Drum Machines (Of a sort) by Andrew Angell

For my piece Study in Space No. 1, and for the pieces that will follow in this series, I built some devices that would remotely play snare drums. You can find out a bit more about the piece in this post. The main hardware I used included Arduino microcontrollers, Xbee radios, and small solenoids. There are some simple electronics involved in getting the Arduino to control the solenoids and regulating the voltage. The Arduinos and solenoids are powered using USB battery packs and rechargeable 9v batteries respectively. I chose to use batteries so that locations of outlets would not be an issue when positioning the snare drums around a performance location.

On my computer I am using a Max patch that I made to control the drum machines. In this patch I set up a couple methods of control. The first method utilizes the Xbox Kinect as means of gestural control of the machines. By moving my hands away from or closer to the center of body I can control the speed at which any of the drums is playing. The x and y position of each hand controls an individual drum. The Kinect was also set up to be able to control single strikes of the drum based on a hand moving a specified distance away from the body.

The second method of control is via a DrumKat. The DrumKat is connected to the computer and the MIDI messages received in Max are used to control the drum machines. Each drum was assigned to a specific pad. Additionally, some pads are assigned to trigger each drum in succession at a variety of speeds and in different orders. The effect is one that imitates a multi-tap digital delay effect.

Future implementations of these “drum machines” will be used to play instruments other than snare drums.  Please take a look at the pictures for some more clarification about the parts of the system, and feel free to send any questions or comments my way. 

Custom Bell Case by Andrew Angell

I build a number of instruments and equipment for my performances, and recently the majority of the builds have included some sort of electronics. This however was an exception to that trend. I was asked to build a new case for an old set of Deagan bells. It was a nice change getting to focus on woodworking rather than soldering. As with most of my builds I try to keep cost of materials low, however with this one it was very important to me to end up with a final product that not only sounded great, but looked good as well. Happily, I think I can say that I achieved this. 

I did a few things to help the old Deagan bars sound their best. Notably the pins that keep the bars in position are not placed in a straight line. they are laid out to best accommodate the nodal points of bars. Also, the rails the bars rest on are curved to further achieve this goal. 

Check out the pictures and let me know what you think. Also, feel free to send any questions you may have my way. 

Thanks for looking!

DIY Electronic Drum Set by Andrew Angell

A while back I decided I wanted an electronic drum set, but didn't have the money to buy what I considered to be a decent set. So, I decided to build my own. I combined a lot of ideas that I got from around the internet. The snare and toms are made from the shells of acoustic drums. I had a super cheap drum set that I picked up at a Goodwill store, I think. It had just been sitting around so I decided to cut up the shells to convert into electronic drums. The mesh heads are made from window screen sewn around the hoops of some old drum heads. I got the the heavy duty ultra sun blocking window screens, assuming they would be more durable, and they have held up quite well. The sensors are just piezo transducers sandwiched in foam and mounted pressed against the mesh heads. I soldered them to 1/4" jacks mounted inside the drum shells. The snare drum I made dual zone by glueing a second piezo directly to the inside of the shell. It works well for getting a second rim sound from the drum, and I was able to get good separate response from the two triggers on the drum. I split some black tubing and put it on the rim of the snare drum to make it quieter (and to make it look cool). The cymbals are made of plywood with rubber glued on top and tubing glued to the edge. They're all single zone currently, however one of them can be choked. I made a switch out of a pop can, ( what can I say? I was going for as cheap as possible) and mounted it on the underside of the cymbal. When you grab the cymbal it dampens it just like it should. The bass drum trigger is a Remo tunable practice pad that I opened up and put a piezo inside of. I made an ugly plywood stand for it with some old bass drum legs and put a pedal on it. I experimented with making my own hihat pedal for a while, but decided it was just easier to buy one when I could get a good deal. Until then I did in fact use a hihat pedal from the Rock Band video game. (please don't judge) That only registered open or closed. The actual hihat pedal can do varying degrees of openness.  Everything plugs into my Alesis TriggerIO which in turn plugs into my computer. I can also plug the drums into my DrumKat Turbo made by Alternate Mode. It makes a cameo in one of the pictures below. 

DIY Mallet Midi Controller by Andrew Angell

My latest build has been a mallet instrument midi controller. The instrument uses piezo transducers for triggers so it is velocity sensitive though not pressure sensitive like Malletkat from Alternate Mode. I plug it into an Alesis Trigger IO to connect it to my computer. I haven't had a chance to play with crosstalk settings yet. At the lowest setting the crosstalk makes it unusable. At the highest setting the crosstalk is completely eliminated between pads, however it practically becomes a monophonic instrument. For what I'm doing with it right now that is actually helpful, but I'm sure I can fine tune the settings to find an appropriate balance. The triggers are impressively sensitive. I am able to do glissando effects just like on an acoustic mallet instrument.

Touch OSC by Andrew Angell

Touch OSC is an app for iOS and Android devices that lets you send OSC and midi messages via wifi to control software on your computer. I've been having a great time playing around with this and I'm loving coming up with potential uses for this app. The app comes with a buch of control layouts already to go, but there is also a companion app for Mac and Windows that allows you to make your custom layouts. Additionally, use can use the built in accelerometers of your device to send control data as well. I'll be spending way too much time this app...