We love music at Adafruit: some of us have dabbled in making it, some of us are touring musicians, many of us listen to headphones for as much of the day as possible. So it comes as no surprise that when I reached out to my colleagues here for suggestions for cool music-related kits and projects, I ended up with quite a list to share with you all.
And there is a little treat for you at the end. It is with great pleasure and satisfaction that I bring your the first roll call of “Adafruit Music Industries“: i.e. the actual musicians, performers, and composers here at Adafruit. Aren’t you curious now? Feel free to scroll to the end to check them out.
Available At Adafruit!
Music & sound add-on pack for Arduino – v1.1: Its a Wave shield party pack! Just add an Arduino to create your own iPod-killer, audio art, sound-effects box… Comes with the latest Wave shield kit, works with more SD cards and with older NG Arduinos! Unassembled 1 or 2 GB SD card (brand or size may change, but we test one of each kind to verify it works well). Speaker – 3″ diameter (77mm), 8 ohm impedence, good response between 200Hz to 10KHz (10KHz is the max frequency the Wave shield can make). The speaker is rated for 1W so if you want you can even stick a small amp between the shield and the speaker to boost up the volume. (read more)
Electret Microphone Amplifier – MAX4466 with Adjustable Gain: Add an ear to your project with this well-designed electret microphone amplifier. This fully assembled and tested board comes with a 20-20KHz electret microphone soldered on. For the amplification, we use the Maxim MAX4466, an op-amp specifically designed for this delicate task! The amplifier has excellent power supply noise rejection, so this amplifier sounds really good and isn’t nearly as noisy or scratchy as other mic amp breakouts we’ve tried! This breakout is best used for projects such as voice changers, audio recording/sampling, and audio-reactive projects that use FFT. On the back, we include a small trimmer pot to adjust the gain. You can set the gain from 25x to 125x. That’s down to be about 200mVpp (for normal speaking volume about 6″ away) which is good for attaching to something that expects ‘line level’ input without clipping, or up to about 1Vpp, ideal for reading from a microcontroller ADC. The output is rail-to-rail so if the sounds gets loud, the output can go up to 5Vpp! (read more)
Adafruit Learning System: there are a number of excellent tutorials for those wishing to trigger sounds or master Arduino of Raspberry Pi in the Adafruit Learning System, including the useful video above demonstrating how to trigger sounds using bottoms and a RasPi and the video below from showing how you can use the Wave Shield to create a voice changer. Hunt for your topic there to see what you find! (read more)
MaKey MaKey by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum – Made by JoyLabz: Ever played Mario on Play-Doh or Piano on Bananas? Alligator clip the Internet to Your World. MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between. MaKey MaKey was invented by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum & Made by JoyLabz. Find out more details at makeymakey.com or watch the video. (read more)
Drawdio Kit: Drawdio is an electronic pencil that lets you make music while you draw! It’s great project for beginners: An easy soldering kit with instant gratification. Essentially, it’s a very simple musical synthesizer that uses the conductive properties of pencil graphite to create different sounds. The result is a fun toy that lets you draw musical instruments on any piece of paper. (read more)
Kits from Another Planet!!
Music From Outer Space catalog: Okay, this isn’t just one product, it is a lifestyle. This site is a good litmus test to see if you are susceptible to the temptations of analog audio gear or not. And what’s more, there is a density to the site and what it offers that it practically teaches you electronics just through the process of puzzling out how to find all of the interesting corners. Navigating the site successfully should permit you to at least produce a saw wave on an analog synth. Or at least master some basic signal processing. But you know you want to dip your feet in the water and put together the Noise Toaster or Weird Sound Generator or at least some outboard signal processing gear. If you are getting as excited as I am about this stuff, then you have passed the test this site represents and will now proceed to fill your apartment with rack gear cast off from the local radio station fire sale, because someday, you just might need that particular sound it makes. (read more)
Tap-Tempo Metronome Kit: Very useful tool for musicians! “The Tap-Tempo Metronome is a tap-controlled or tap-tempo metronome and beat looper. You tap the piezo speaker to set the rhythm. The display shows the beats per minute, and the two buttons adjust the speed. You can tap patterns into it, up to 12 beats long. As long as you tap the pattern in three times, it jumps in and continues beeping in that rhythm. If you hold one of the buttons while turning the metronome on, the pitch of the beep will be higher or lower, so you can play with more than one at a time.” (read more)
Make12 – Solar Xylophone: Here’s a really great kit that started as a project at MAKE, offered by Solarbotics. “Want to build the Solar Xylophone in Make Volume 12? \We carry pretty much all of the electronic parts you need to build the Solar Xylophone by Rory Nugent in Make Volume 12. So, to save you a ton of time trying to find all of those many parts (and adding 8 of each!) we have compiled them all into one very convenient bundle.” (read more)
GetLoFi electronics projects: The above image is for the awesome 2399 LoFi Delay, but there are quite a few awesome audio kits here to consider, from Optical Transistor Theremin Kit to Distortion Lab to Atari Punk Console 3.0 Kit. (read more)
PAiA Theremax Theremin: One of the best places to get Theremin kits and unusual sound modules. From the Theremax Theremin description: “Since its introduction during the 1920’s the instrument which bears Leon Theremin’s name has been evocative in image and tone. PAiA’s Theremax theremin captures this spirit in an instrument based on the same heterodyne principles as the original but with embellishments made possible by the economy of integrated circuits and solid state electronics. In addition to the traditional mellow sine-like tone, Theremax’s Timbre control can mix in a harmonic rich square wave to produce a signal that’s ideal for use with external filters and processors. And to control outboard units, there are Pitch and Volume Control Voltage outputs. But the features that really set Tmax apart as a gestural controller are it’s Velocity Control Voltage (proportional to how fast you increase the Volume) and Gate/Trigger outputs. A convenient foot switch input allows muting the internal tone source without disabling the CVs.(read more)
And here are a few more synth and PCB links for the enterprising — fewer photos or guarantees to deliver anytime soon than the options above. But AWESOME when you figure out what each site is offering.
- http://www.cgs.synth.net/: Huge variety of pcbs from a very strange pony breeder.
- http://bridechamber.com/Home.html: Another good resource for pcbs, and some rare hard to find components.
- http://erthenvar.com/store/index.php?route=comm: Another good diy resource.
- http://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=17: Music tech diy thread on modular forum muffwiggler.com –
lots of small runs of pcbs, faceplates and a good general resource for modular diy info.
Nanoloop: One of the two giants of the chip tunes scene! From the website: “Nanoloop is a minimalistic electronic music program for handheld platforms. Nanoloop 1.6 is a sequencer for Game Boy. Sound is generated by the Game Boy’s analog sound chip and restricted to raw rectangular waves, noise and a 4-bit wave form. Nanoloop 2.5 for Game Boy Advance is a sequencer and software synthesizer. Filtered waves, filtered noise and simple FM are produced digitally. The iPhone and Android versions share the same sound engine and file format and have a similar interface. They combine an enhanced version of nanoloop 2.5’s synthesizer with a simple sampler. Both allow to record audio on the device and to import samples via PC. They also can re-sample their own sound output.” There is also a GBA version, below. (read more)
Little Sound DJ (LSDJ): The other titan of the chip tunes scene, as dominated by people leaping about the stage hunched over Game Boys. Quite different approach than nanoloops — and each platform has its fans and foes. From the site: “The basic idea is to transform a plain Game Boy/Game Boy Color into a full-fledged music workstation.
- Sequencer: The sequencer of Little Sound Dj has a very open structure. It was designed to leave all the musical possibilities of the Gameboy in the hands of the user. The system can be said to be both simple and complex; it has a slight learning curve, but when learned, it is possible to transcribe a complete Bach piece to it on less than one hour.
- Sound: The Gameboy sound chip offers four channels with 4-bit sound. Custom waveforms can be created by free-hand drawing, or by using a subtractive synthesizer with resonant filters. For extra versatility, Little Sound Dj also contains a quite powerful arpeggiator, which possibilities go far beyond the classic C64-style chords.
- Samples: Sample-wise, Little Sound Dj boasts a set of 59 phonems for programmable speech. Besides that, it also features drum kits sampled from machines TR-606, TR-707, TR-727, TR-808, TR-909, CR-78, CR-8000, KR-55, DR-55, DR-110, DMX, Drumulator, RhythmAce, TOM and LinnDrum.
- Synchronization: It is possible to use a link cable to sync two Game Boys; great for party fun or for added polyphony! If you want to, you can sync LSDJ with Nanoloop. MIDI sync is possible too, if you are ready to build your own LSDj Midi Interface.”
GREIGHTBIT.COM: Get yer circuit bent and gameboy modification projects here. Some really interesting projects from introductory models to tremendously modded systems for many many times more. (read more)
Drag’N’Derp: Professor Abrasive has launched his own cart that sounds quite different than the others. I grabbed this from his FAQ: “Why make another cart? There are a bunch of carts on the market, but for making music, I’m not really happy with any of them – needing something that is reliable, and simple. Some require an external programmer/reader. These are vulnerable to bad connections; since there are no checksums on save memory, there’s no way to tell if your data has been silently corrupted. Many carts have instead a programmer built in, using USB. One thing these all have in common is that they require custom software and drivers to be installed, which is a lot of fiddling, and gets very complicated if you’re not on Windows. Why isn’t it bigger, faster, cheaper…? This cart was designed with a particular use case in mind – making music. The design aesthetic I have employed is to make the hardware as simple and reliable as possible. It does one job only; I have resisted the tendencies to pack in features. Simplicity is the aim of every design choice; even the PCB is laid out on two layers, where for this density a modern engineer would usually go straight for 4.
MeeBlip SE: From the website: “MeeBlip is designed to be useful when connected to other tools. It doesn’t take much – even an inexpensive Rock Band “keytar” keyboard controller, now available for not much more than US$50, will let you play. Here, we meet some of Peter’s Berlin neighbors, the fine folks at boutique analog hardware maker Koma Elektronik. Their analog delay in particular sounds terrific with MeeBlip’s own unique sound. And for MIDI, we turn to the brilliant step sequencer for iPad, Phaedra.
This is one example. But any number of MIDI sources and effects will work – iPad owners, all you need is a MIDI connection, typically a supported USB MIDI interface and Apple’s own USB Camera Connection Kit. (iOSMIDI.com will help you find what you need.) (read more)
Chipsounds: An incredible software project to properly emulate vintage game music synths. From the website: “This software synth turns your VST, AU or RTAS host into a classic video game console, vintage 8-bit home computer and even an 80′s arcade. Plogue chipsounds authentically emulates 15 vintage 8-bit era sound chips (on top of their variants), down to their smallest idiosyncrasies. But more interestingly, it also faithfully allows you to dynamically reproduce the accidentally discovered sounds effect tricks and abusive musical techniques that were made famous by innovative chip music composers and classic video game sound designers, which for the good part of the last 3 decades, have pushed beyond the boundaries of the original chip designs. In short, whether you are already versed into chiptune/chip music or just interested in those sounds, this is one unique instrument for you!” (read more)
SEGA Master System 1 console sounds (Little-Scale): “Crystal-clear sounds recorded from a SEGA Master System 1 console. All notes for the pulse channel, all noise sounds and all timed bass sounds for noise. All at 192KHz / 24bit. Royalty free, copyright free, license free, restriction free. http://milkcrate.com.au/_other/downloads/sample_sets/SEGA_Master_System_Pristine_Samples.zip.” (read more)
X-Mini II Capsule Speaker: From the manufacturers description: “The X-mini II Capsule Speaker is a portable capsule speaker that delivers a superb audio effects with advanced sound technologies. The compact and robust design promises easy portability with an outstanding performance over years.” But I trust co-worker James’ description better: “I’ve found these portable speakers from amazon perfect for adding audio to a RasPi, since they are powered/charge off usb.”(read more)
Boombox Tshirt (minusbaby): In the words of the shirt’s designer, minusbaby of monobomb: “Necessary to wear when you write music.” I agree! And thanks to minusbaby for sending me a number of the above chiptunes tech suggestions!
Adafruit MUSIC Industries!
As tends to happen at a tech startup in New York, there are quite a few musically inclined people on staff. In fact, several of us (myself included) are in this tech world in the first places because of our early exposure to guitar pedals, synths, and audio production routing. So here is the run down of the most active music projects in the bunch, written up for you pretty much as they described and named themselves, so that you can hear for yourself the great and glorious sounds of these makers — when they aren’t producing mostly racket by rushing about a warehouse sending out hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lovingly gathered, built, kitted, and shipped packages of Adafruit invention tools to the world.
- Bateman & Tom play in Frog.
- Chances are, if you have seen a video Becky, myself, or others at Adafruit have made, you have been hearing the great work of Tom from his Bartlebeats project!
- James plays in Anamanaguchi. (I’m a bit star-struck.)
- Kris does original orchestral arrangements for songwriters in a live music video series called “Mason Jar Music Presents…“, and sings with Khorikos.
- Here’s Jordan’s site.
- Baken makes music with George and Jonathan.
- Nick does Speculator and Cool Angels.
- Stefan is in Town Hall.
- Ian Davis is in Relatives.
- Ross plays in Father Figures.
- And Brian, who put together most of this list for me, has just started a record label with Bateman to release music that he, Bateman and friends have been producing: sadly they haven’t launched their site yet for this posting.
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