The Raspberry Pi Pico is what you might call the board of the moment, thanks to its combination of affordability, features, and continued availability during the component shortage. We have seen plenty of great projects using it, and the latest to float past is [todbot]’s PicoStepSeq, an extremely compact MIDI sequencer.
All the components are mounted on a PCB, with the sequencer’s eight steps selected by a row of buttons with integrated LEDs. The interface is via an SSD1306 OLED, and there is also a rotary encoder. Software comes courtesy of CircuitPython, and the output is delivered via a 3.5 mm TRS jack. Finally the whole is wrapped in a 3D printed enclosure.
The result is a sequencer that could almost be a product in its own right, and we think anyone whose interests lie in electronic music should find straightforward enough to build. All the files and information required to build your own can be found in the linked repository, and he’s placed a Tweet with a video online which we’ve embedded below the break.
Continue reading “PicoStepSeq Is Small But Perfectly Formed”
[Attoparsec] has been building intriguing musical projects on his YouTube channel for a while and his latest is no exception. Dubbed simply as “Node Module”, it is a rack-mounted hardware-based Markov chain beat sequencer. Traditionally Markov chains are software state machines that transition between states with given probabilities, often learned from a training corpus. That same principle has been applied to hardware beat sequencing.
Each Node Module has a trigger input, four outputs each with a potentiometer, and a trigger out. [Attoparsec] has a wonderful explanation of all the different parts and theories that make up the module at the start of his video, but the basic operation is that a trigger input comes in and the potentiometers are read to determine the probabilities of each output. One is randomly selected and fired. As you can imagine, there are loops and even dead-end nodes and for some musical pieces there is a certain number of beats expected, so a clever reset signal can be sent to pull the chain back to the initial starting state at a regular interval. The results are interesting to listen to and even better to imagine all the possibilities.
The module itself is an Arduino-based custom PCB that is laid out quite cleanly. The BOM, code, and KiCad files are available on GitHub if you want to make one yourself. This isn’t the first instrument we’ve seen [Attoparsec] make, and we’re confident it won’t be the last.
Continue reading “Stochastic Markov Beats”
Typically, when we think of a music sequencer, we envisage LEDs and boards covered in buttons. Of course, there are naturally other ways to build such a device. MesoTune takes a different tack entirely, relying on magnets and rotating mechanisms to get the job done.
MesoTune acts as a MIDI controller, and is designed to be hooked up to a computer or other MIDI synthesizer device. The heart of MesoTune is a set of eight magnet wheels, rotating together on a common shaft. The rotational speed of the shaft, dictated by the requested tempo in beats per minute, is controlled by an Arduino. Each magnet wheel has 16 slots into which the user can place a spherical magnet. Every time a magnet on the wheel passes a hall sensor, it sends a MIDI message to the attached computer which is then responsible for using this to synthesize the relevant sound.
There are other useful features, too. Each of the eight magnet wheels, or channels, gets its own fader, which can be used to control volume or other parameters. There’s also a handy tempo display, and a 16-button touchpad for triggering other events. These additions make it more practical to use in a compositional context, where it’s nice to have extra controls to make changes on the fly.
Made out of 3D printed parts and readily available off the shelf components, it’s a fun alternative sequencer design that we’re sure many makers could whip up in just a weekend. We’d love to see other remixes of the design – if you’ve got one, hit us up at the tipline. We’ve seen other great sequencer builds before, too. Video after the break.
If you can’t grow your own synesthesia, buying electronics to do it for you is fine. Such is the case with the CHROMATIC by [Xavier Gazon], an artist who turns all kinds of electronics into circuit-bent musical art pieces. His project turns an old Philips Music 5120 turntable into a colorful MIDI sequencer, inspired by older 20th century instruments such as the Optophonic Piano and the Luminaphone.
The CHROMATIC uses colored pucks placed on a converted turntable to perform a looping sequence of chords in a given musical scale, generating MIDI data as output. Where its inspirations used primitive optics as their medium, this project employs a Teensy microcontroller and two modern optical sensors to do the work. One of these is a simple infrared sensor which tracks a white spot on the edge of the turntable, generating a MIDI clock signal to keep everything quantized and in sync. The other is a color sensor mounted on the tone arm, which can tell what color it sees and the height of the arm from the turntable.
While the instrument is still in beta testing phase details on how notes are generated aren’t yet given, though the general idea is that they are dictated by the color the tone arm sees and its position above the platter. Moving the tone arm changes which pucks it tracks, and the speed of the turntable can also be adjusted, changing how the melody sounds.
The CHROMATIC is a very interesting project, but it’s not the first optical-based turntable hack we’ve seen here. We’ve also seen a much weirder use for a color sensor, too. Check out the video of this one in action after the break.
Continue reading “Turntable Spins Color And Sound Together”
Nothing says Rockstar Musician Lifestyle like spreadsheet software. Okay, we might have mixed up the word order a bit in that sentence, but there’s always Python to add some truth to it. After all, if we look at the basic concept of MIDI sequencers, we essentially have a row of time-interval steps, and depending on the user interface, either virtual or actual columns of pitches or individual instruments. From a purely technical point of view, spreadsheets and the like would do just fine here.
Amused by that idea, [Maxime] wrote a Python sequencer that processes CSV files that works with both hardware and software MIDI synthesizers. Being Python, most of the details are implemented in external modules, which makes the code rather compact and easy to follow, considering it supports both drums and melody tracks in the most common scales. If you want to give it a try, all you need is the
mido module, and you should be good to go.
However, if spreadsheets aren’t your thing, [Maxime] has also a browser-based sequencer project with integrated synthesizer ongoing, with a previous version of it also available on GitHub. And in case software simply doesn’t work out for you here, and you prefer a more hands-on experience, don’t worry, MIDI sequencers seem like an unfailing resource for inspiration — whether they’re built into an ancient cash register, are made entirely out of wood, or are built from just everything.
Continue reading “Never Mind The Sheet Music, Here’s Spreadsheet Music”
MIDI sequencers are surprisingly expensive, making them an excellent target for [RH Electronics] who has created a sixteen-step device. It supports up to eight playable parts per step, which can be either MIDI or drum triggers.
The case and front panel are built to a very high standard, and on a piece of stripboard within lies an ATmega644 which does all the MIDI work, an ATmega328 that runs the many LEDs, and an ATtiny85 that reads the front panel buttons. The whole is kept in sync by a timer on the 644 set to produce the required MIDI clock. There is an LCD display too, which carries the status and programming interface.
You can see the result in the video below the break, in which the sequencer is put through its paces alongside a tantalising glimpse of a matching synthesiser. Is this another project, or a commercial device on which Google fails us when we try to find it? Meanwhile this is certainly not the first MIDI sequencer we’ve brought you here at Hackaday, this Arduino one is another example of several also using Atmel parts.
Continue reading “A MIDI Sequencer To Be Proud Of”