A standalone grid musical instrument? Done. And it can be a new way to venture into the worlds of harmony.

Marc “Nostromo” Resibois is back with another clever Raspberry Pi hack. We saw him last fall, beating KORG to the punch with his own – digital – MS-20 mini, using the Pi. It’s still appealing, in that he has some other synth ideas the analog recreation can’t muster.

This time, he’s made a standalone practice instrument for grid players, using a Novation Launchpad and the Raspberry Pi computer. Some shopping around for a Launchpad could mean you could put together this setup for about US$100. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it does indicate what the Pi (and embedded computing, generally) can accomplish – and it boots in ten seconds, flat.

Exploring the outer reaches of music harmony, one grid square at a time. Photo courtesy Marc Resibois.

Exploring the outer reaches of music harmony, one grid square at a time. Photo courtesy Marc Resibois.

Another video (Casio!):

Marc offers some more thoughts:

It uses the old mda piano model which is open source and the scale selection is based on what the lauchpad95 script was doing.

makes me wonder how long before we can have a launchpad with the scaling in the firmware and a midi out
it’d be such a great thing to carry around
or alternatively a casio version that plays ‘wake me up before you go go’ as demo 😉
i live the push scale system but I wanted to take it out of the live environment; sitting at a desk; waiting for everything to boot up

Actually, what’s funny about this is it means you could have an on-the-go practice system mapped the same way as Push, and leave Push in the studio. An iPad could do the same job, but without tactile feedback, it wouldn’t really work for practicing – Launchpad comes close enough.

And this is one of many, many of the frontiers opened up by inexpensive embedded computing. For anyone wondering about the relevance of Linux to musicians, I think the fact that the entire computing system, with software, costs about the same as a cable for the iPhone speaks volumes.

More on the US$25 Launchpad Pi:

By the way, that book he’s reading looks fascinating –
Harmony for Computer Musicians

The work of Dr. Michael Hewitt, it is essentially a theory for beginners book, with this unique conceit:

Rather than using a conventional score format, most of the materials are presented in the familiar piano roll format of computer music sequencing programs.

Follow Marc’s adventures (including building a MIDI-enabled monotron-derived synth) at his blog:

What are you doing with grids? With Pi?

And how are you learning and practicing theory and performance?

Let us know.