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Just released a new song I wrote for my son, hope you enjoy it!

Just released a new song I wrote for my son, hope you enjoy it!

I wrote this song for my son before he was even born, but never got it recorded until now. I wanted to have something for him that talks about one of my favorite parts of being a kid, using your imagination to make amazing stories with ordinary household items. I hope you and your kids enjoy the song as much as I enjoyed making it.

I haven’t released many songs under my name in the past, but since this song is about family it seemed appropriate.

If you want to download it, you can just put $0 in the price block to make it a free download. (and I really want you all to download it).  Go here:  http://brettdooley.bandcamp.com/

Thanks to my wife for making the super cool watercolor for the cover art.

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Midi Controller construction complete!

Midi Controller construction complete!

I actually finished the controllers a few weeks ago, but haven’t had time to do an update!

They ended up working well, although much more difficult to use than anticipated!  While playing guitar and singing already, adding the foot action is harder than it was with my old mechanical setup.

Midi foot controller

Final controller

Here’s what they ended up looking like:

I never explained the button layout, but basically the problem was how to fully represent a 12 note scale while keeping all the buttons within easy reach.  They also needed to be laid out so that there are no ‘accidental’ pushings.

I designed this 7 button layout as a replacement for the typical 12 note piano style that is used by many foot controllers.

Each button is a ‘white’ key, with C on the left and B on the right.  If you want a sharp or flat ‘black’ key, just hit the two buttons simultaneously on either side of where it would be.  Getting the double button press working correctly was the biggest challenge of the programming process.  I ended up using a modified debounce routine that ensured both buttons were firmly pressed prior to sending a note on command.

The other three switches are ‘octave up’, ‘portamento’, and ‘fifth chord’ parameter changes.

 

Bending the sheet metal

Bending the metal electronics enclosure using a cheap Harbor Freight sheet metal brake. The clamps are a must to ensure a good bend!

Drilling large holes.

Knockout punches are incredibly expensive, fortunately since the metal is aluminum I can avoid them. By clamping two pieces of trash wood onto the metal, I can simply use a hand drill with large wood bits to cut the holes for mounting the electrical connectors.

Drilling

Another shot of the drilling process.

Clean holes
Here you can see the result of my drilling method. Very clean holes!

Internal electrical wiring

I had to use some temporary hardware to hold everything together until I got the right screws and nuts. You can see how the USB to USB connector makes the connection very clean, rather than running wire through the metal enclosure.

You can see the connectors a bit better in this shot.  I highly recommend using the USB connector rather than dealing with wires running through metal holes or soldering USB cabling.  I'd rather have the USB pulled out of the connector than have someone rip the wire out internally!

You can see the connectors a bit better in this shot. I highly recommend using the USB connector rather than dealing with wires running through metal holes or soldering USB cabling. I’d rather have the USB pulled out of the connector than have someone rip the wire out internally!

Internals again.

Here is another look at the inside. Pretty much ready to seal it up.

So now I need to learn how to use all this stuff in a song, I’ll post a video when it happens!

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MIDI controller update

MIDI controller update

I have officially gotten my first attempt at the controller to work as designed.  Over the weekend I drilled the switch layout and mounted the switches for both of my prototype controllers.  I carefully wired and soldered them, for now leaving a long wire bundle for ease of breadboarding.

Wiring on the Bass Synth foot controller.

Wiring on the Bass Synth foot controller.

Wiring on the Percussion foot controller.

Wiring on the Percussion foot controller.

 

As far as actually making a working controller, I started with the easier of the two projects, which is the percussion foot controller.  There was much tearing out of hair and cursing under the breath, but I finally got the program to work properly.  The microprocessor is the Teensy++ 2.o, which right now is sitting on a standard prototyping breadboard.  The other board has a 16 position switch with a binary coded decimal output. This allows me to select which MIDI channel the module broadcasts on. Typically there are 16 available MIDI channels, so this switch is ideal and only takes up 4 inputs on the micro-controller.

MIDI microcontroller

The brain behind the MIDI controller, a Teensy++ 2.0. The other board has a 16 position switch with a binary coded decimal output. This allows me to select which MIDI channel the module broadcasts on. Typically there are 16 available channels, so this switch is ideal and only takes up 4 inputs on the micro-controller.

Once I have all the bugs worked out in both controllers I’ll transfer it to a permanently soldered PCB mount.  That means I’ll have to buy another, each controller needs one.  I have the LED light set to come on whenever a footswitch is activated, which has aided in debugging considerably.

I decided to use an AKAI product as the triggered synth module.  It was cheap, has a MIDI input, and can use any percussion samples I want by loading them onto an SD card.

akai_mpx8_creating_user_samples_2

What I didn’t realize about this drum machine, is that the MIDI in jack isn’t a standard MIDI 5 pin DIN connector, they supply a converter and it actually plugs into a standard 1/8″ stereo headphone jack.  Once I found this out, I actually like it, now I can just use a small stereo cable to transmit the MIDI data instead of a more expensive MIDI cable.  Here is the connector I use on my controller, with the temporary breadboard wires.

Here is my "MIDI" jack and 16 position switch with BCD output.

Here is my “MIDI” jack and 16 position switch with BCD output.

When I have it all plugged together, I am successfully transmitting the MIDI data from the microcontroller to the AKAI unit.  I actually am transmitting over both traditional MIDI as well as the USB port, so either can be used without changing the programming.

Here are the switch layouts of the two controllers, I’ll explain the logic behind them next time.  So far so good!

Switch layouts of the Bass Synth and Percussion foot controllers.

Switch layouts of the Bass Synth and Percussion foot controllers.

 

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