HackSpace Magazine Issue 40: Meet The Maker: Thea Flowers #CircuitPython @HackSpaceMag @Raspberry_Pi

HackSpace magazine issue 40, talks to Thea Flowers, a maker who has focused on electronic synthesizers.

“The idea of building a standalone synthesiser by yourself is daunting; you have to do so much. So
I started looking for a way to build synthesisers without having to know everything out of the gate, to build a full synthesiser entirely by myself. I started to look back into the modular stuff and saw like, this is actually really awesome.

There’s so much neat stuff going on, so many unique little modules – this is perfect! I can experiment, I can play around with stuff, I can make tiny single-purpose things that don’t require me to have a PhD before I even start creating things.
“It was more about the desire to create something physical than the desire to create music. It’s the tinkering aspect – I like the idea of small single-purpose machines that work together.

“My first module is called Sol, and it’s a MIDI-to-control voltage (CV) model. In the world of modular synthesisers, everything talks to each other using CV; in the world of computers, everything talks to each other using MIDI. Sol is the bridge between the two. You can hook it up to your computer and send it MIDI notes – Sol will convert that to CV.
“What’s cool about Sol is that it’s running CircuitPython. You can change how it translates MIDI information to CV. You can make it do all kinds of neat stuff. Instead of outputting a note, you can make it output a note plus some vibrato; you can make it change the scale of the note. You can also make it play the role of smoother modules that you may not have if you’re just starting out. It can be an envelope generator, it can be a little frequency oscillator if you want it to do that. Sol is really customisable and it’s a little reprogrammable brain that can process MIDI and spit out CV.

“Big Honking Button is technically a sampler with a button on it, and when you press the button, it honks. It also runs CircuitPython, and it’s customisable, so you can make it do all kinds of cool stuff. For example, there are samples on there for doing percussion. One of my favourites that I wrote is a cycle program, so you tell it a list of samples, and every time you press the button, it will cycle through them.


“You can’t develop a module in a vacuum, right. You can’t develop something that’s designed to work with other pieces of equipment if you have no idea what other people are going to use it for. A lot of the feedback I got from Castor & Pollux was around the controls on the front of it. I got really good feedback on tuning it; people were concerned about these little trimpots on here. Because it is a little hard to nail the exact setting on something that small. Based on that feedback, I made a little edit in software to make the tuning knobs non-linear so that the centre of the range is more spread out, so you have an easier time dialling in the note that you want. It’s little things like that, quality of life, that I get from the community.

“[Before getting into hardware] I had been a software engineer for over a decade. I mostly focused on the Python community, developer tooling, and APIs and stuff like that. I’m a Python Software Foundation fellow, so I’ve done a little bit in the Python community.

“I’m relatively new to the hardware world. I’ve been really happy with how, over the last three years or so, PCB prototypes, and, even small-scale contract manufacturing, have become so much more accessible to people. If it weren’t for contract manufacturers willing to do small runs of things, if it weren’t for PCB services like OSH Park and others, I couldn’t even do this. It would be impossible.

“People ask me all the time, ‘how do I get into doing hardware stuff?’ And the best answer I have is: find a community. Go and seek out people who are doing things that you want to do – surround yourself with those people. Having a community is the best way you’re going to learn, and the best way you’re going to be successful. You need people to interact and learn from and share with. That is the most important thing you can do. You can not learn any of this stuff in a vacuum.

“I could not have done this without the modular synth communities I’ve been a part of, and the Adafruit community. Scott Shawcroft, the CircuitPython project lead, once spent like four hours helping me debug the first board that I had designed. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. Community is essential.”

See the entire article in Issue 40 of HackSpace Magazine – Read moredownload PDFbuy nowsubscribe.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in! adafruit.com/mastodon

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community! http://adafru.it/discord

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers – CircuitPython.org

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at AdafruitDaily.com !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.