Over the past few months we bid folk-rock adieu in order to create our own brand of electro-acoustic pop. This shift in direction allowed us to get Ableton, a computer program designed for live performance, involved. The thing with Ableton is in order to properly take advantage of what it has to offer, you must constantly tell it what to do (that means pushing a lot of buttons). Since no one in this band is as fortunate as Vishnu, using a typical Ableton controller, like a Push or Launchpad, was not going to work. We needed a foot controller. I began my research shortly after but was overall unimpressed by the ones in my price range. I eventually stumbled upon a number of DIY sites devoted to custom MIDI controllers and figured that making my own would not only get me exactly what I wanted, it would be more fun too.
Ok, so how did we make this midi foot pedal?
First we found some helpful resources online:
Here's the video we used for rewiring a Korg nanoKONTROL!
Here's an Ableton DIY forum that helped in the box's construction!
Then we figured out what we have and what we need...
- 3' x 2' sheet of pine (3/4" thick)
- Wood Stain & Brushes
- Soldering Iron
- Table Saw
- Drill Bits (5/16", 7/16", and 1/2")
- Wire Cutter
- #8 1-1/2" Wood Screws
- Korg nanoKONTROL - $40.00 @ Amazon Market Place
- Solder - $3.00 @ Mammoth Electronics
- 22AWG (Black & Red) & 24AWG (Blue & Green) wire - $6.40 @ Mammoth Electronics
- 4 - 5mm LED - $0.72 @ Mammoth Electronics
- 4 - 5mm LED Bezel - $3.60 @ Mammoth Electronics
- 13 - Momentary Switches - $39.52 @ Mammoth Electronics
Total Cost: ~$93
Building a Box:
First thing I did, since I had a little cardboard lying around, was make a small prototype to get a sense of the dimensions I wanted. For the face I used the 30 degree angle suggested by AlexMC in his Ableton Forum post.
All in all it was not too difficult to find a size I was comfortable with. My initial design had 10 button (one for channel switching and 9 that could be programmed). This quickly changed as I decided to put as many buttons on the box as I could reasonably fit. The final design has 13.
When it came time to actually make the box, I used some spare wood from an older project. After I marked up the wood, Carey and I spend an afternoon cutting and nailing the pieces together. The construction was fairly basic since neither of us knew how to build a proper box. Once that was done I, with a little help from my Mom, threw on some ebony stain and Carey routed the top (since 3/4" was too thick for our switches) before it was time to worry about the wiring.
Separating the circuit board from the nanoKONTROL was straightforward.
When it came time to wire the box, the twelve year gap from the last time I soldered became apparent quickly. My clumsiness, luckily, did not hurt this project and with some timely help from my Dad and Sister got everything to where it needed to be.
With the soldering behind me, all that remained was securing the board to the bottom of the box. I took the easy route and used electrical tape.
One big design flaw concerned the USB cable. If you look at the picture a moment you'll see the problem.
Anyways, I think it all turned out well and with one performance in the books, the project was well worth it.