Probability-Based Drummer Leaves The Beats Up To Chance

Drum machines may seem like one of the many rites of passage for hardware makers, they’re a concept you can implement simply or take into the extreme making it as complex as you want. [Matt’s] DrumKid is one of them, and its long development history is wonderfully documented in the project logs.

[Matt’s] original intention was to use the automatic drummer as part of his band, wanting “the expressiveness of a good drummer but without the robotic tendencies of a simple drum machine”. For that, he created the first iteration of the DrumKid, a web-based project using the Web Audio API. The interface consisted of bars showing levels for different settings which could be intuitively tweaked, changing the probability of a drum sound being played. This gave the “drummer” its unpredictability, setting itself apart from any regular old drum machine.

Fast forward a few years, and [Matt] now wants to recreate his DrumKid as a proper piece of musical gear, porting the concept into a standalone hardware drum machine you can plug into your mixer. He decided to go with the Arduino framework for his project rather than the Teensy platform in order to make it cheaper to build. The controls are simplified down to a few buttons and potentiometers, and the whole thing runs off of three AAA batteries. Also, targeting the project for hardware like this allowed for new features to be added, such as a bit-crush filter.

We already saw the first prototype here on Hackaday when it was featured in a Hackaday Prize mentor session, and it’s nice to see how the project evolved since. After a number of revisions, the new prototype takes design cues from Teenage Engineering’s “Pocket Operator” drum machine, using the main PCB as its own faceplate rather than a 3D printed case in a familiar way we’ve seen before. Unfortunately, the latest board is non-functional due to a routing mistake, but you can see the previous working prototypes in his project logs.

Keyboard Composes Its Own Music

Summer is right around the corner and all the final projects from electronic design classes are rolling into the tip line. This time, we’ve got [Chaorong] and [Siyu]’s auto-composing keyboard from their time in ECE4760 at Cornell.

The keyboard has two modes: a ‘happy’ mode and a ‘tender’ mode, the difference being the tender mode is slower and sounds a little like a lullaby. After two keys are pressed, the ATMega644 figures out what key it should play in and starts generating a random-ish sounding song using a Markov probability matrix.

There’s a third option for the keyboard as well: play a short melody and the software will loop through a few permutations of the melody. After the break, you can see [Siyu] play Ode to Joy and have the autocomposer improvise around the tune. Very, very nice work and we can’t wait to see more senior design projects hit the tip line.

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