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Archive for the ‘Midi’ Category

Keytars may have had their moment of popularity in the 1980s, but instruments of the day can’t hold a candle to “The Blade” by makers Sam Wray, Siddharth Vadgama, and Greig Stewart. 

The musical device feeds signals from a pair of Guitar Hero necks, along with a stripped down keytar from Rock Band, into an Arduino Mega. This data is then sent to a Raspberry Pi running PD Extended, and is used to control a pair of Game Boys to produce distinct 8-bit sounds. Audio output can be further modified with a Leap Motion sensor embedded in one of the two necks. 

What makes up The Blade?

– 3D-printed housing

We custom modeled and printed a housing for the instrument to ensure it would be ergonomic to wield, hold together with all the components, and also look badass.

– Two Guitar Hero necks

The necks, hacked off a couple of old Guitar Hero controllers, were totally rewired to output the button presses to jumper cables.

– Arduino Mega

All the wiring from the Guitar Hero necks fed into the Mega, which then registered the button presses and output appropriate MIDI signals over USB serial into the Raspberry Pi.

– Rock Band keytar

We stripped this down to the bare keyboard and had the MIDI also going into the Pi.

Raspberry Pi

Taking in all the MIDI, and running PD Extended we got this to manage and re-map all the button presses we needed. This then output to a MIDI thru box.

– Arduino Boy

This fed the MIDI signals from the thru box into the Game Boy.

Game Boy

These were heart. With MIDI fed in from a multitude of sources, the Game Boy, running mGB, was the synthesizing the signals into sound, output via a standard 3.5mm jack. 

Leap Motion
The Leap Motion was used for further sound modulation.

When you see a vacuum cleaner, most people see a useful implement to keep their carpets clean. James Bruton, however, envisioned another use—as a musical instrument. His new project, which made its appearance this year on April Fools’ Day, sucks air through 12 recorders, allowing it to play a full octave and the melody and lead from “Africa” by Toto… or so he’d have you believe!

In reality, power for his instrument comes from a separate Henry Hoover in another room, blowing air through the normally-suction tube of the broken device on the screen. An Arduino Mega, along with a MIDI shield, enables it to open and close air lines to each of the 12 recorders as needed. 

Check out how it was made in the first video below and the original fake in the second.


Engineers create something out of nothing, and no where is this more apparent than in the creation of customized computer hardware. To make a simple MIDI controller, you need knowledge of firmware design and computer architecture, you need knowledge of mechanical design, and you need to know electronic design. And then you need the actual working knowledge and experience to wield a tool, be it a hammer, laser cutter, or an IDE. [Mega Das] brought together all of these skill to build a MIDI controller. Sure, it’s for bleeps and bloops coming out of a speaker, but take a step back and realize just how awesome it is that any one person could imagine, then implement such a device.

The electronics for this build include a printed circuit board that serves to break out the connections on an Arduino nano to a dozen arcade push buttons, four slide pots, two rotary pots, and a handful of screw terminals to connect everything together. Mechanically, this is a laser-cut box engraved with some fancy graphics and sized perfectly to put everything inside.

Yes, we’ve seen a lot of MIDI controllers built around the Arduino over the years, but this one is in a class by itself. This is taking off-the-shelf parts and customizing them to exactly what you want, and a prodigious example of what is possible with DIY hardware creation. You can check out the build video below.

Michael Sobolak was inspired by the hardware dedicated to Ableton digital audio software, along with the DIY MIDI Fighter pads that others have constructed, to make his own light-up version

His device is cut out of ¼-inch MDF, housing a 4×4 array of main buttons, 18 smaller buttons on the bottom and eight potentiometers, four of which are surrounded by NeoPixel rings.

To handle this massive array of inputs, he turned to the use of multiplexers, creating a spaghetti-like—though functional—wiring arrangement hidden underneath. The pad uses an Arduino Uno to control the NeoPixels, while a separate board is tasked with the MIDI interface. 

You can see Sobolak’s project crank out music in the video below, with LEDs that react to potentiometer input settings.

If you’ve ever seen a MIDI pad with dozens of light-up buttons producing electronic music, you may have considered building one using an Arduino. As shown in GreatScott!’s latest write-up, you can indeed create your own Novation Launchpad-like device using a Nano for control, but the real question is should you?

In the video below, GreatScott! shares how made a 6×6 pad, using a 3D-printed body and buttons arranged in a matrix to save I/O, along with WS2812B LEDs. He also goes over the MIDI protocol, which he was able to implement using loopMIDI and Hairless MIDI to serial bridge for Arduino interface. 

While the DIY option may or may not be right for you, the concepts presented could be applied to a wide range of electronic musical interface projects.

In this episode of DIY or Buy I will be showing you how I created my own Launchpad. That means I will show you how I combined a design idea with 3D prints, WS2812 LEDs, tactile switches and an Arduino to create a proper MIDI instrument. While building I will also tell you a bit about a keyboard matrix and in the end determine what advantages the DIY Launchpad offers. 

According to musician/maker Ruben Dax, “Few things make him happier than being able to create things that create things.” As seen in the video below, what he’s created is a very strange cylindrical instrument with an array of buttons and what appears to be an auxiliary loop controller. 

What he creates with it is music that starts off as simple “plink-plonk” sounds, but builds up into something of an orchestral arrangement.

The DIY device utilizes an Arduino Mega for control, with a bunch of pushbuttons and a dual-axis joystick for inputs. Button info is then sent to his computer over Bluetooth, which takes care of actual MIDI generation. 

As cool as this is, a new gadget is in the works, which uses a Leonardo and other hardware for plug-and-play functionality. Whether this will interfere with the instrument’s unique rotating action remains to be seen!

According to musician/maker Ruben Dax, “Few things make him happier than being able to create things that create things.” As seen in the video below, what he’s created is a very strange cylindrical instrument with an array of buttons and what appears to be an auxiliary loop controller. 

What he creates with it is music that starts off as simple “plink-plonk” sounds, but builds up into something of an orchestral arrangement.

The DIY device utilizes an Arduino Mega for control, with a bunch of pushbuttons and a dual-axis joystick for inputs. Button info is then sent to his computer over Bluetooth, which takes care of actual MIDI generation. 

As cool as this is, a new gadget is in the works, which uses a Leonardo and other hardware for plug-and-play functionality. Whether this will interfere with the instrument’s unique rotating action remains to be seen!

What can you do with items that are destined for the dump? As seen here, if you’re Neil Mendoza, you transform old furniture, TVs, computers, art, and even an Arduino Zero that somehow ended up in the trash into a musical installation.

His resulting “House Party” features decorations and control components that according to the project’s write-up are entirely salvaged. A MIDI interface, software written in openFrameworks, and a JSON file are used to coordinate sound and movements, which include spinning picture frames and flowers, tapping shoes, and a television that loops through a rather dreary weather report snippet. 

House Party is a musical installation that explores prized possessions in their native habitat. All the materials used to create this artwork, from the furniture to the computers, were scavenged from the discarded trash. The music is a mix of mechanical and synthesized sounds. The piece was created while an artist in residence at Recology SF.

The actuators in the installation are controlled by an Arduino Zero (also found in the trash) and each screen is connected to a computer running custom software written in openFrameworks (OF). Composition was done in Logic where a MIDI environment was set up to send MIDI data to the Arduino and an OF control program. The control program then sent the data to the other computers over ethernet as OSC. For the final installation, the control program read the data from a JSON file, triggered the screens and Arduino and played the synthesized parts of the music.

Be sure to see all the zany action in the video below!

It’s common knowledge that tapping a wine glass produces a pitch which can be altered by adjusting the level of the tipple of choice inside. By filling twelve glasses with different amounts of liquid and tuning them to the twelve notes of the scale, it’s possible to make a one-octave instrument – though the speed and polyphony are bottle-necked by the human operator. If you think it sounds like a ripe project for automation, you’re correct: [Bitluni’s lab] has done what needed to be done, and created a MIDI instrument which plays the glasses using mallets.

Electronically it’s a simple build – some 12 V solenoids driven by MOSFETs, with an Arduino in charge. For the mechanical build, a 3D printer proved very useful, as each mallet could be made identical, ensuring a consistent tone across all glasses. Rubber covers printed in flexible filament were fitted to reduce the overtones and produce a clearer sound. [Bitluni] also utilised different types of glasses for the low and high pitches, which also helped to improve the clarity of the tone.

MIDI is of course the perfect protocol for this application; simple, lightweight and incredibly widely used, it’s the hacker’s delight for projects like this. The instrument can perform pre-programmed sequences, or be played live with a MIDI controller. Both of these are shown in the video after the break – stick around for a unique rendition of Flight Of The Bumblebee. For a more compact wine glass based music creation solution, we recommend this nifty project, which alters pitch using a water balloon raised and lowered into the glass by a servo. 

If you need a MIDI device that can be programmed as your own unique light and sound controller, then Jon Bumstead’s LED Eclipse may be just what you’re looking for.

The circular device, roughly the diameter of a large plate, is constructed out of 30 layers of MDF, and boasts 10 capacitive sensors made with copper strips, as well as 10 corresponding programmable LEDs.

An Arduino Uno powers the assembly, which can be seen being played like a multi-player electronic piano towards the end of the video below. It can also be used as a Simon-style game, and even a light display—though you could program it for any other application you desire!



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