Soundplane – multitouch wooden controller

The Soundplane from Madrona Labs is one of the prettiest electronic controllers I’ve ever seen. It might just be a superficial thing , just looking at the Soundplane it’s beautifully simple and made from one of my favourite materials, wood.

There are a few things missing from electronic instruments which can make them less satisfying than traditional instruments. The first is resonance  Resonance is one of my favourite musical phenomenons  I could get lost in it for days. And, as I have quite a deep voice, sometimes I am even able to excite the resonant frequencies of small rooms. This can make for a strange moment when I veer off mid sentence to sing a note. Read more

Drumtop v1.0 – physical sampler

Man, I love novel ways to make music, particularly if that music also happens to sound good. A while ago I came across just such a little project, the Drumtop v1.0 by Akito van Troyer. The Drumtop is an instrument with 8 speaker and transducer pairs that allow you to program sounds from anything you can fit on a speaker. It uses the speakers to create sound in an unconventional way, simply by moving up and down to cause whatever is on top to shake.

It’s a really simple idea, but I’m particularly impressed by the way that you interact with the instrument. By pressing down on the speaker the movement is sensed by the transducer underneath. When you press down a number of times to create a pattern it is recorded. The speaker then moves in this pattern causing whatever is on top of it to make a sound. By placing different objects on top of the speakers and sequencing different patterns with them you could create lots of interesting combinations. Read more


The QBO is an open source controller designed and built by Guido Tamino. The project was put together in fulfilment of a master thesis and its design is centered on the idea of an open source project that can have many contributors. It plays into the open source ethos by using Pure Data as its software and the controller itself was built using an Arduino, webcam and cardboard. The controller is a novel take on a step sequencer. The idea being to move a electronic music performance away from sitting behind a laptop and towards a more interesting experience for the audience. Read more

Aurora – OSEC #3


The Aurora is an open source midi mixer with built in audio reactive lights created by Matt Aldrich, Mike Garbus and Maro Sciacchitano. The mixer is designed to integrate with an existing midi based sequencer and to allow the user to interact with audio using a physical controller, bringing a physical element to electronic music performance. The Aurora doesn’t actually mix the audio signals instead its a midi controller packaged in mixer to provide a physical interface for digitally controlling music, creating a more tangible experience for both the performer and audience. Read more

Arduinome – OSEC #2


The Arduinome is an open source controller based on the Monome design, which was developed by the Arduino Monome Project, now FlipMu. It’s functionally the same as the Monome, but the big plus/minus, depending on your point of view, is that you have to put it together yourself.

The controller

The controller is essentially a square box with 64 back lit rubber buttons that can be programmed to do whatever you want. The most obvious use is to use the buttons as a step sequencer, but there are some interesting lateral-thinking approaches to the controller. My favorite has to be Boiingg. It’s a fun implementation for the controller and a great use of the LEDs to show that duration between notes is due to the bouncing lights. Read more

Open Source Electronic Controller #1 :: Introduction

Open source logoI’m really interested in the Open Source Hardware (OSHW) phenomenon that’s grown off the back of the FLOSS movement. There’s a great spirit of collaboration in the air in general at the moment and some really interesting devices are being developed and their designs released. It’s amazing that the people taking the time and effort to create interesting hardware then release the plans for free to the world at large. The most prominent device to date is probably the Arduino, but there are lots of other different devices for different applications available. Where open source is really getting interesting is the area of personal fabrication with open source 3D printers like the the Makebot available, and affordable, and with the Lasersaur laser cutter currently under development. It’s going to be interesting to see what the future holds in terms of OSHW. Read more