Melodicade

Prototype #2

Design started:

  • March 2019

Build completed:

  • April 2019

Destruction:

  • April 2019

Goals of this project:

  • Use the experience from designing a scanning key matrix for the DrumFighter to create a Wicki-Hayden based chromatic instrument with more buttons than there are pins on the Arduino Due.
  • Combine both of the separate button decks from the Melodicade Prototype #1 into a single more portable device.
  • Add options for expression via a breath controller.
  • Throw everything including the kitchen sink into one device so loaded with inputs that the control keys don't even fit the top deck.

What was learned from this prototype:

  • Throwing everything including the kitchen sink into one instrument makes for a difficult and frustrating playing experience.
  • Blowing into a differential pressure sensor to play notes is exhausting and not very fun.
  • For harmonizing, playing button decks side by side is far easier than layering left and right hands on top of each other.
  • Aerosol clear coat is way easier than epoxy resin for sealing in paint, but stinks for weeks after application.

Notes:

I had fun building this, but playing was a bit of a frustrating experience.

Testing options for analog expression with digital arcade buttons, I settled on a differential pressure sensor to change key velocity via breath control. This worked amazingly well, but even with a 3D printed mouth piece, blowing through a latex hose is awkward, and smells rather unpleasant. Never having seriously played woodwind instruments, I also disliked being light-headed constantly.

Having control buttons running the lengths of both sides also meant that buttons were inadvertently being pressed all the time (octave changes, program changes, etc.), causing frequent controller resets to undo whatever random thing had just occurred. I liked the idea of an entire 6 octave instrument easily fitting into a backpack, but so much had to be sacrificed to fit 114 arcade buttons inside my 3D printer's 300mm² build volume, that it wasn't worth the trade-off. This was destroyed to harvest the buttons less than two weeks after completion.