MIDI Harp Looks Pretty Sharp

[Julien] is one of those cool dads who shows his love with time invested rather than money spent. His daughter plays the harp, and you would not believe the price of concert harps. Even the cheap ones are several thousand USD. So naturally, he decided he would build her a MIDI concert harp from the ground up.

This plucky work in progress uses a strain gauge and an AD620 amplifier on every string to detect the tension when plucked. These amplifiers are connected to Arduinos, with an Arduino every nine strings. The Arduinos send MIDI events via USB to a Raspberry Pi, which is running the open synth platform Zynthian along with Pianoteq.

The harp is strung with guitar strings painted with silver, because he wanted capacitive touch support as well. But he scrapped that plan due to speed and reliability issues. Strain past the break to check out a brief demo video.

[Julien] used strings because he wanted to anchor the harpist in tactility. But you’re right; many if not most MIDI harps use lasers.

Continue reading “MIDI Harp Looks Pretty Sharp”

Itty Bitty MIDI Piano Sings With Solenoids

Toy pianos are fun to plink around on for a minute, but their small keyboards and even smaller sound make them musically uninteresting pretty quickly. [Måns Jonasson] found a way to jazz up a two-octave toy piano almost beyond recognition. All it took was thirty solenoids, a few Arduinos, a MIDI shield, and a lot of time and patience.

This particular piano’s keys use lever action to strike thin steel tines. These tines are spaced just wide enough for tiny 5V solenoids to fit over them. Once [Måns] got a single solenoid striking away via MIDI input, he began designing 3D printed holders to affix them to the soundboard.

Everything worked with all thirty solenoids in place, but the wiring was a bird’s nest of spaghetti until he upgraded to motor driver shields. Then he designed a new bracket to hold eight solenoids at once, with a channel for each pair of wires. Every eight solenoids, there’s an Arduino and a motor shield.

The resulting junior player piano sounds like someone playing wind chimes like a xylophone, or a tiny Caribbean steel drum. Check out the build video after the break.

Hate the sound of toy pianos, but dig the convenient form factor? Turn one into a synth.

Continue reading “Itty Bitty MIDI Piano Sings With Solenoids”

Chiptunes Via USB MIDI With The AY-3-8910

There are many venerable soundchips in the chiptune pantheon, of which the AY-3-8910 is perhaps one of the lesser known. Having not served on active duty for Nintendo or Commodore it’s somewhat unloved in the USA, but it made its name in a variety of arcade and pinball machines and has quite a European following due to its appearance in machines bearing the Amstrad and Sinclair names. [TheSpodShed] decided to whip up a USB MIDI interface for the chip, with the help of the Arduino Pro Micro.

The Arduino Pro Micro is a Sparkfun creation, using the ATmega32U4 microcontroller. Its USB MIDI functionality makes it a perfect candidate for such a build, and it also packs enough digital IO to run the AY-3-8910, with 13 lines required to get things going. [TheSpodShed] whipped up the project on protoboard, with only a few passives needed along with the sound chip and Arduino.

The Arduino code was written with an eye to making the most of the chip’s limited polyphony. The synth prioritises the most recent received notes, while also aiming to keep the highest and lowest of the currently requested notes still playing where possible. This gives the synth the best chance of keeping the expected bass and melody intact when playing a wide variety of MIDI content.

It’s a tidy build, and one that shows some love for a soundchip some have forgotten. Of course, it’s not the only option – we’ve also seen the SAM2695 and YM2612 given the same treatment. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Chiptunes Via USB MIDI With The AY-3-8910”

Weather Station Can Rock You Like A Hurricane

People love to talk about the weather. It’s the perfect small talk, whether you’re trying to start a conversation or keep one going by avoiding an awkward silence. In the same fashion, weather stations are an ideal starting point for any sort of sensor-related project ideas. You get to familiarizing yourself with communication buses, ADCs, general data acquisition, and you learn a lot in figuring out how to visualize it all.

What if your weather station didn’t visualize anything? [OttoNL] is answering that question with a MIDI-generating Weather Station that uses the mood of the music to convey the condition of the elements outside.

Using an ESP8266 programmed via the Arduino IDE, [OttoNL] hooked up a light dependent resistor, a rain sensor, and the all-round workhorse BME280 for temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity to it. Reading the sensors, the ESP will generate MIDI notes that are sent to a connected synthesizer, with each sensor influencing a different aspect of the generated MIDI signals. A sadder, slow tune will play during rain and a fast upbeat one during sunshine. While it doesn’t use the ESP’s WiFi functionality at all at this point, a future version could easily retrieve some weather forecast data from the internet and add it into the mix as well.

Connect this to your alarm clock, and you can start your day off in the appropriate mood. You can even customize your breakfast toast to really immerse your morning routine in abstract weather cues.

Continue reading “Weather Station Can Rock You Like A Hurricane”

Getting MIDI Under Control

When [Mr. Sobolak] started his DIY Midi Fighter he already had experience with the MIDI protocol, and because it is only natural once you have mastered something to expand on the success and build something more impressive, more useful, and more button-y. He is far from rare in this regard. More buttons mean more than extra mounting holes, for example an Arduino’s I/O will fill up quickly as potentiometers hog precious analog inputs and button arrays take digital ones. Multiplexing came to the rescue, a logic-based way to monitor or control more devices, in contrast to the serial protocols used by an IO expander.

Multiplexing was not in [Mr. Sobolak]’s repertoire, but it was a fitting time to learn and who doesn’t love acquiring a new skill by improving upon a past project? All the buttons were easy enough to mount but keeping the wires tidy was not in the scope of this project, so if you have a weak stomach when it comes to a “bird’s nest” on the underside you may want to look away and think of something neat. Regardless of how well-groomed the wires are, the system works and you can listen to a demo after the break. Perhaps the tangle of copper beneath serves a purpose as it buoys the board up in lieu of an enclosure.

We are looking forward to the exciting new versions where more solutions are exercised, but sometimes, you just have to tackle a problem with the tools you have, like when the code won’t compile with the MIDI and NeoPixel libraries together so he adds an Uno to take care of the LEDs. Is it the most elegant? No. Did it get the job done? Yes, and if you don’t flip over the board, you would not even know.

Continue reading “Getting MIDI Under Control”

Midiboy, The Portable Gaming Console With MIDI

The ArduBoy is a tiny little gaming console that’s also extremely simple. It’s only a small, cheap, monochrome OLED display, a microcontroller with Arduino-derived firmware, and a few buttons. That’s it, but with these simple ingredients the community around the ArduBoy has created a viable gaming platform. It has cartridges now, and one version has a crank. Now, the MIDIboy is bringing something like the ArduBoy to the world of electronic music.

Inside the MIDIboy is what you would expect from any review of the ArduBoy schematics. There are six buttons, a speaker, a USB port, and a SPI OLED display. In addition to all of this are two big chonkin’ DIN-5 ports for MIDI in and MIDI out, and yes, the MIDI in port has an optoisolator.

As for what you can do with a tiny little game console connected to MIDI, there are already a few choice apps — the MIDI Chords app creates chords, obviously, and the MIDImon sketch is a MIDI monitor. There are some controllers for MIDI synths, and of course this device is completely open source. If you’ve ever wanted a DIY controller for your favorite MIDI synth, this is what you need.

If an ArduBoy with MIDI doesn’t sound exciting, just check out Little Sound DJ. That’s a Game Boy cartridge that turns your old brick Game Boy into a music production workstation. Yes, it sounds great and there’s a lot of potential in a pocket game console with MIDI ports.

MIDI-Gurdy, MIDI-Gurdy, MIDI-Gurdy Man

The hurdy gurdy is the perfect musical instrument. It’s an instrument with a crank, and a mechanical wonderment of drone strings and weird chromatic keyboards. No other musical instrument combines the sweet drone of bagpipes with the aural experience of an eight-year-old attempting to play Hot Cross Buns on a poorly tuned violin.

Now, the hurdy gurdy is going digital. The Digi-Gurdy is [XenonJohn]’s entry into this year’s Hackaday Prize, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a musical instrument that drones on and on, with keys plunking out a melody.

If you’re not familiar with a hurdy gurdy, this video is a varily good introduction. It’s a box with somewhere between four and six strings mounted on the outside. The strings vibrate by means of a wooden wheel powered by a crank. There’s a keyboard of sorts along the body of the instrument that ‘fret’ a single string providing the melody; all the other strings are drone strings that sound continuously. I think it was in, like, a Led Zeppelin video, man.

While it’s a slightly complicated build to make an analog hurdy gurdy, delving into the digital domain is easy: [XenonJohn] is building a hurdy gurdy that simply outputs MIDI commands with some buttons and a Teensy 3.6 microcontroller. The parts are 3D printed, and since this hurdy gurdy is completely digital, you can change the tuning of the drone strings without actually tuning them. Awesome.