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Having a hardware interface to your favourite music / DJ / VJ software can really open up doors in your creativity. The most widespread form of hardware control to your PC for such applications is a MIDI based controller.

A MIDI controller can send and receive MIDI messages to your PC, allowing direct control of your software. Not only that, but the controls can generally be mapped to anything your like. So what might be a volume fader for one person can be an effect filter for another.

This article will describe how to build and program a custom arcade button MIDI controller, while trying to keep the price below $100. It is aimed at electronics and programming novices.


Step 1: What You'll Need

Below is a list of components used to create the MIDI controller. The cost for this project is based on the components needed for the MIDI controller. Other tools such as a soldering iron or a power drill, or common components such as solder and wire aren't included in the final cost. Tools which I did have to purchase are marking with italics , and their price is shown. All prices are in AUD except where indicated.

Required Components
1 x DFRduino (cheaper Arduino clone) $28.80
1 x USB cable (A to B connector, like that on a printer) $3.95
1 x Plastic enclosure $15.75
12 x Sanwa 24mm arcade buttons $26.28 (USD)
4 x 10k linear potentiometer $4.88
4 x Pot knobs $3.80
2 x 10k linear sliding potentiometer $7.54
2 x Slider knobs $2.04
5 x 10mm M3 nylon threaded spacers $2.00 (I got a bag of 25 for $9.95)
4 x 16mm countersunk M3 screws $1.00
3 x 4mm M2 self tapping screws $0.75
1 x 4.7 kΩ resistor $0.10
4 x stick on rubber feet $2.00

Total $98.89

All of the above can be found at most online electronics stores (I use the excellent Little Bird Electronics ), except for the Sanwa arcade buttons which can be found at arcade replacement parts stores, or from DJ TechTools . It pays to purchase one or two spare buttons and perhaps a spare potentiometer in the event that the part is faulty or you accidentally make it faulty.

Required Tools
Soldering iron
Solder
Wire stripper
Small gauge stranded wire (22 AWG), preferably in three or more different colours
About 1m of 2.5mm heat shrink
Power drill or drill press
Drill bits (2mm, 3mm, 7mm, and 11mm)
Spade bit (24mm) $12.49
Countersinking bit
10mm hexagonal wrench or spanner
Needle-nose pliers
Small riffler files $15 for pack of 10
Regular file
Phillips-head screwdriver 
<p>Very cool tutorial. Thanks! I used Hairless Midi to convert Serial to Midi, very useful to debug the midi messages and check that everything is working.<br><br>Maybe you should have explained how to test a slider potentiometer and determine where the wiper is, as the provided wiring won't work with any model.<br><br>The case I used is a biscuits box that I stripped, sanded and clear coated. On the back of the lid, I have a thin layer of wood so the buttons have enough material thickness to properly clip (the potentiometer second holes are also drill in the wood only).</p>
<p>It does not work with hiduino , as I can fix that ?</p>
<p>can someone give me the program code for 4x4 controller</p><p>Stuck for almost a month...</p>
looks great, I am going to give this a shot...but my only confusion is with how you mounted the board. the teensy has no holes
Hi, <br> <br>I really like your project and i wanna build that! I'm just planning to build it with 4x4 buttons. Could you help me with the schematic? <br> <br>thank you
Here's an updated schematic for a 16 button controller. Note that pin 13 is not used here, so you don't need the pull-up resistor. Instead the button is connected to pin A0, and the extra 4 buttons connected to pins A1 to A4. <br> <br>The sketch will also need to be modified to match the 16 button layout. Let me know if you need any help with making the changes.
<p>if using this scheme , how about the program ? changed or remained the same ?</p><p>tngks :)</p>
<p>I'd absolutely adore it if you made a tutorial for how to accomplish LED feedback (LEDs lighting up) by pressing the triggers.</p>
<p>nice project! I need to build an only 4 button midi controller for Qlab,<br> would it be necessary to change something from the Arduino code?(I'll be using an old Duemilanove) thanks.</p>
<p>hey brother can you help me code a 2 channel mixer for traktor ,i am pretty much trying to mock the pioneer djm s9 ,specially the hotcue pads and the loop section ,</p>
<p>So, I couldn't find an enclosure so I decided to improvise. </p>
<p>Couldn't get any potentiometer neither, I had to change the code to work with just the digital inputs. Great project.</p>
<p>Help needed here. I'm a noob when it comes to programming. I downloaded the required TimerOne lib and get the following error after compiling the sketch:<br></p><p>MIDI_Controller.pde: In function 'void controlChange(int, int, int)':</p><p>MIDI_Controller.pde:335:29: error: 'BYTE' was not declared in this scope</p><p>Error compiling.</p><p>The sketch i used was &quot;MIDI_Controller_2011-02-22.zip (4 KB)&quot; </p><p>Thanks in advance! XD</p>
very great project! I made a old arcade pad with your sketch and it will be so cool! fo real Hid support, i have uploaded Hiduino to the bootloader and change the serial baud rate of your sketch to 31200 and it's function perfecly! i want to put some led on backlighting of the arcade button but I have independently digitalpin output for each and I dont know how I can map it in your sketch for when I push a button the led bring on it. if you can help me, I can post a photo of the finished project ^^. thanks a lot
<p>Or a joystick for XY effect</p>
<p>How hard would it be to make a larger scale version of this? Could you chain a second Arduino to it? Would the program have to be modified? Would also love LED lights.</p>
Hey nice project! I would like to know if it is possible to use this to control for example game volume, skype volume and web browser volume separately on windows? How do I do that? Is it possibble?
<p>what midi maping software do you use?</p>
<p>Can i use a volume pedal (behringer fcv100 with 50k lin. ) instead of the potentiometers?</p>
<p>Hey, great project. helped my big time. How about multiplexing? i would like to use uno or leonardo board but i want 16 buttons. So could someone say some advice about the multiplexing or just use the mega or tensy ++?</p>
<p>HEY GREAT PROJECT; just what I was looking for. Has anyone tried to use it with MAC?</p>
<p>Hi, I'm thinking of switching the Arduino board for the Teensy 2.0. Would I have to desolder the pull-down resistor on pin13 or could I potentially just leave it there?</p><p><br>Also, would I need to skip pins D2 (RX) &amp; D3 (TX) if the teensy isn't using serial communication? I was planning to wire it like this:</p>
<p>Hi thanks for your instructable! Everything is going well but I was just wondering if it was possible to setup the pushbuttons to be used as a piano keyboard? Like with a DAW or something?</p>
<p>By default, it is set up to do exactly that. The first button plays C, the second plays C#, the third plays D, and so on. :)</p>
<p>Omg got it, thanks! Is there anyway to remap the buttons so it starts on C3, followed by C#3, D3...? Also, I know the layout of the buttons follow the Midi Fighter's bottom to top order but is there a way to change it so it goes from top to bottom? Thanks so much for your help! I really appreciate it (:<br>I'm loving the controller!</p>
<p>Don't worry I found it! For anyone who wants to know, I replaced lines 159 to 178 with this:<br><br>#else</p><p> #define MIDI_CHANNEL 1</p><p> // First note, starting from upper left button</p><p> #define NOTE NOTE_C2</p><p> // This pin order corresponds to the top left button being zero, increasing by one as we move from left to right, top to bottom</p><p> // 0 1 2 3</p><p> // 4 5 6 7</p><p> // 8 9 10 11</p><p> // This array size must match NUM_DI above.</p><p> #if defined(ARDUINO_MEGA)</p><p> #define DIGITAL_PIN_ORDER 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53</p><p> #elif defined(TEENSY_PLUS_PLUS)</p><p> #define DIGITAL_PIN_ORDER 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37</p><p> #elif defined(TEENSY_2)</p><p> #define DIGITAL_PIN_ORDER 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12</p><p> #elif defined(TEENSY_PLUS_PLUS_2)</p><p> #define DIGITAL_PIN_ORDER 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37</p><p> #else</p><p> #define DIGITAL_PIN_ORDER 10, 11, 12, 13, 6, 7, 8, 9, 2, 3, 4, 5 </p><p>#endif<br><br><br></p>
<p>Great project you have here, it's just perfect</p><p>I made my own with just 8 pots instead of all the sliders and buttons; they all work fine except one, which gives a &quot;MIDI feedback shortcut&quot; error, and says not to connect the in and out to the same port. Oddly this only seems to happen with the one port. Any ideas?</p>
<p>Actually it sometimes works, but I have to use LoopBe30 and route it through 2 different ports with HairlessMIDI (instead of MIDI Yoke since Windows 8)</p><p>IDK what's up with that</p>
Do the push buttons need to be momentary or lock? <br>
<p>somebody help me please... i have arduino micro, can i use it as Midi controller??? i'm new on this community... please help me...</p><p>the circuit diagram also...</p>
<p>Hello such , I am Argentine and I'm doing the midi controller . USE sorry for translators .<br>My problem is this , I can not load the program to Arduino entiedo Not For Long . I hope your help. thousand thanks</p>
<p>I want to use only 16 buttons, as I do?</p>
<p>for arduino nano is necessary to modify the code ? that's ok?:</p><p>#if defined(__AVR_ATmega328__) || defined(__AVR_ATmega328__)</p><p>#define ARDUINO_NANO</p><p>#elif defined(__AVR_ATmega328P__)</p><p>#if defined(ARDUINO_NANO)</p><p> // Number of digital inputs. Can be anywhere from 0 to 68.</p><p> #define NUM_DI 13</p><p> // Number of analogue inputs. Can be anywhere from 0 to 16.</p><p> #define NUM_AI 8</p>
<p>Help me ! when i run the code i get this error <br>'PIN_D6' was not declared in this scope</p>
<p>It's been a few months since this was asked so I doubt you still need help. For others like me who might also run into this issue, I was able fix this by making some changes to the code(just a heads up, very minimal programming experience). Basically, seems like the code was detecting my leonardo as a teensy or something so I commented out the teensy #defines at the top:</p><p>#if defined(__AVR_ATmega1280__) || defined(__AVR_ATmega2560__)</p><p>#define ARDUINO_MEGA</p><p>//#elif defined(__AVR_AT90USB646__)</p><p>//#define TEENSY_PLUS_PLUS</p><p>//#elif defined(__AVR_ATmega32U4__)</p><p>//#define TEENSY_2</p><p>//#elif defined(__AVR_AT90USB1286__)</p><p>//#define TEENSY_PLUS_PLUS_2</p><p>#else</p><p>#define ARDUINO</p><p>#endif</p>
if i wanted to change the code so that the digital buttons sent a simple on/off signal instead of playing a note how could i do that
<p>yes, how do I do this? Apparently it is not possible through Ableton so it probably needs to be programmed in. </p>
<p>Hi, thanks for your instructable, it's great! Can you explain more about the LUFA library and how to make a true USB MIDI controller?</p>
<p>hey , is it possible to make a controller with two faders , 8 knobs?</p>
<p>Great instructable. I'm having some trouble with the slide pot. It believe I wired everything correctly but when I map the controller manually in Ableton and test out the slider, it has a very jumpy rise. Like moving the knob a centimeter would make the volume jump from the bottom and red line. But when I test the same thing on the rotary pot, it has a very smooth rise and fall. Why is this? I can't figure it out and I don't think I burned the pots because I was very careful when soldering and testing the resistance every time. Help please!</p>
<p>I had this issue and that was because how we should wire it and how the resistors are labelled are different ( and sometimes wrong) so just swap where the wires are going on the slide pot until it works :)<br><br>Thats how I fixed it haha</p>
<p>One of your pots might be logarythmic, and the other is probably linear. They have different resistance curves. Otherwise, the slider might have dirty contacts.</p>
<p>The pot is linear so how do i fix a dirty contact? or should i replace?</p>
Hi, i'm using only 12 buttons. Do I need to change the code or can i still use the same?<br><br>And, on Serial MIDI Converter, the TX doesn't flash green. What's happening<br>Do you have any idea?
Hey dude/Dudette <br>No you dont need to change the code in any way!! <br>Thats whats so awesome about his code, it is fluid.. meaning you can have as many or as little as you feel you want!! with in reason :) <br> <br>As for the midi problem, do you have midi yoke installed?? <br>If not, look up &quot;MIDI Yoke&quot; on google, download and install <br>That is most likely your problem!!! <br> <br>Get back to me if it works or not!! <br>Cheers, hope it helps!!! <br>:)
<p>Hi everyone;</p><p>I have the same problem. The Tx doesn't flash green on the Serial_midi program. Only the Rx. However on my Arduino board The Tx is flashing but not the Rx. Thats very strange. </p><p>I didn't installed the Midi Yoke because i'm on Mac. So i'm using the IAC driver. </p><p>Also, i build my board with Arduino Uno. Could it be the reason why the code doesn't work? </p><p>Please help me guys!</p>
<p>Its been like 2 years since I've had a crack at this hahaha So I doubt I can help but I'll try<br><br>I occasionally encountered this problem and I fixed it by re flashing the software and making sure all of the connections work well&quot;<br><br>Like literally re-flashing the software fixes alot of bugs for me from when I was using it; otherwise maybe look for an updated tutorial?<br><br>Good luck :)</p>
<p>Hey, i have the same TX problem !? Have you been able to fix it? </p>
<p>Nice setup. Just wondering how would i go about making this with an arduino Mega 2560? Do i have to change a lot of the code? What digital inputs do i use?I want to be able to hook it up to my old organ instead of using the push buttons(each key has the 2 wires so i think that should work)This project comes closer than anything i have seen for what i need it for :)</p>
<p>I have built a similar midi controller with an atari joystick, pots and 5 toggle switches on Digital pin 3-7. The problem is that when using them to turn effects on in Ableton I flip up to turn the effect on, but have to flip down and up again to turn the effect off. What I want is to turn the toggle switch on/up to turn an effect on and turn the button off/down to turn the effect off. How can I change the code to work like this with my switches? Thanks for your help!</p>

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