Picture of The Ondestrak
Make an Ondes Martenot-inspired Ribbon Controller from a Gametrak Video Game Controller

UPDATE: AUGUST 2009 - the Ondestrak has been published as part of a paper in the 6th Sound and Music Computing Conference in Porto Portugal! Be sure to check out all of the other cool Gametrak applications. Here's the link:

Lastly, thanks for everyone who's shown enthusiasm in this. The word "Ondestrak" didn't exist 8 months ago, as confirmed by the total lack of Google hits. Now there are 14 pages of hits (admittedly, mostly YouTube related, but still). So, again, thanks everyone.
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Step 1: Historical Background

Picture of Historical Background
The Ondes Martenot was one of the world's first electronic instruments. Like many other early electronic instruments, such as the Theremin and Trautonium, the Ondes Martenot gave the player control of a continuous band of pitches. There were no stops or keys, but rather a device that allowed for an uninterrupted glissando. They were the electronic equivalents of a trombone or slide steel guitar.

What made the Ondes Martenot unique compared to its more popular cousin, the Theremin, was that it was a tactile instrument. As anyone who's ever played with a Theremin can attest to, they can be difficult instruments to play with any sort of intuition or accuracy because there are no physical markers to gauge one's actions with. The Ondes, on the other hand, employed a ribbon-controller composed of a looped string with a ring tied in the middle in which one placed one's finger and slid the ribbon back and forth to control pitch. In later models this controller was mounted parallel to a keyboard so that the location of the ring, or "la bague," directly corresponded to the notes above it. This configuration allowed for greater accuracy than the finicky Theremin controller and was more intuitive to musicians familiar with the traditional keyboard.
alvarosuna1 year ago
I have to say thanks for the tutorial, is fantastic and thanks to you I'n going to try to build one os this prototypes.
You were talking in the blog about the difference between using the PC or the XBOX version of the joystick, and I'd really now if the PS2 version is also good for this gadget because is the one that I can buy in an economic way. Thanks so much for your time.
very nice - I found the madcats controllers in multiple places for under $20. It's too bad that the project is dependent on a such an expensive piece of software.
That dependency is largely imagined.

If you had a copy of the original patch, I'm sure it's fully usable in the free max runtime (which, true to its name, does not cost anything).

But since the patch no longer exists, who's to say the rebuild has to happen in max/msp?

If price is an issue, why not give it a try in pd (or chuck, or supercollider, or faust, or any number of other options)?

I mean, I love max/msp, and I'd encourage anyone to dive in with that. But don't get held back by believing this project can't move forward without it. It's not a requirement.
Yeah, I agree. I was ale to use a free version from my school for the duration of my project. However; once I started exploring the possibilities of the software and seeing the community of users around it I'm tempted to take the plunge and buy a copy myself.
ilpug3 years ago
I didn't get why the board needs to be able to spring up and down, but other than that, great build.
Very cool. I've been wanting an Ondes Martenot style instrument for a while. I'm going to be building a few different instruments with similar controllers and might post instructables for them if I feel sufficiently motivated.
devin_mccutchen (author)  Sam the Wizer4 years ago
I'd love to see them when you do!
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It's fine to cut any of the wires as long as you remember which goes to which, since ultimately you want the device to electronically function as it originally did. Cutting the wires facilitates better positioning of the reassembled pieces on your new device. I hope that helps. In the end, the idea is to isolate the device's functions and make them respond to different physical parameters. Also, I'm excited to hear that someone is giving this a shot. Yours, no-doubt, will be much cleaner than mine. If you'd be interested in a copy of the Max file that I used to program the device's output with just let me know, though I should warn you that it is extremely rough since I only had a copy of the programming environment during the semester that I was working at CNMAT.
Hi, I have just bought a gametrak and would like to give it a plug in to the computer and give it a whirl before starting construction. If you have the max code you used I would love to have a look at it since I havent used MAX before. Well I havent used max and I wont be ever, I will be using puredata but I assume the code is pretty similar.
devin_mccutchen (author)  liam.buchanan4 years ago
Hi Liam, I haven't been around this site for a while, so my apologies at the extremely late response. Unfortunately, I lost the code in a hard drive crash a few months back, but, I really can't stress this enough, my coding was incredibly simplistic. The side to side mapped onto pitch (which you can set to any range you'd like) and the joy sticks were intended to be mapped onto a sort of 2-D timber space, however, I only had the time to have them (more or less randomly) perform some simple frequency modulations (keeping the core tone but adding some changing, diminishing frequencies on either side of the fundamental.) Be creative; this was really just a basic start. I'm sure you can come up with something that works for you. Best, - Devin
villa_055 years ago
good work man, i mean GOOD VIBRATIONS ;)
terrific sound!! keep it up...... ~plur~
zackbowman6 years ago
Wow. I gotta make one of these.
tudgeanator6 years ago
Very cool.I want one!
I like your project and I featured it, but it's a little tough to know what the device is at first. If you could make a video that combined the three into one and put that into the intro it would help.
jeff-o6 years ago
Heh, what an interesting new sound you've created! What a neat use for unwanted tech, nicely done. :)
devin_mccutchen (author)  jeff-o6 years ago
Thanks, I'm glad that you enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun making it too.