Bird on a Wire, Software Synthesizer.

  • 1 Raspberry Pi II
  • 12 channel capacitance touch sensor
  • Has 12 selectable voice or sample packs, each one with 12 addressable voices.
  • Raspbian linux OS. Open source python and audio libraries.
  • 5V opperation

  • boaw-2

Although the most common type of synthesizer by today’s standards, software synthesizers were just being invented when I first discovered electronic music. I do like software synthesizers, they are very different than hardware based analog or digital synths. Software synths rely on sampling other instruments and modifying the recorded samples to be used in the composition of music. Software synthesizers don’t drift, they don’t become out of tune and I have a hard time distinguishing many from real instruments. They are in my opinion, a bit too perfect. There is a slight detuning or tonal drift that is found in many real world instruments and most likely why I prefer analog synths. That’s just my opinion though because¬†you can still be highly creative and respected amongst your peers using software synthesizers….No, I am really not kidding or being sarcastic. Some of the greatest musicians of today in hip-hop, techno, electro-dance and pop music are using soft synths.

The idea for this project is that each of the coloured pins or jacks will play a different instrument sound or “sample” when it is touched by your finger or someone else’s. By hooking up long wires, 1 to each jack, I can string them through the woods or to bird feeders. When birds land on a wire, it triggers that sound sample. The samples range from various drums to piano scales. This synth can be built in a day and a great starter project for any person wanting to build things like this. All that is needed is a Raspberry Pi, and any one of the capacitance touch sensor boards available through Sparkfun, AdaFruit or my preference (much lower cost) eBay. Simply connect the touch board to the Pi through the IO pins. The scripts are written in python that test the inputs for a capacitive change, and then plays the voice file (mp3) that is associated with that touch point.

I repurposed some old under-flooring as the baseplate and a Western Digital external drive for the case. The switches came from an old radio, and the 12 position selector switch was found in a junk pile… it had never been used. The left hand switch (down) suspends the synth, then you can turn the selector switch to choose one of the twelve voice packs. Then you load that voice pack with the left switch in the up position. The right hand switch shuts down the entire computer. You can configure the voice packs as well. If you mix in jazz drums and cymbals, with a bass and piano, you can hear a fusion jazz session if enough birds come by. Really does become “Birdland” after all.

back to Synthesizers main.