FiddleStick Digital Synthesizer.
– 3 Arduino pro-mini, 1 Arduino Mega microcontrollers
– 3 independent voices with ribbon controllers, tuned D3-A3-D4
– 1 bass voice controlled by a 16 step sequencer, Tuned D2
– PT2399 echo/reverb controller
– 5 Volt operation
95% of hardware synthesizers sold today are digital. That is to say, the sounds are generated and manipulated through digital processes. They may, or may not require software too perform these manipulations but it is safe to say, the majority of digital synthesizers on the market today use some sort of embedded software code to make the magic happen. Whats the difference between a software synth and a digital hardware synth? You ask….
Software synths generate everything from the underlying code: oscillators, filters, wave shapers are all approximated using software algorithms. The only hardware may be a game-like controller connected to the computer via MIDI or USB. Apple’s “Garage Band” may come to mind, but there are dozens more. Digital hardware synths alternatively, utilize a plethora of different techniques to generate the oscillator tone, filter signals and shape waves. One example is that digital hardware synths can utilize specialized integrated circuits to generate numerically represented sine waves and modify that representation with rotary encoders. You then match up the numerical representation with a frequency lookup table somewhere in the synth, and then convert it to an analog output so you can hear it. The audience for this page is toward Artists and those who don’t need to know the absolute details in the how’s, therefore I can leave this discussion. Trust me… they work much differently… just ask Google
The FiddleStick is based on an Arduino project completed by Peter Knight at Tinker.it. (more info is HERE). The differences it that this one is kicked up a little and has some stuff added to it. When I first started playing with the Arduino, I was not to sure being restricted to 8 bits of sound would be of any value (Apparently there is a whole 8 bit music genre for devoted cosplay people, but who knew?)
You can go higher in bit quality, but not without a huge cost in processing speed and memory. Modern digital synths are utilizing 24+ bits of sound quality. Thats why they sound so good. They are also polyphonic meaning they can play chords! Most of the older analog designs can only play one note at a time, and to make a polyphonic synth I needed one oscillator per key or string. So, I thought of the mountain dulcimer and its three strings…..
For 3 strings, I needed 3 arduinos, and the Pro-Minis are tiny little devices perfect for the job. For a video of the breadboard of the FiddleStick and how it all sounded at the moment of discovery, here is a VIDEO.
I wanted to build a synth into something that was cool. I have seen hundreds of cheap violins online and many can’t even maintain being in tune. Perfect! I say…
I then looked on eBay, and there it was … someone had started to build their own fiddle from a very expensive kit (about $350 US). I paid $40 for it, and jumped for joy when it arrived. This thing was never going to be a fiddle, the person who started it had missed some of the finer details…. like keeping your cuts for the neck, straight. Perfect! I say….
Anyway, this is what can be done with a little imagination, and allowing your thought processes to wander and meander as you build something. Many times my original ideas don’t come to fruition.. they always evolve to become what they become. Not exactly what I envisioned, but not far off and sometimes great things get discovered or invented. Never be fixated on the exact direction to the final goal, let your mind wander, change and evolve along the way.
For more on the construction, Click here