When we think of MIDI devices, we typically jump straight to drum machines, rack synths, and keyboard controllers. However, there’s nothing saying you can’t build your own MIDI controllers that use the magic of breath to do their musical duty. That’s precisely what [Xavier Dumont] did with this unique 3D printed build.
The device looks somewhat like an alien ship from an animated 1960s sci-fi movie, but it’s actually a sophisticated MIDI controller. Naturally, it’s peppered with buttons as every good controller should be, and it features a touch-control strip on the back.
However, the real magic is in the breath control. When the user blows into the sensor, the device sends out MIDI signals of varying intensity to control the object of the player’s desire. The breath signal can be used to modulate the mod wheel, pitch bends, or octave shifts, among a variety of other options.
[Xavier] wields the instrument with prowess in the audio demos at the end of the video. We can imagine this futuristic thing being played by a background alien in a celebration scene in a far-flung Marvel movie. Or maybe Star Wars? In any case, a triumph.
Engineers, hackers, and makers can most certainly build a musical gadget of some kind. They’ll build synths, they’ll build aerophones, and they’ll take the idea of mercury delay line memory, two hydrophones, and a really long tube filled with water to build the most absurd delay in existence. One thing they can’t seem to do is build a woodwind MIDI controller. That’s where [J.M.] comes in. He’s created the Open Woodwind Project as an open and extensible interface that can play sax and clarinet while connected to a computer.
If you want to play MIDI, there are plenty of options for keyboards, drum sets, matrix pads, and even strings. If you want to play a MIDI saxophone, there aren’t many options. Keytars, for example, are more popular than MIDI woodwind controllers. [J.M.] is changing this with a MIDI controller that recreates electronic aerophones electronically.
The controller itself uses a Teensy 3.2 loaded up with an ARM Cortex M4, two MPR121 touch controllers for 24 channels of capacititve touch capability, and a pressure sensor to tell the computer how strong the user is blowing. All of this works, and [J.M.] has a few videos showing off the capabilities of his homemade controller. It’s a great piece of work, and there are a few extentions that make this really interesting: there’s the possibility of adding CV out so it can be connected to modular synths, and the addition of accelerometers to the build makes for some very interesting effects.
It’s easy to become obsessed with music, especially once you start playing. You want to make music everywhere you go, which is completely impractical. Don’t believe me? See how long you can get away with whistling on the subway or drumming your hands on any number of bus surfaces before your fellow passengers revolt. There’s a better way, and that way is portable USB MIDI controllers.
[Johan] wanted a pocket-sized woodwind MIDI controller, but all the existing ones he found were too big and bulky to carry around. With little more than a Teensy and a pressure sensor, he created TeensieWI. It uses the built-in cap sense library to read input from the copper tape keys, generate MIDI messages, and send them over USB or DIN. Another pair of conductive pads on the back allow for octave changes. [Johan] later added a PSP joystick to do pitch bends, modulation, and glide. This is a simple build that creates a versatile instrument.
You don’t actually blow air into the mouthpiece—just let it escape from the sides of your mouth instead. That might take some getting used to if you’ve developed an embouchure. The values are determined by a pressure sensor that uses piezoresistivity to figure out how hard you’re blowing. There’s a default breath response value that can be configured in the settings.
TeensiWI should be easy to replicate or remix into any suitable chassis, though the UV-reactive acrylic looks pretty awesome. [Johan]’s documentation on IO is top-notch and includes a user guide with a fingering chart. For all you take-my-money types out there, [Johan] sells ’em ready to rock on Tindie. Check out the short demo clips after the break.