Building Hardware? A Few Questions

Jul 2, 2008 at 11:44am

Building Hardware? A Few Questions

Hello everyone,

Well i have finally decided on the Macbook Pro 15″ version (which was in a a post i done a few weeks ago). It just has to be done
So anyhow, i now have a new question for everyone to ponder at or even think, hmmmm sounds like a good idea.

So anyway, i recently received the kit version of the monome 40h. Which i am happy to say i have done the soldering for, except for the LED lights, which i have to order tomorrow, because no-one here in Dubai knows what a LED is, im not kidding, no-one knows.

But since building the monome and before that i have been pondering building a custom built midi controller. And as the name precedes only I will know how to use it properly for me, because it is custom built.
I have found a few good websites (2 in fact), which deal in selling components to build and model your own controller.

http://www.ucapps.de/
&
http://www.doepfer.de/home.htm
Check them out if you have not seen them before.

But the question is not what should i get, but, how hard is it to build firmware for a midi controller. Or will firmware be needed at all?

I have a passion for building things, anything that can make a sound. But recently (about a year) i have had a burning urge to build my own controller that can control anything i want in my programs or even max patches (preferably).
Robert Henke’s (Monolake) controller is a good example, also Richie Hawtin’s as well. Both of which were made with Doepfer components.

So if anyone knows any way to either build the firmware, please let me know. I would like to get up and running to build my own controller.
Or if you have any idea of which company to go with for components, please let me.
Even tell me other companies that do the same thing, that may even be better.

Keep It Easy, Keep It Cool

#38706
Jul 2, 2008 at 5:37pm

Hello,
There are many, many routes you can go in making your own custom controller, and which you choose will largely be determined by your interest in low-level development and basic electronics engineering. If you are specifically interested in MIDI, I would suggest giving a look at the MIDItron, or MIDISense boards, as they are pretty easy to get started with. The Arduino also has a pretty low-cost entry point, but it will require that you learn the scripting language to write firmware for it. If you want audio-rate control (not MIDI) Electrotap’s TeaBox is a nice interface.

I highly recommend thinking about what you want to make before laying down too much money, as electronics components add up.
You can purchase sensors for many of these boxes at Cycling ’74 or Electrotap.

Good luck.

AB

#135179
Jul 2, 2008 at 7:01pm

On 2-jul-2008, at 13:44, Lewis G. Edwards wrote:

>
> http://www.ucapps.de/
> &
> http://www.doepfer.de/home.htm
> Check them out if you have not seen them before.

doepfer sells ready made printed circuits boards, where the DIY
factor is limited to the housing of the controller.
the on board MIDI controller is closed source, there is nothing you
can tinker with easily.

ucapps (MIOS) is open source. there is no limit (other than the time
you invest) to what you can modify/add.

-jennek

#135180
Jul 2, 2008 at 7:19pm

Hello Lewis.

your email has many interesting sides to it, but a few pop out, so to speak.

First off I’d recommend that you spec out what your controller has to
*do* before deciding which hardware system to use. FYI I am pretty sure
the latest MonoDeck controller DOESN’T use doepfer hardware, it’s either
Ucapps or fully custom, I think. Maybe Robert reads this and chimes in?

Once you’ve done a full specification for the controller THEN I’d
decided which system to go with. If it’s above sort of 16 elements then
Doepfer midi controllers will be incredibly expensive, and take up a lot
of space in the case.

The Arduino system Andrew mentions does require a bit of code, but it’s
largely set-and-forget, and their site is full of templates. Ucapps can
be built incredibly cheaply, kits are available online, but at the end
of the day they’re just midi controllers – I personally prefer usb.

Hope this helps, if only a tiny bit.

Andreas.

Lewis G. Edwards skrev:
> Hello everyone,
>
> Well i have finally decided on the Macbook Pro 15″ version (which was in a a post i done a few weeks ago). It just has to be done
> So anyhow, i now have a new question for everyone to ponder at or even think, hmmmm sounds like a good idea.
>
> So anyway, i recently received the kit version of the monome 40h. Which i am happy to say i have done the soldering for, except for the LED lights, which i have to order tomorrow, because no-one here in Dubai knows what a LED is, im not kidding, no-one knows.
>
> But since building the monome and before that i have been pondering building a custom built midi controller. And as the name precedes only I will know how to use it properly for me, because it is custom built.
> I have found a few good websites (2 in fact), which deal in selling components to build and model your own controller.
>
> http://www.ucapps.de/
> &
> http://www.doepfer.de/home.htm
> Check them out if you have not seen them before.
>
> But the question is not what should i get, but, how hard is it to build firmware for a midi controller. Or will firmware be needed at all?
>
> I have a passion for building things, anything that can make a sound. But recently (about a year) i have had a burning urge to build my own controller that can control anything i want in my programs or even max patches (preferably).
> Robert Henke’s (Monolake) controller is a good example, also Richie Hawtin’s as well. Both of which were made with Doepfer components.
>
> So if anyone knows any way to either build the firmware, please let me know. I would like to get up and running to build my own controller.
> Or if you have any idea of which company to go with for components, please let me.
> Even tell me other companies that do the same thing, that may even be better.
>
> Keep It Easy, Keep It Cool
>
>
> –
> —————————————————-
> LGE
>
> .
>
>

#135181
Jul 3, 2008 at 5:03am

Cheers for the replies, keep them coming in.

I will clear a few things first.

I was not referring that Robert Henke uses just Doepfer. That was in his first monodeck that he built. He then moved to Ucapps, because it is more open sourced.
It would be MIDI/USB. NOt plain MIDI. Most places dont really use MIDI, many prefer USB or Firewire now.
BUt having an option such as MIDI is always good. MIDI wont die out, because it is a sure way to get going.

As for what the controller, i am planning to build.
Well, one thing is control my environment in my program, namely MAx/MSP.
I have thought about going the whole hog and building something that has everything i need. Cheesy drums sequencer, faders, buttons, some sliders. But this can get to much on the mind, and the wallet.

But all in all, to get to what i truly want it to do is quite much. And plus i have just mainly thought of really getting into gear with doing something. This is something i have to think about a lot.
Plus i was even thinking that if i can build a mock version in Max/MSP. Then build something upon that patch, in hardware.

#135182
Jul 3, 2008 at 7:53am

As said before, the arduino is low cost but requires some coding. The good thing is you don’t necessarily need to do it yourself. take a look at these links

http://post.monome.org/comments.php?DiscussionID=25

and little-scale is the master of arduino and midi interfaces:

http://little-scale.blogspot.com/2008/07/eight-pots-to-midi-cc-data.html
http://little-scale.blogspot.com/2007/11/pots-and-switches-to-midi-data.html

http://little-scale.blogspot.com/2007/06/arduino-midi-out-example.html

I don’t know if it’s possible to use both midi and usb at the same time in these examples…I haven’t tried

Hope it helps
/Daniel

#135183
Jul 3, 2008 at 8:08am

On Jul 3, 2008, at 12:53 AM, Daniel Henriksen wrote:
> I don’t know if it’s possible to use both midi and usb at the same
> time in these examples…I haven’t tried

I would bet not. The USB port uses serial output from pins 1 & 2, as
do any Arduino MIDI implementations I’ve seen.

-C

Chris Muir
cbm@well.com

http://www.xfade.com

#135184
Jul 3, 2008 at 8:59am

Quote: Chris Muir wrote on Thu, 03 July 2008 02:08
—————————————————-
>
> On Jul 3, 2008, at 12:53 AM, Daniel Henriksen wrote:
> > I don’t know if it’s possible to use both midi and usb at the same
> > time in these examples…I haven’t tried
>
>
> I would bet not. The USB port uses serial output from pins 1 & 2, as
> do any Arduino MIDI implementations I’ve seen.
>
> -C
>
> Chris Muir
> cbm@well.com
> http://www.xfade.com
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
—————————————————-

Cool, that’s good to know. Thanks.

#135185
Jul 3, 2008 at 2:59pm

On 3 juil. 08, at 10:08, Chris Muir wrote:

>
> On Jul 3, 2008, at 12:53 AM, Daniel Henriksen wrote:
>> I don’t know if it’s possible to use both midi and usb at the same
>> time in these examples…I haven’t tried
>
>
> I would bet not. The USB port uses serial output from pins 1 & 2, as
> do any Arduino MIDI implementations I’ve seen.

But there is a library allowing any pin to be used as a serial port:

http://www.arduino.cc/en/Reference/SoftwareSerial

As stated there, there are some limitations…
I had no time to test it yet but I hope i will later this year!

p

_____________________________
Patrick Delges

Centre de Recherches et de Formation Musicales de Wallonie asbl

http://www.crfmw.be/max

#135186
Jul 3, 2008 at 8:10pm

If your ultimate target is a computer, there is no real benefit of using MIDI instead of serial, since you will be limited by the expectations of the MIDI protocol. The benefit of MIDI, if you are building your own hardware from scratch (with microcontrollers), MIDI is very simple to program using the UART pins and doesn’t require very much investment in interfacing. Since the arduino already has a serial-USB chip built-in, there is no point in going to MIDI unless you need to control a MIDI device directly. There are several very good examples of how to communicate between arduino and Max on the Arduino page.
My advice, no matter what system you choose, is to start with a very simple project, maybe one switch and one analog control, and make that work. Once you understand how to do that much, making a more complex controller will be much easier since all you’ll need to do is replicate, and you will have already gone through the troubleshooting stage with your controller system. Besides, you may find that you can do all you need with a very simple set of controls.

Best,
Andrew B.

#135187
Jul 3, 2008 at 10:21pm

On 03-juil.-08, at 22:10, Andrew Benson wrote:

> If your ultimate target is a computer, there is no real benefit of
> using MIDI instead of serial, since you will be limited by the
> expectations of the MIDI protocol.

USB has limitations too, one of them being the length of a USB cable. I
can think of situations where this can be a problem. Althought the MIDI
specs speaks about 10m long cables, I often used 50+m cables without
problems.

p

#135188
Jul 3, 2008 at 11:43pm

Yeah, USB cables are way more expensive too, for longer lengths. This isn’t a big deal if you’re right next to your laptop, but if you plan on thrashing around on the floor or throwing your controller at people, you’ll be happy to have that extra bit of cable. I’ve also had similar experience with MIDI cables being a LOT more forgiving when it comes to maxing out length than USB.
You can also work around the MIDI resolution restrictions with some clever bit-packing in your controller code and Max patch.

There are ups and downs to every choice. A lot of it is personal preference. Unfortunately, it often requires making bad decisions first before you actually form these preferences…

A

#135189
Jul 4, 2008 at 6:38pm

USB is fine but there is already too much of it in the world. I have 3 USB ports on the Mac, a 4-port and a 9-port USB hub and still only 2 or 3 jackets free. In such a situation you are not interested in more USB but rather in a multiport MIDI interface with just one USB connection.

#135190
Jul 5, 2008 at 6:00pm

Cheers for all the replies guys.

I had a look at Arduino (i knew about them, but had not looked into it).
They seem pretty much like a well stable company with plenty of people ready to lend there help.
Also a huge user network, which is great. It does remind me of this network of people here on Cycling ’74.

I do like the fact some programming is to be needed to get it up and running with the Arduino. And it does excite me to think that, my imprint on a coding scale is put into what i built.

So even for just a bit of a hit and miss method, i am going to go for Arduino. If something good happens, i will pat my own back. If it messes up, then back to the drawing board.

As for the controller itself. I would like to keep it open source. Just so then it can be customized to certain tasks i plan to do. I plan to do a quick preset button method, to change between different settings.
There are a quite a few things that are planned to go on it.
The very much basic things like EQ, Levels, master volume. But also plans for expandable channels is also working its way in. But the main centers are going to be buttons and switches that control hits and sequences in the program.

I would like to build a a simple 16 step drum machine in as well. This would then communicate with a drum machine i am currently working in Max/MSP

#135191

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