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Soundplant for MIDI Keyboards

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Quick Question:

I need a MIDI version of Soundplant that can use a MIDI keyboard rather than computer keyboard to trigger sounds. The solution can be software or hardware, and I have about a £200 budget at the moment.


Full Question:

I have been asked to design a system for disabled performers (up to 30) to perform music live on stage by moving an arm, head, leg or foot. My concept is that I will adapt a MIDI keyboard to allow relays to simulate the key presses. The relays will be triggered by various methods, light beam breaking/making, pressure mats on the floor, and I am also looking at ultrasonics (such as Soundbeam, which gave the organisers the original idea, but is out of their budget).

My first prototype of the light beam unit used the brains from a membrane computer keyboard to get a letter key press into Soundplant. This partly worked but sometimes multiple key presses appeared and stopped the track too soon. Moving the light beam to the MIDI keyboard has worked, but I can't find software that will allow me to record my own sounds and assign them to one key only (say Middle C for a drum beat, D for a cymbal, E for a guitar riff). I was looking at AKAI/E-Mu samplers on eBay, but I don't know which model will allow me to do this, any ideas? I am also looking at making a Theremin.

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Hey, I have completed a similar project using both a modified midi keyboard and a drum trigger module as trigger surfaces for a sampler. The drum trigger works well (alas only for 12 inputs per piece) using piezo sounders to trigger the module which then sends the midi. The keyboard I used miniature relays to switch the contacts.

For only £200 though both of these options are limited. For more money I would go for either the s5000 or s6000 from akai. Depending on how maximised they have been you can obtain up 25 minutes of audio samples loaded into memory (approx 256mb RAM) or use a useful feature called virtual sampling. Using either of these products you simply assign an audio sample to a midi note (basic explanation). Thus working like you see soundplant but being triggered from midi commands.

Depending on how long a sampling time you require many of the older Akai's (s3000 springs to mind) offer the basic facilities you require just with less sampling time. If you decide to purchase one of these I recommend you search for one with adequate memory and a fitted hard drive. (Getting spares and parts is becoming increasingly hard!)


You say you have been using soundplant; does this mean you have a pc at your disposal? You can get various software solutions (samplers) varying greatly in price and features. Might be more cost effective.(Although you will need a soundcard output of a reasonable quality which may add to your costs)


If you want more details ask...




EDIT: Just reread and saw your Theremin comment... Are you looking at making a midi controllable "sound-a-like" or a featured Theremin? They are quite hard o make yourself (mainly due to tuning them and using components of a quality so they don't go out of tune! (Yes you tune a theremin!!)

There are lots of places that sell kits reasonably on the net. Just so happens I am staring at a Bob Moog original and a homemade job in the studio.

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PCStage. Folks here dont get it, but when the going gets tough, and the popular tools run out of steam, PCStage is always the answer. You can also do it with SFX, but that costs lots of money. You can in theory also do it with SCS, but SCS is a load less flexible so it may do what you want, it may not, and it costs more than the more flexible PCStage.


As an alternative, any reasonable hardware sampler although less flexible would do, all those that I've ever programmed can have a "single sample per MIDI note" so every note on the keyboard triggers a different noise, until you run out of polyphony or memory, but if you dont have a sampler to start with then the costs to aquire said tool plus the learning curve would make me suggest you go the PCStage route.


Rather than canibalising a MIDI keyboard, I'd recommend you get a MidiTron interface. This interface at $149 USD is f.expensvie for a PIC chip on a board, but there simply aint anything else that works as well that I've found that costs less. In particular it has adjustable debouncing, so as to prevent double triggering.

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Make your sample set up as a drum set, then set the midi keyboard to midi channel 10 and each key will map to one sound!

Drums under midi are a hack at best, but this is one time that fact can work for you.


Timidity might be useful software for this, or there are lots of good free tools on the 'nix platforms that can do this sort of thing.

I don't know what is available on windows, not something I use much, but there has to be a general purpose midi sampler on that platform?


Regards, Dan.

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In the theatre world I think that using triggered audio is very underused.


I like it when the set builder gets complements on how good the doors on his set sound and we wink at each other, as we both know that its the audio samples that are played as the door opens and closes that makes doors sound real, not the mechanical construction....


What I will say is that the tools available today enable one to design and build almost anything at very low cost. When I first started trying this stuff at school a good few decades back, there wasn't any technology that could play back noise on demand that anyone could afford, it was bodged up tape decks with added solenoids to pause the things and a lot of manual intervention to keep things working.

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Thanks for thoughts so far folks. Sorry for slow reply, however, I have been looking at all of the options carefully. As luck would have it, someone has just found an old c0mputer keyboard with actual swtiches to solder to, so will try the (free) option first. SCS looks like it will be the best for us. PC at disposal is currently my lapt0p, running ME, but I have an old 98 machine to donate to the project. Otherwise it will be a lone of my 7 month old c0mputer, which would offer 4 seperate outputs.

Theremin is a stand alone item for them to use.

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