Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Controller Quest

So in the process of mulling over this idea of making a custom Eurorack case, I finally decided that I do want to keep one of the Doepfer suitcases with a select few modules as a "performance" system; everything else would go into the custom made case. Hell, I might not even make the custom case and just get that Plan B case that was announced a while back...either way, I'm keeping one Doepfer suitcase as the "performance" system.

So that got me thinking about a controller for it. I don't want to have to use the Doepfer A-190 MIDI to CV converter as that will take up valuable space. I'd also like to have a unique (and better) controller than a shitty little MIDI controller. It's also a perfect opportunity for me to build something myself.

So my first thought was something with a joystick. I had wanted to get one of the Doepfer A-174 Joystick modules, but it always seemed like it would be taking up valuable space. Well, it turns out you can get the bare joysticks from Doepfer, and rigging them up as 0-5v+ attenuators seems relatively simple. Apparently they also come spring loaded (so the stick is always in the center). You can easily tear the springs out and make them free floating as well. Ripping the springs out is irreversible, however, so I thought of getting two joysticks, ripping the springs out of one, and adding a couple of buttons for triggers. Maybe lay it out similar to an old arcade game; I could probably even find the same style buttons. Perfect, this is simple, unique, and in theory, easy for me to put together.

But...it got me to thinking that, at some point, I will undoubtedly need to play something at standard pitches. So I revamped my design...keep the two joysticks, add a 2 octave keyboard, and maybe keep the trigger buttons if necessary (I could always use a keyboard key to trigger). Probably even add mults, and possibly even VCAs directly on the controller rather than take up more of that valuable space in the suitcase.

Well, I can't really find a definitive schematic or anything for taking a regular keyboard (like a fatar replacement, or even ripping the one out of my cheapo m-audio oxygen 8) and converting that to CV.

Does anyone have any leads on making your own CV keyboard? I spent a while googling around, and aside from this item on musicfromouterspace (which might not even be the right thing) I can't find anything.


J.w.M. said...

Hmmm... Before getting my Mobius, I was very interested in finding some sort of CG keyboard. I ended up giving up, but might not have if I'd found this before buying:


(go to modules>>pedal board/Mini Keyboard). It might be small for what you're looking for, but it might be extensible.

Also, I'd be interested in your thoughts about performing with a modular. Would it be completely improv-based or would you start the performance with a good idea of what's coming next?

felix said...

Cool, thanks for the link. I think between this and the musicfromouterspace one I might be able to grok what I need to get the job done.

Worse comes to worst I'll go for the Doepfer kit when they come around to releasing it...but it's got a few bits of extra crap (midi) that I don't need or really want.

Regarding performing, I'm hoping to do accompany some kind of rock meets experimental band; making ambient sounds or simply adding to the sounds they are making. I didn't actually think about a solo performance, although that would be something I would be into as well.

Overall, I think I would have to have some basic idea of what I was going to do ahead of time. With a band I would probably have a few specific patches already outlined to use for different songs, hopefully not too different from one another so that re-patching didn't take too long.

Then again, it might be interesting to go into a solo improv performance completely blank...just fly by the seat of your pants. In that case, by myself, I might be too nervous. ;)

J.w.M. said...

Yeah-- I know what you mean... Sitting down with no plan as to what comes next and then going ahead and performing would induce stage-fright in me.

The Doepfer kit looks cool, especially because it looks like it's designed with the intent of having the builder put it in a unique case. As of this posting, Analogue Haven has one of the Doepfer kits for sale in their used section. $192.

felix said...

The one in the AH used section right now is their "MKE" kit. It's basically a DIY Midi keyboard kit; just add your own case.

Originally I was actually hoping to info on mods to this kit to make CV outs available but I did not find any examples of this. I'm a bit afraid to spend the cash for this MKE kit and then find that it won't be easily modified for CV.

I'm still on the hunt. I haven't chatted up a few work colleagues yet; a few are synth buffs and might actually know.