Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More about the MIDI guitron...

I wanted to have a midi controller with notes laid out like the notes on a guitar. Mainly, I have a feel where the notes on a guitar are, but not so much on a keyboard, and keyboards are much heavier.

I did not want to pay a lot of money, and I did not want an instrument that was 'string model like' in that you would need to pluck strings to get a note: it's a midi instrument, so wanted to use one finger to get one note. Also, I wanted a 'normalized' fretboard, where the space between frets was equal for all notes, to get maximum range: I wanted to accomodate eight octaves of midi notes.

There was a problem in that the buttons I needed would have to be thin if they were to fit on a narrow enough neck. So I considered a four string rather than six string neck, which would mandate a completely unwieldly neck length, so I split the necks into a longer bass and shorter treble.

I found a company called Midiboutique that does various MIDI components, who were somewhat geared towards the 'midification' of large pipe organs but who had begun to do various types of custom work. This company was very helpful: if I could find the buttons I was looking for and ship them there, they could build the circuit boards. This was very wise: they did not want to choose the 'playable pieces' for me, but would accomodate what I felt were the best buttons. The email discussions we had were important, also, because some key aspects were ironed out with respect to 'mono or poly per string' (went with poly) and there was an overlap in one of the note ranges that I had specified that was a typo.

Finding buttons of an appropriate size with an appropriate pressure was important. I used Mouser Electronics website to pore over their catalog. I chose the buttons completely based on the specs and the drawings and was not disappointed-- when the completed circuit boards arrived, I was mostly stunned at how closely they matched what I had envisioned.

Then, there was the matter of building the 'case'. This would be wood, I had decided a while back. I think it's kind of strange that more midi control boxes are not made of wood: they are low voltage, after all, and wood is much more easily worked with than metal and generally durable (yes, not as much as metal, but often moreso than plastic)... at any rate...

I ultimately did not get the neck as narrow as would have been ideal given the buttons I went with, it is more like a classical acoustic neck in width than electric. But the button action is very light and this is good: it resulted in an extremely lightweight, fully polyphonic fretboard-style instrument that has a greater range than an 88 key keyboard: the MIDI Guitron.


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