DangerShield Drawbars

Just a quick post to mention the new Arduino section of the web site.

The first page in the new section describes the DangerShield Drawbars project that I started last March! This project uses the Sparkfun DangerShield (3 sliders, 3 buttons, 2 LEDs and a seven segment display) and an Arduino UNO to implement a basic MIDI drawbar controller for the Yamaha PSR-S950 arranger workstation. “Why not use one of the many available MIDI controllers?”, you ask. Well, the PSR (and Tyros) drawbars respond to a proprietary Yamaha System Exclusive (SysEx) MIDI message, not the usual MIDI continuous controller (CC) messages. The MIDI controllers on the market use MIDI CC, not SysEx. Thus, it made sense to whip up an Arduino-based controller in order to synthesize and send the appropriate control message.

The DangerShield Drawbars can and do control the PSR’s virtual drawbars. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I designed a rather complicated user interface (UI) in order to control nine virtual drawbars and the simulated Hammond percussion and vibrato with just three slide potentiometers. This was a serious overreach producing a less than intuitive, modal UI. If I attack this problem again, I will build a controller with one physical control per parameter, i.e., nine physical sliders for the drawbars and a handful of switches for percussion and vibrato. This approach should produce a more playable controller.

In the meantime, I’ve started to plan a new MIDI controller project and just discovered the SpikenzieLabs Prototino ATMega328 Kit. This board puts an Arduino-compatible ATMega328 on a protoboard with a very nice usable layout. The well-known Arduino proto shield (A000077), which I considered first, uses a pad-per-hole layout for prototyping. It’s not easy to solder circuits together with pad-per-hole. The Prototino layout is a more conventional breadboard-like design with plenty of 2- and 3-hole pads for making connections. I can’t wait to try it out!