24 July/August 2018
BUILD IT YOURSELF
When you think of MIDI controllers,
you probably think of a keyboard.
However, there are many reasons to
have MIDI controllers in other form
factors, not the least of which is fun!
Over the years, there have been
MIDI guitars, saxophones,
flute/clarinets, and even trumpets. In
this article, we will make a MIDI lyre.
By Jim Arlow
Alyre is a harp-like instrument that is small and portable, and has a relatively small number of strings. It’s an ideal instrument to “
MIDI-fy” because it’s already quite simple — and we will
make it even simpler. Lyres have been around for
thousands of years, so it’s definitely a form factor
that has stood the test of time.
As you will see, MIDI enabling a lyre creates a
simple elegant instrument that anyone can play.
Also, the techniques presented here will allow you
to create your own touch sensitive MIDI
controllers in any form factor you can imagine.
The MIDI Interface
Before we can make a MIDI lyre, we need to know a
little about MIDI. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument
Digital Interface, and it’s a standard that has been around
since the 1980s. Like the lyre, it has also stood the test of
time (but not quite for so long!). You can find out all
about MIDI at the MIDI Association ( www.midi.org)
where there is a wealth of information.
MIDI is ubiquitous, and you really have to try hard to
find a modern synthesizer or electric piano that doesn’t
support it. In fact, there are a wealth of MIDI instruments
available, so you are really spoiled for choice.
A MIDI controller is anything that can send MIDI
messages over one of the standard MIDI protocols to a
MIDI enabled instrument. The messages cause the
instrument to play notes, or otherwise modify its behavior
in some standard way.
Note that the MIDI controller itself doesn’t make any
sounds. All it does is command a MIDI instrument to
make sounds. The MIDI lyre is a MIDI controller, so you
will need to plug it into a MIDI instrument to hear
anything. It’s not a stand-alone instrument.