In the last few years i’ve started to get interested in various topics that are related to technology and design: the Arduino project (a microcontroller designed to create interactive devices) is the perfect synthesis, since it comprises electronics, coding, design and in the case i’m going to show you, music.
My first Arduino hack had to be a simple one, but also a funny one, because interest in (relatively) complicated things have to be mantained at a high level, and have fun while learning is always the best way. After some research i’ve found the Auduino, a synth which looked relatively simple to create and with a pretty cool sound coming out (check this video).
A step forward
The first thing I did was to replicate the Auduino as fast as i could, in order to have something to play with and that could be shown to friends: with a small effort I was able to create a crappy-yet-working version of the Auduino in a paper box. The sound coming out was dirty and since i used no solder it all started to stop working after a few weeks: i had to find a way to create a nice (and stable) house for my little toy. Having no experience at all with soldering i quickly messed up everything, so i had to start over again with the breadboard; that gave me the opportunity to discover a way to improve the original Auduino with some cool feature, thanks also to a couple of books my flatmates gave me for my birthday. I decided to add a simple button to mute the synth, so it would have been easier to switch from a tone to another without transitions; the breadboard for this is really useful since you can add and remove parts in a matter of minutes and also this new button gave me the opportunity to get a deeper look at the code (and finally understand that the SIGNAL function was indeed some kind of overload of the avr PWM). While I was playing with this new mute button i discovered that if i was keeping it pressed the Auduino could become a beat-box, which was something cool to play music with because it adds a rythm: i suddendly came out with a whole new object: a synth that could be easily transformed in a beat-box! In a couple of hours i added a sixth potenziometer to regolate the frequency of the beat and a second button to add a fixed high-key tone every few beats, making it even more funnier.
This clearly demonstrates the concept of tinkering; playing (in the sense of “having fun with”) with spare parts to find out new ideas and concepts, which is the whole philosophy of the Arduino project. After a few more experiments to add a stereo signal (which gave me a headache, because i had to work with the ATmega chip itself) I was finally ready to create the final version of my Auduino, this time with some lessons on soldering with my father. Below you can find the video with a demonstration of my first and proud hack on Arduino (Here instead you can find the code running on the board).
p.p.s. i realized that all the tools i’ve used to build were in fact open-source: the Arduino IDE of course, but also Fritzing (to create the project scheme), Kdenlive (to edit the demonstration video) and git (to put the code under version control). Thumbs up for open source!
EDIT: i forgot another open-source software i’ve used: Audacity (to took the samples from the GalAuduino)