For my internship at Create Digital Music/Meeblip I've created quite a fun little synthesizer. This thing is meant to be more flexible than other synthesizer by making it completely independent; it is battery powered, has its own amplifier/speaker and is controlled by a manually operated sequencer. Inspiration for this form comes from my frustrations with most synthesizers: that I can't just take them out and jam with friends!

The previous iteration of this Instructable did not feature any sound or video of the actual synth, which is quite essential to see if you want to build something! Other changes include some reworked text, in an effort to make the project more clear for anyone trying to build it.

I've entered this Instructable in a few contests, so if you like it, please vote for me by pressing the 'vote' button on the upper right corner!

A great video where Stefany June plays the instrument and I talk about it for a bit.

A quick video of a jam I did together with Roel playing electric guitar

A quick video of a jam I did with the synthesizer in Jasper's electronic setup

This instructable shows how I made my prototype and describes how you could make your own. It won't go into super-deep detail, but if want to build it and you need some clarification or help with the code, please don't hesitate to contact me!

More details can be found in the report I wrote.

This document and all included research and illustrations, are covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. The hardware designs, schematics and code are provided under GPL v3. This means that you can rebuild and improve on this project as you wish, just let me an Meeblip know!

If you want to know more about me, check me out at http://www.arvidjense.com 

Step 1: Concept and design

So, synthesizers are pretty cool instruments, making the sounds for the most of the music I listen to right now. Yet they are quite limited in where and how they can be used. For instance, I can play my guitar at home, but I could take it to the park or to a friend for a quick jam-session. Not so simple for a synth: I'd have to plug it out of my studio setup, take a midi keyboard or laptop and just hope the place where I'm going has the right connections to plug in again.*

Another point where I feel synthesizers are performing worse than traditional instruments, is in their connection to the user. Where I can feel the vibrations of my guitar resonating through my hands and body, the sound of a synthesizer comes from a speaker a few meters away from me. Similar on the control interface; A guitar is quite clear in the fact that if you pluck a string,a sound comes out. But for a synthesizer you will have to learn the function of dozens of knobs which often have several layers of functionality.

On the other hand the palette of different sounds coming from a synthesizer is bigger than that of most traditional instruments. Also the possibilities for programming the notes allow for things not possible on traditional instruments. So why choose one or the other? I wanted to create a synthesizer which has the flexibility and direct connection of a traditional instrument.

As I've done this project for Meeblip, one thing was certain, I would use a Meeblip Micro as the sonic centerpiece. Other than that, everything was still open. Would it become a drumbox or rather a guitar-like synth? After looking at a lot of different synthesizers, reading up on synthesizer design literature and sketching lot of variations, I came up with something.

After making a lot of prototypes of all the individual pieces (interface, electronics, sequencer etc) I finally found the 'final form' which is made in the next steps. All functions are directly accessible through the knobs and switches on the interface The internal speaker allows the instrument itself to vibrate, which, especially when you place the instrument in your lap, help you feel what your playing. The instrument is controlled through a circular sequencers, in which you set the notes form a range of -12 to +12 semitones from a center note set by the base knob.

My design is meant to address the issues I have with synthesizers in a few ways. Most obvious is the fact that it runs on battery power and includes a decent hifi amplifier and speaker, allowing it to be used anywhere. By using prettily grained wood, the instrument looks a lot more delicate than if I'd used plastic. This also references its appearance more towards acoustic instruments, which are usually made of wood. Last thing I did is make the interface as direct as possible. It didn't need to be intuitive, (who makes great music on a guitar the first time (s)he picks it up) but it does need to be reliable and consistent, so you can really learn the instrument. (Please discuss whether or not you feel like these points are valid!)

*Companies like Korg and Casio did make portable synthesizers running on batteries and including a speaker, but these are, at least to me, seen more as toys than as serious musical instruments; Their plastic encasing doesn't really place it in the same line as for instance an acoustic guitar or a Moog. While the small portable synths often sound great amplified, their raw sound is nearly always weak and I've never seen them used in a song. 
Some head is going to master that thing and amaze all.
Aw, wonderful, man! Every inch and aspect of it!
nice one! don't forget to vote
Thanks man!
This is something really great, in every aspects of it.. really like the videos, but Stefany June is pure awesomeness as well.. But one of the things I enjoyed most was that you said on the first photo description: &quot;Stefany June playing my instrument&quot;.. :D Dont get me wrong, I didn't mean to be rude in anyway, but I'm portuguese, I can't avoid it... ;) <br> <br>Congrats and continue the good work. <br> <br>I'm on your blog, and you just earned an subscriber..
Nice job! Looks great and sounds great. Brilliant vocalist doesn't hurt either :)
This is an amazing synth! ArvidJense, just wondering if you and I could collaberate on this awesome device, and make it a product? Btw im 13 &amp; 1/2!
Interesting project. <br> <br>BTW, here is the Korg Monotron used in some songs: <br>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn4D79Jgn_4 <br> <br>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkuydSjaBc8 <br> <br>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJWj8HjX9ew <br>
Great, though I've yet to see someone use it in an 'acoustic' live performance. Though I mostly use it for soundscaping, I really love my monontron as well.
Soo...it's a Moog without a keyboard. :)
Nice job man :) <br>Is she your tester? ;-D

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Bio: I'm a Dutch guy doing things with music and technology. At the moment I'm finishing my MSc in Industrial Design. Not limiting myself ... More »
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