For many years I’ve bemoaned the fact that midi controllers are either inflexible, too darn large, or simply too expensive! So, I’ve decided to go down the DIY route and custom build one. Based on the amazing Arduino chip, this has only taken a few nights of soldering and quite a lot of getting my head round the C++ required to program it. There are loads of existing scripts to adapt. You write the code in the free debugging environment, then simply upload via USB and test!
I’m using mine to send various midi CC messages to my rack jamman, to switch into fade, delay modes etc. I picked up an ART pedal for a fiver on ebay, a fee LEDs, wires and a midi socket and it’s actually working! I need to make it bullet-proof for live work, so will have to figure out how to mount the board firmly, with access to the power socket & USB.
Part of the fun is the little subtleties you can build in. For example, when I go from loop mode into delay mode, I want it to flash when I’m recording something, but stay constantly on when the delay is frozen. This is easily achieved with a few lines of code.
Having acquired an Echoplex Digital Pro which lacked the foot-pedal, I’ve extended my arduino to control it. The hardest part was finding a suitable casing – in the end, I bought a marshall f/s, covered the existing holes up and added new ones. I drew a visualisation of what I wanted (on the right), but as I started wiring the whole thing together, I found I’d run out of available arduino inputs.
The finished delight is shown right. I now need to learn about multiplexiing, to merge more switches through a matrix (apparently!). However, the pedal works and has been used live. Occaisionally I manage to fool the programming logic and leds are on when they should be off, but I’ve coded a line to say long press=reset. I’d like to work on a mk 2, but need to find a suitable enclosure – let me know if you’re handy at bending aluminium!
There are shed loads of videos on youtube showing the potential of using the arduino with midi, such as this theremin and this 8 knob controller. Go for it – if I can do it, anyone can 😉