Introducing Abella

Sound and light!


Here is some footage from early hardware development of “Abella,” my Arduino-powered electronic instrument. Yes, it is in a shoebox, and yes, the control knobs are popped through the cardboard.

There is a control for pitch and one for volume. The box turns a different color for each of the twelve semi-tones so you can select a note before playing it.

This is a project inspired by the theremin, perhaps the most challenging and mysterious musical instrument.  In 2005, I followed some guide to make a Radioshack theremin, but without any knowledge of electronics I couldn’t take the project as far as I had wanted.  I ended up with half of an octave in range and I was able to create some strange sounds, but that was about it.

Fast forward 8 years and now we’ve got microcontrollers like Arduino Uno on the market that are fast enough to do some decent direct digital synthesis of audible waveforms.  I’ve got to thank Martin Nawrath for providing the programming code and circuit suggestions for a starter Arduino music box.

The version I’m playing here has a potentiometer working from 0-5V to set the pitch, and the input is binned to 15 notes spanning two octaves of A major centered at 440 Hz.  I’ve taken the basic sine waveform and added some harmonics to thicken the sound a bit, pushed the digital PWM output through an RC filter, and divided the output over a second potentiometer to control the volume.

I’ll have some more to say about the lights and the vibrato in a bit.  Catch you later!

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