There are a handful of relatively dirt cheap synths out there like the KORG Monotron, but many of them use ribbon controllers that aren’t very precise. Ribbon controllers basically slide pots that you operate with your finger or a stylus. They’re painted to look like piano keys in order to show you approximately where the notes are supposed to be. The Stylophone is another extremely affordable synth that does even less as a synthesizer and uses this type of input. It’s a fun input if you don’t mind imprecision, but can be annoying otherwise.
[schollz] isn’t satisfied to synth this way, so they added MIDI input to their KORG Monotron using a Raspberry Pi and a DAC. Fortunately, the Monotron is quite the hackable little synth, with nice, big, labelled pads on the PCB.
All it really took was a couple of solder joints in the right places, plus a clever Python script. The script listens for MIDI input from a keyboard, and then controls an MCP4725 DAC, which sends voltages to the Monotron. [schollz] wrote a tuning function that computes the FFT of the MIDI tones to find the fundamental frequencies of each to send along to the Monotron. Check it out after the break.
If liquid control is what you’re after but all you have is a keyboard, try making your own ribbon controller.
Continue reading “Adding MIDI To A Mini Synth Is Easy As Pi” →
There’s kind of a special joy in making instruments, no matter how simple or complex they are. Even if it’s a straight-up noisemaker, that’s noise you can be proud of. And besides, noise plus rhythm equals music.
Whenever you’re ready to have some next-level fun, try making controllers for your DIY instruments. Synthesizers of all stripes are often controlled with various types of potentiometers. While it would definitely be an interesting exercise to make your own standard twist-style potentiometer, [lonesoulsurfer] shows that making a ribbon controller is relatively easy.
A ribbon controller is essentially a deconstructed potentiometer that uses your finger to actuate the wiper. Here the wiper is made from Velostat, a fun, low-cost conductive material that’s also pressure-sensitive. The rest of the ribbon controller is a sandwich of thin copper plates and non-conductive plastic mounted on a wood base.
But what’s a fun controller without a fun instrument to control? As a special bonus, [lonesoulsurfer] made a little square wave-squirting synth based on the 4046 hex inverter and included the schematic for it. Slide your finger past the break to check ’em both out.
Depending on what you have lying around, it may be easier to make analog instruments like this rubber band boinger or its country cousin, the wheelbarrow bass.
Continue reading “DIY Ribbon Controller For A DIY Synth” →
It sounds a little like a Theremin and looks a lot like the contents of your scrap bin. But it’s a unique musical instrument called a modulin, and after a few teasers we finally have some details on how it was built.
Making music with marbles is how we first heard of [Martin] of the Swedish music group Wintergatan. He seems as passionate about making his own instruments as he is about the music itself, and we like that. The last time we saw one of his builds was this concert-ready music box, which he accompanied with an instrument he called a modulin. That video gave only a tantalizing look at this hacked together instrument, but the video below details it.
“Modulin” comes from the modular synthesizer units that create the waveforms and pressure-sensitive ribbon controller on the violin-like neck. The instrument has 10 Doepfer synthesizer modules mounted to a hacked-together frame of wood and connected by a forest of patch cables. [Martin]’s tour of the instrument is a good primer on how synthesizers synthesize – VCOs, VCAs, envelope generators, filters – it’s all there. We’re treated to a sample of the sounds a synthesizer can make, plus majestic and appropriately sci-fi sounding versions of Also sprach Zarathustra and the theme from Jurassic Park. And be sure to check out the other video for another possibly familiar tune.
This might be old hat to musicians, but for those of us to whom music is a mystery, such builds hold extra sway. Not only is [Martin] making music, he’s making the means to make music. We’re looking forward to hearing what’s next.
Continue reading “It’s A Synthesizer. It’s A Violin. It’s A Modulin” →
[Brendan Byrne] stripped this instrument down to basics and built himself a ribbon controller bass guitar. Details are still a bit sparse on his website, but there are plenty of detailed pictures on his flickr stream. [Brendan] built his bass as part the Future of Guitar Design Course at Parsons the New School for Design. His goal was to create an experience in which playing the instrument and altering parameters of effects are triggered by the same gestures. He’s definitely succeeded in that effort.
Basically, the bass is a four channel ribbon controller. The frets were removed to make way for four graphite strips. [Brendan] followed [Iain’s] excellent tutorial to create his own graphite strips using soft artist’s pencils. The ribbons essentially become potentiometers, which are then read by a teensy. [Brendan] expanded the instrument’s sonic palette by adding several buttons and potentiometers mapped to MIDI control codes. He even included a triple axis accelerometer so every movement of the bass can be mapped. The MIDI data is sent to a PC running commercial music software. Analog sound comes from a piezo pickup placed under the bridge of the bass.
The results are pretty awesome. While we can’t say [Brendan’s] demo was music to our ears, we definitely see the musical possibilities of this kind of instrument.
Continue reading “Rock Out With Your Ribbon Controller Bass” →