Introduction: Easy MIDI Bass Pedals From Your Old MIDI Keyboard

Organ pedalboards have existed since 13th century. The idea is fantastic!

You can use your feet for bass duties while your fingers are busy playing higher registers. Of course you can also use MIDI pedalboards for playing higher sounds or triggering samples and fx or whatever you like.

I was interested to try using bass pedals while playing my electric guitar. Many rock groups such as The Police and Rush have used bass pedals (in power trio context).

They used the legendary Moog Taurus - the most famous foot-operated synthesizer.

Taurus 3 is a dream machine but it's like 2000 dollars! And it has only one octave keyboard.

MIDI bass pedals like 12 step by Keith McMillen is more reasonably priced and comes with cool smart sensor keys. It's also has only one octave of keys.

But what if you wan't to try the idea of bass pedals first before buying expensive product. Maybe you already own something like 12 step but need second machine for triggering samples.

Do you have an old ROMpler keyboard collecting dust? Give a new life to your Casio home keyboard!

You will need a working normal size keyboard (at least 4 octaves) that can output MIDI messages.I'll show you how to hack it to MIDI bass pedals machine nondestructively!

Yes! Nondestructively. You can reverse this hack if you want to.

Maybe I'll buy something like 12 step one day but for now I'm perfectly happy with my home made bass pedals hack. I can create cinematic atmospheres with my guitar and play droning bass notes at the same time with my feet like a musical octopus! It's super cool to play some guitar arpeggios with delay fx and try different bass notes - A Happy Accident Generator Extraordinaire!

I hacked my Yamaha SY-35 vector synthesizer. It's a cool synth but not used so often nowadays.

Step 1: What You'll Need

Normal size keyboard instrument (at least 49 keys preferably 61 keys) with MIDI output capability

Double sided tape

Normal clear tape

Masking tape

Thin black and white plastic sheets

I like to use polystyrene sheets in my projects. You can also use something like cardboard. It should be something thin but quite sturdy material. I used cheap containers as a white plastic source

Coloured cardboard (some color other than black or white)

Cutting tools

Marker pen and a ruler

Computer with DAW / VST host / Pure Data / Program that manipulates MIDI messages

Step 2:

Clean your poor keyboard from dust and hair. :)

Cut white key sized pieces from coloured cardboard and attach them to locations seen in pictures with double sided tape. These will work as spacers.

You don't have to cover the whole surface of the white key with coloured cardboard.

Make spacers more sturdier by covering them with clear tape in areas where your feet might touch

Step 3:

Use again double sided tape for attachment. Cut white and black plastic to pieces you see in the second picture. You can cut thin plastic with large scissors.

Attach a piece of coloured cardboard on top of C#3 and D#3 note.

Then make white plastic pieces you see in the third picture and fix them in top of white keys.

If you have 49 key keyboard just ignore the last octave of the instructions. You still get more than an octave of bass pedal keys.

Now mark the keys with marker pen. Use masking tape on black plastic.

I made E the lowest note. I didn't want to go as low as C1. It's 32.7 Hz. E1 is 41.2 Hz. It's the lowest note of double bass and bass guitar.

Your Bass Pedals are ready!

Step 4: MIDI Message Conversion

We need to convert incoming midi notes to remapped notes.
Red dots on top picture shows original midi notes that needs to be converted to new midi note messages. Only those red dot marked keys are used on conversion and other notes are filtered out.

If you have malfunctioning notes on your keyboard you can change midi notes you use for conversion. For example low F can be C or E instead of D.

Conversion Chart

original midi note --> remapped midi note

37 --> 40

38 --> 41

44 --> 42

45 --> 43

51 --> 44

52 --> 45

56 --> 46

59 --> 47

65 --> 48

68 --> 49

72 --> 50

75 --> 51

79 --> 52

80 --> 53

85 --> 54

86 --> 55

92 --> 56

93 --> 57

Software options

I tried to find ways to remap MIDI notes that would work in different operating systems.

VST plugins

If you like to use VST midi plugins there is a really nice collection of plugins called Piz MIDI. It's made by Insert Piz Here and it's should work on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. You can download the collection from here

In the site there is a list of DAWs that will work with those plugins

You will need midiNoteMap and midiTranspose plugins from the collection

I use Windows computer and Reaper DAW. I have only tested midiNoteMap with Windows computer but there is a strange bug at least in the Windows version. To work properly you need to put midiTranspose plugin before midiNoteMap and set transpose value to +6. For some reason midiNoteMap sees incoming notes -6 semitones off. But using midiTranspose to correct this is a quite an easy workaroud. If you find that midiNoteMap is working correctly in your system please let me know!

There is a slider for every MIDI note. You can set remapped notes with sliders. Simply turn unneeded midi notes to far left. Then the value is '-' and the plugin filters out that midi note.

Pure Data

If you don't want to use VST plugins you can use Pure Data to manipulate MIDI messages.

I use Midi Yoke in Windows to route midi between applications. There are instructions in the web how to do it on OS X. I don't know how Linux handles MIDI.

In Pure Data's MIDI Settings I set my hardware MIDI input as input device and MIDI Yoke as output device. I disable any input and output device in Audio Settings. It's important that you set Delay (msec) value to 0 in Audio Settings. If delay value is something else than zero there is latency in MIDI messages.

You can now route your manipulated MIDI messages to DAW or hardware synths.

Happy playing!

Playing tip! In some keyboards the keys are pretty high. If you play standing up it might help your playing if you use something to lift yourself a little higher from the floor.

My Pure Data Patch is here