AK47M project part 7 (Adding MIDI synthesiser and PCB generation)

I have investigated the possibility of running “FluidSynth” on a Raspberry PI in order to generate sounds from MIDI input. I have decided that a single PI is unable to handle 8 channels of MIDI generated from the Arranger software. It can only hack about two channels reliably with the sample rate halved from 41000 Hz and the latency is pretty bad at around 40 mS. Running several PIs in parallel is not really cost-effective either. This is unfortunate as the FluidSynth would be ideal for the application and could provide a lot of tailor made sounds. I will re-visit this when and if a more powerful cheap CPU card is mass produced.

I hooked up a PI zero running my Arranger software to my MIDI keyboard and this handles the MIDI generation successfully so I decided to look around for MIDI sound generation alternatives. I found a good alternative in the S2 synthesizer. This is produced by https://www.serdashop.com/waveblaster and it is a daughter board designed to plug into a PC sound blaster card. It is built around a Yamaha sound generation SAM2695 chip. I have successfully hooked this up to a PI Zero and generated sound from the Arranger software. The electrical connection to the device is very simple. One thing to watch out for is that the device reset line needs to be brought up to 5v on start up. They cost about £35 and I need two for my project, so I have bust my budget !!



I looked into the possibility of producing a printed circuit board (PCB) for my project as the separate components are on vero board and it looks a bit shoddy.

I was amazed at how cheap the production of PCBs is, especially if ordered from chinese shops and the large range of free CAD tools available for the PC. I tried out several of the free CAD packages and I decided that DipTrace https://diptrace.com/ was the easiest to use. It has a schematic editor for the circuit design. This can be transferred to a PCB design tool and there is a good auto routing tool available to optimise the PCB layout.

The design consists broadly of the following:-

  • Pi Zero W to run Arranger software and generate MIDI from style files and system configuration mesages. Also runs performance editor tools.
  • PIC to handle keypad, keyboard MIDI input and chord finder.
  • PIC to handle LCD display and accept configuration messages.
  • PIC to handle solo keyboard parts and accept configuration messages.
  • S2 synthesiser to generate 8 channels from Arranger software.
  • S2 synthesiser to generate solo keyboard sounds.

I have firmed up on the hardware so I am now going to concentrate on the software running on the PI. I am considering adding these features :-

  • A “Band in the Box” type of interface which was lacking from the BK7M. Here I am able to enter a chord sequence using standard notation for a style and let the software play the arrangement without having to play chords at the keyboard.
  • A display of a PDF file for a performance. This can contain a chord sheet, sheet music, words etc.
  • I can control the PI from an Android tablet using VNC virtual terminal software while it is connected to my WiFi network. It would be cool to be able to set up a local link from my tablet to the PI Zero
  • Some kind of “looping” software for live performance.

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