Building a Sugarcube MIDI controller



Amanda Ghassaei has designed a portable, Arduino-powered, grid-based MIDI controller capable of running a number of sound-related apps.

The Uno-based (ATmega328 MCU) controller, which recently surfaced on Instructables, is equipped with 16 backlit buttons, used as both inputs and outputs to provide the controller with visual feedback. 

Meanwhile, two potentiometers are tasked with analog control. Depending on the app, the pots are assigned to tempo, MIDI velocity, pitch and scrolling.

“An x/y accelerometer and an x/y gyroscope add some playful, gestural control to the device; most of the apps implement a ‘shake to erase’ control and several respond to tilt in various ways,” Ghassaei explained.

“It boots up into 7 different apps, though it has the potential to boot up into 16 total. This device is primarily a MIDI controller, but I’ve also written an app that allows you to pull the button and analog data into MaxMSP and to control audio.”

According to Amanda, the controller was inspired by both the monome and tenori-on.

“When I was in college, I built a large touchscreen display, based on the Arduinome monome-Arduino clone schematics and code, that worked with all the open source monome applications written in MaxMSP,” she said.

“With this project, I was interested in making a device that was a little more self-contained and relatively cheap to make. This controller does all its app processing itself, it does not rely on a computer to process button presses/analog controls into MIDI.”

Meaning, users can easily plug the Sugarcube directly into a synth or any device that “talks” MIDI.

Interested in learning more about the Sugarcube MIDI controller? You can access the project’s official Instructables page here and the relevant Arduino code on GitHub here. Readers 

may also want to check out previous MIDI-related Bits & Pieces articles here.

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