Project Development Studio Midterm/Update

In light of the loss of fabrication resources I will be scaling down my project physically and focusing more on the design of a smaller prototype. To facilitate this I built a neotrellis m4 express kit. This is a common development board with drumpad made by Adafruit. Using this will allow me to take advantages of the work that has been done by Adafruit to quickly built different prototypes and experiment.

Mockup #1

Using some of the example sketches on the Trellis, there are RGB LED’s in each pad as well as programmable notes.

Their MIDIUSB sketch was actually very similar to what I was looking to do and served as a great test for many of the concepts for my design.

It uses a built-in accelerometer as well as midi notes to trigger sounds and effects. The X axis changes pitch bend up and down 1 semitone. The Y axis changes the modulation filter. Those two filters are the most common in most MIDI devices but I still often find the dials not very intuitive. Using the accelerometer felt more natural and fun. I will say that because of the small form factor of the trellis while the accelerometer of the movement felt natural, it then restricts you to two notes at a time. I want it to feel less like a gameboy and more like an expressive instrument.

Upside of using Trellis as development board:

Open source, many configurations to get inspired by, and a very fast board. This Trellis has a cortex m4 chip and built in micro usb ready to go. I can also use circuit python to code in python instead of using Arduino IDE because of the extra RAM on the board.

Downside of using Trellis as development board:

Limited mostly to using only Adafruit libraries, but this is also an upside as their documentation is quite good. The largest challenge I have is two fold- I want my final design in the future to be almost twice as big. The Trellis, while cute, is a little to small for a serious user. Also the accelerometer is better used while multiple notes can be played comfortably.

Moving forward

I will be working on restricting the movement of the trellis board by mounting it in an a 3D printed enclosure with springs. I want to mount the joystick for the pitch and modulation input as well. I will continue to tune the settings and get the most intuitive experience I can out of it. I will be presenting a song demo using the enclosed board.


Arduino vs Circuit Python: I have been coding in Arduino but I do have experience with Python and will likely give it a try this week.

3D Printing development:

The trellis has many online open source files and different enclosures I can use as starting points for my design.

Fully 3D printed enclosure? Or Lasercut plus acryllic housing?

Week 3: Goldilocks Thought Experiment for Project Development Studio

Further developing the idea/imagining it in different scales.

Currently I want to make a midi controller that illuminates the relationship between pitches and water. In practical terms this will look be a device for adjusting and exploring the entire pitch spectrum. I want to do it in a way that can still be used in the music production pipeline, so I will be locking scale/key into the process.

Two big inspirations are the Roli Seaboard and the RC-20 plugin. The Roli seaboard gives access to all of the pitches outside of the traditional piano structure. When playing a note the user can move up and down to explore the pitches in between notes. This video also demonstrates how that sounds when playing a chord. I want to explore similar principles, but away from the piano. I want the sounds to feel like an ocean, explored through controlled movement.

The RC-20 plugin also demonstrates how exact pitches have their time and place, but often times our ear associates slight wobble, with a vintage texture. This is because analog devices like tape and vinyl have texture to them like a pitch wobble and added noise.

The things I want to experiment with most:

—Pitch modulation as exploration

–Added noise for texture

–Locking melodic scale while allowing for interesting/unique compositions

–Getting the wah effect of a guitar string

Practical interfaces I can utilize:




I’m really inspired by this project from Amanda Ghassaei where she uses an accelerometer and gyroscope to change notes.

Surfboard metaphor

Why not ride the audio wave with a surfboard? What if that surfboard had an accelerometer and gyro attached?

Let’s imagine the project in three scales/formats


The controller is a literal surfboard where the user modulates pitch with their movement and angle. There are hand controllers to change notes.

Physical Tape

If audio that has been printed on tape is suspended in the air, the user can pull it to adjust the sound. There is a direct link to the hardware and audio. This isn’t music creation as much as it is performance. How can one manipulate their movements to achieve what they want from the tape. Pulling it will adjust pitch and speed. The more it is stretched and used, the harsher it will sound, adding even more noise and texture. Eventually it will completely degrade, which emphasizes the physical nature of the medium.

Can digital audio degrade naturally? Can there be a link between real physical degradation and digital audio degradation/distortion.

Online Audio Manipulator

If this project was online as a tool, you could drop an audio file into the program. There will be an advanced audio visualizer that also lets you edit. I am inspired by the spectral display function in Adobe Audition where it shows you a heat map of frequencies and let’s you manipulate it. This is mainly used to erase spikes in the frequency spectrum cause by unexpected things while recording audio.

Adobe’s waveform display

Week 4 In Class

During class I’m going to set up an Arduino Nano with some push buttons to start prototyping the accelerometer feature/sending midi information to the computer.

Project Development Studio


I want to find a new way for musical/sonic expression through the use of analog and digital technologies. I will reverse engineer multiple old devices and use their strengths to bring character & nuance to the digital world. It will be a device lacking a piano or traditional acoustic sound and instead come from electronic devices.


My vision is a novel instrument that creates sound like no other device. It will be a tabletop instrument with a tape recorder and various buttons/parts from other devices.