedal bass project. That instrument was built using a 555 timer to generate the sound. But [Antoine] has a little more room for growth as he’s using an old microcontroller development board to generate sound.

The octaves worth of pedals were pulled from an old broken Yamaha A55 Electone organ. After extracting the assembly from the instrument he built a nice wooden case around it. This doubles as a stand for the amplifier which broadcasts the sound. An old Freescale development board is wired up to twelve of the keys (the top C is unused). It generates a square wave at the appropriate frequency for each key. This signal is fed through a low-pass filter before being routed to the audio jack on the back of the case.

Future improvements include building an amplifier into the pedal assembly. We would also love to see different signal processing to expand the range of sounds the pedals can generate. We’re not sure of the capabilities of that microcontroller, but it would be neat to hear tone generation using stored samples.

Guitar Foot Controller Uses DSP For Audio Effects

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This a screenshot taken from [Pierre’s] demonstration of an electric guitar effects pedal combined with DSP and Pure Data. He pulls this off by connecting the guitar directly to the computer, then feeds the computer’s audio output to the guitar amp.

The foot controls include a pedal and eight buttons, all monitored by an Arduino. Pure Data, a visual programming language, interprets the input coming from the Arduino over USB and alters the incoming audio using digital signal processing. [Pierre] manages the audio connection using the JACK Audio Connection Kit software package.

In the video after the break he’s using a laptop for most of the work, but he has also managed to pull this off with a Raspberry Pi. There’s no audio input on the RPi board, but he’s been using a USB sound card anyway. The other USB port connects the Arduino and he’s in business.

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