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Custom Built MIDI Controller

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Im entering this jnstructable into the musical instruments contest, if you like it please vote for me cos I'd love a new synth! As an electronic music producer/performer, I have gathered quite a few different MIDI controllers over the years but always found that the controllers I have don't always suit my playing style, or have enough controls in the right places so I decided I would have a go at building my own. I have a very basic knowledge of electronics and a small amount of experience with a soldering iron so I wanted a simple way to achieve this that was both affordable and adaptable. 

I came across a company based in Texas by the name of Livid Instruments. As well as manufacturing their own brand of MIDI controllers, they also make a MIDI enabled microcontroller board which allows you to add various controls such as potentiometers, buttons and LED's in as many configurations as you can think of. It's a relatively simple process and their technical support is incredibly good should you get stuck or have any questions, of which I had many.
 
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Step 1: Choose your controls

I use Ableton Live almost exclusively for any performance/production so I firstly considered how to somehow recreate some of the programs interface into my own controller. Ableton's drum rack is one of the devices I use the most play in samples and drum loops so I started here. The Brain can support up to 179 digital inputs, digital here basically meaning switches, in this case, normally open, momentary contacts. I did look into velocity sensitive pads, similar to those of the Akai MPC series, but I soon realised that it would be way out of my budget to use force sensitive resistors in the same way on my controller so I opted to use some simple arcade style buttons. I found some illuminated buttons on eBay which were perfect. I bought 16 which cost around £20 including the button, LED housing and microswitch. 
Next came the analog controls. Analog in this sense means anything that will output a specific value/voltage such as a slider, rotary potentiometer or force sensitive resistor. It's important to note here that potentiometers with values between 10k and 100k work best with the BrainWith all my shop bought controllers I've always found that they were lacking even just an extra 2 or 3 sliders so I decided to play it safe and go for 11, one of them being a dedicated crossfader. I wanted to recreate the look of the effects racks I use the most in Ableton on my controller so for rotary potentiometers I chose to include two lots of 8 in a 4x2 configuration, two lots of 3 for channel EQ's and 4 extra just in case. I made a crude design in Sketchbook express which you can see in the images to get a rough idea of how to layout the controls and to figure out whether I had enough controls for its purpose. 
Alderin8 months ago
That's a nice box! Too bad about the LEDs, it surprises me that you couldn't find lower-voltage High-brightness LEDs that would work, as I've had blindingly bright 3v blue LEDs. But building an upgrade board with MOSFET power transistors that takes the Brain's 5v and steps it to 12v would be a good next-level electronics project for you, and with your preference in using ribbon cables, would be easy to swap in!
Good luck and happy making!
_bain_ (author)  Alderin8 months ago
Cheers. I tried a few different high brightness LEDs but the colours were way off when they shone through the buttons, made them look a really sickly colour. I'll look into a transistor set up at some point, this took me so long though I'm just gonna give my soldering iron a rest for a bit.
_bain_ (author) 8 months ago
Cheers!
rimar20008 months ago
How a great work!
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