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Musician builds awesome Arduino-powered MIDI controller, and so can you

Making music can be an expensive hobby, particularly if you don’t set limits on the equipment you’re willing to shell out for.

That’s the fate musician Alex Coover, aka Glacial Geyser, came close to experiencing when he set out to get his hands on a new piece of musical equipment. Or, rather, it’s the fate that certainly would have befallen him if he didn’t turn out to be so darn good at DIY projects.

“The keyboard that I use to write music doesn’t have a pitch bend or modulation wheel,” Coover told Digital Trends. “I started looking on the internet for a stand-alone unit and I couldn’t find anything that fit what I was looking for. It seemed that what I was searching for simply didn’t exist unless you were willing to buy a whole new keyboard. I didn’t want to spend that kind of money, so I started considering building my own.”

Jump forward in time, and Coover is the new, proud owner of a homemade, DIY, Arduino-powered MIDI controller, which he calls the Midi Machine.

“I’d never used an Arduino before, and nor I had done too much with soldering other than a few repairs on things I already owned,” he continued. “I enjoyed [the project], although doing the programming for the Arduino was the part I felt most lost on!”

It seems to have been a worthwhile endeavor, however, because the finished product doesn’t just contain pitch bend and modulation wheels, but also two 75mm 10k faders, 10k knobs, and a nifty splattered paint effect for good measure.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people who want to do something similar,” Coover said, regarding the feedback he’s received regarding his homemade instrument. “Most of them have very supportive — although I’ve heard from a few people who tell me I should’ve been using 3D printing. They were disapproving of the fact that I did this by hand, and that I was being such a caveman about cutting out pieces of plastic myself!”

While Coover had to experiment to build his MIDI Machine, however, he’s made it easy on other budding musicians by detailing the step-by-step instructions on an Imgur page, which makes the whole process as easy as learning a new guitar chord.

As for Coover, he told us that the completed MIDI controller has turned out every bit as well as he hoped.

“I’ve been using it every day since I finished it,” he said. “With this controller, I can use it as a drum machine, as well as using the knobs to add effects. At some point in the next couple of years, I want to release a new album — using this as a key instrument in the production.”

We’re confident it’ll be worth the wait!