David Pogue made the immensely-successful Missing Manual book series in order to fill in for the manual that should have been included with software. But an impassioned fan of MOTU’s BPM drum sampler went further than that – a lot further.

Simon (ssp/plastikaudio) has constructed an entire hardware controller for BPM. It gives MOTU’s software tangible form, with more than a little nod to the classic Akai samplers and Roger Linn. The form factor is oversized and roomy, with big knobs and faders and pads you can reach out and grab – no tiny hands or mice required.

Now, naturally, most people are never going to go this far. It ought to make clear to developers just how hungry people are for smart tangible control of software, however. And if someday software could come with controllers that were as easy to assemble as LEGO kits, imagine what users could do. In the meantime, the semi-ambitious can follow Simon’s own documentation if they want their own. (Now, if only someone could build the imaginary display, too.)

This is just a mock-up, a screenshot of BPM the software someone tacked on to fake, virtual hardware that existed only in their mind. Or so it was until someone took it literally and built the thing.

Obviously, you should just start releasing mock-ups and allow the genius of the Internet to turn it into reality when you least expect it.

Simon writes:

It’s the only full scale replica of the Motu Bpm Software. Its a full size, control surface with every control mappable to any parameter.

The unit is based on the mb64e from ucapps.de which is a diy controller kit of various boards which you can use to build any type of controller you want. The only thing you need to do then is choose components and interfaces and also design a case for everythign to go into.

The casework and everything else was designed by myself and then lasercut and cnc bent. I then painted and labeled the interface also. Also the BPM interface pcb’s were designed by myself also and then optomised by NILS from the midibox forums.

More information:
Akai MPC Forums discussion
MOTUNATION discussion (with shots of the metal casing)
midibox.org discussion

And the software it’s designed to control – worth checking out for features like Euclidian polyrhythm editing. (Hint: math can really groove.)

This is doubly amusing to me, because when I first saw media images for the launch of BPM at 2009’s NAMM, I though MOTU – like Native Instruments with Maschine at the same show – was adding a drum pad controller to go with their drum sampler/machine. (It turned out just to be a creative use of a screen image.)

  • I found more interesting using Icon Istage and Icreativ, the first for finger drumming and the second for step secuencer.

    Check by yourself:

    The icreativ has not info avariable (it seems)

    under 200$ you have better control surface, done and portable.

    Good job from ucapps but too many work.

  • Polite

    Lego style build-able controllers is a genius idea. I can imagine ways of it working, too, with each stub being doubling as a input/output for the control as well as holding it in place.

    I could then imagine an auto-map style computer interface which reads the current layout and lets you assign what does what. Actually, it would be cool if it could write to the controls themselves, so that if you had say a cutoff knob, you could move it anywhere else and it would still be assigned as cutoff.

    I could imagine most styles of controls being available, knobs (PE and continuous), sliders, buttons, displays, ribbon controls, even little keyboards. Add in a way of joining multiple boards together, or stacking them…

    I think I need to be alone for a moment…

  • This solution must be open source it we want to make it real (or almost cheaper than Mawzer)



  • ssp

    The best thing about the ucapps site is that everything is laid out there for you to read and download for free. Thorsten Klose who started all of this does not charge anything for this and is continually working on new ideas for the community.

    In the midibox forums we have Nils, Wilba, Smashtv (who supplied the kit boards for the build) and Dougster amoungst other members who are there to help should you need it.

    The chatroom of the forum is a great mixing pot of information and they are usually always online to talk with you should you need help or just to have a random chat.

    The ethos of ucapps and midibox is to get you to think for yourself, to read read read and to then build your own controller or instrument and show it to the forum! Most of all to enjoy the build and learn as you go.

    Anything is possible from a small usb midi port to a massive 24 motorised fader control surface.

    If you have a spare 10 mins pop over to ucapps.de or to midibox.org forums and also into the chat.

  • pierlu

    just a sidenote

    from the way the article is started, it seems that Plogue built that controller and that, btw, the missing manual book series has something to do with the controller.

    I would give the spot to the guy who built the controller, not the book sellers…

    end of sidenote

  • mat

    If you are looking for LEGO like modular hardware controllers, have a look at this:

    It is done by a near friend of mine and no – it is not available in stores now. Funny, we had a meeting yesterday and talked about it. I think it is a great idea…..

  • I do enjoy using my MPC1000, the BPM looks HUGE and the larger waveform display might be useful / easier on the eye than the MPC! However, I still think there's plenty of scope for someone to knock out a decent MPC iPad app – complete with JJOS functionality…given the tech spec (RAM etc) of an MPC and an iPad, the processing should be a breeze…that said, I'm not a developer, so don't believe me!

  • DIY at its best!

  • Damon

    I am consistently impressed with how cool software synths look when rendered as hardware. I don't know how many times I have second glanced an add for a plug in because it looked so welcoming in mock hardware guise.

    Oh, and off the subject, way cool DIY Motu Goto.

  • babagau

    I wonder about the future of stompboxes for live situations… wouldn't we be better with a laptop and modular totally adjustable midi-controllers?