FREE: ATmega1284p TQFN to DIP adapter boards available for Shruthi/Ambika/open source work!
TL, dr; I had a batch of adapter boards for the ATmega1284P (a pin-compatible upgrade to the ATmega644 used in the Mutable Instruments Shruthi and Ambika open source synthesizers) built which enable an SMD version of the chip to be inserted into the DIP socket on the MI boards. I now have loads of them and am giving these boards away for free to people who want to work on open source Shruthi/Ambika firmware! I’m also happy to assemble them for a few euros.
Why the ATmega1284P?
This chip is a drop-in, pin-compatible upgrade to the ATmega644 used in the original Ambika and Shruthi designs, which provides twice the flash available in the 644p. This is particularly important for Ambika firmware development because the stock firmware, and YAM, uses up almost all the space.
Why not just use a DIP ATmega1284p, if they’re pin-compatible?
As previously discussed on the Mutable Instruments forums, the DIP ATmega1284p chips have a hardware fault related to the UART used for MIDI functionality which can cause the chip to crash. The SMD version of the chip apparently doesn’t have this fault, and therefore using the SMD chip via an adapter board should fix the problem and act as a drop-in replacement without having to totally redesign the synth.
I designed this board last month and now have 44 of them. I’m sending some to the developer of the excellent YAM firmware, and will experiment with a few myself, but I have no need for so many.
So, if anyone’s interested in doing firmware development work on Ambika or Shruthi, or using these for any other open-source purposes email me email@example.com your address, paypal me the shipping costs if it’s going to be more than a couple of euros, and I’ll send you some boards!
I’m also happy to assemble the boards with headers and ATmega chip for €8 + P&P per board, if anyone wants.
Disclaimer: the boards are untested, and I personally have not tested them with the shruthi hardware or firmware! I may not have time to do so but will post my experiences here when I get round to it. Point is, these boards are strictly experimental with no guarantee they actually work!
Boards in stock as of 2017-11-18: 32
Software upgrade for the MI Shruthi: Visual Sequencer
One particularly cool feature of the Shruthi is being able to set the mixer mode to seqmix and have the control values in the step sequencer determine which sound sources are active on each step. The problem with this is (or, was!) that, even with the clever binary-based approach for determining how combinations of sound sources map to hexadecimal (0-15) values, it’s incredibly hard to remember the mappings.
I spent an hour or so trawling through the synth code, and documentation for the LCD module, before managing to create a version of the software which, when the mixer operator is set to seqmix, replaces the 0-f step sequencer view with a two-line visual step sequencer, where the four lines from bottom to top represent osc2, osc1, sub and noise*
The controls for the view are exactly the same as before, i.e. pretty unintuitive, but this visualisation of the sequence data makes designing patterns way easier than before.
Here’s the software, as .hex and .syx for flashing or SYSEX dumping:
I originally wanted to have this view all on one line, by creating sixteen custom characters, one representing each combination of sound sources by a bar of pixels. Unfortunately, the HD44780 LCD module only supports eight custom characters, and the Shruthi already defines all of them. I got around this by spreading the display over two lines, reducing the number of characters needed to four, and taking advantage of the “=” default character as the “11” character, and the blank space as the “00” character. I then replaced the two decorative custom characters used on the Shruthi splash screen with single bar characters based on the “=” for “01” and “10”. Finally, in the Editor::DisplayStepSequencerPage function in editor.cc, I made a conditional block based on the state of
part.patch().osc.option (the non-intuitive location of the mixer operator), displaying the two-line visual view if it’s set to
This is the first of several UI upgrades I plan on making to the Shruthi firmware, depending on how much I can tolerate working on old embedded code in a language I barely know!
*according to the shruthi manual, osc1 and osc2 should be the other way round, but that’s how it ends up working so I accepted it as it is.
I built a Shruthi XT!
The circuit boards and panel were group bought with the Pusherman facebook group, I ordered the components from Mouser, and built the case myself out of walnut left over from a dulcimer build.
I used the BOM from the Shruthi XT build page, with Mouser’s BOM import tool. Generally everything worked fine with a couple of caveats: it auto-detected the wrong encoder (the horizontal mounting version of the same model) so I had to order another one. The MIDI sockets it found were also different, and had a metal spring on the outside which I had to remove in order to get them to fit the case.
Watch out when soldering the board-to-board connectors! I put them on the wrong way round the first time and had to remove them, which was tedious.
On my future MI builds I’m going to try using Bourns PTV09 potentiometers instead of the Alps ones on the BOM, as they cost significantly less and should be approximately the same quality.
I built the SMR4 MkII filter board but am going to upgrade to the 4 Pole Mission as soon as I get the board and components for it (along with boards for an Ambika, and a normal size Shruthi to inherit the SMR4…)
Overall I’m very impressed with the synth! It sounds great and is a lot of fun to make sounds with, although it’ll take me a little while longer to get to grips with all the features and wavetables.
If you want to get into DIY synths, but skip past the “circuit which makes bleeping sounds” straight to “professionally usable synthesizer” I’d definitely recommend building a Shruthi.
Future improvements planned: upgrade to a 4 Pole Mission filter board, make a laser-etched walnut front panel, more UI improvements in the software, maybe a built in battery and USB port for powering MIDI controllers.
Video: The Poisonous Polonaise (Polonoise No. 19, Wittenberger Apothekenhandschrift, Deutschland)
More music from Emilyn, John and me!
This one is a beautiful polonaise found in the Wittenberger Apothekenhandschrift, a hand written dance manuscript found in the Giftschrank (poisonous substance cabinet) in an old pharmacy in Wittenberge, Germany.
Sheet music for this piece, and many other amazing northern German traditional music, can be found in volumes 1-3 of Neues aus Alten Büchern (new things from old books) published by Tramudea e.V., and also on tanzmusikarchiv.de and the TradTanzMusik youtube channel.
Recorded in Toronto, Canada on 2017-05-12
Video: Lights in the Sky (Barnaby Walters)
Finally the first video from my trip to Canada last month! Playing with Emilyn and John is always a blast, and this time we recorded a bunch of tunes. More to come!
A waltz I wrote whilst living in Iceland, recorded for the first time with Emilyn Stam and John David Williams on 2017-05-12 in Toronto, Canada.
New singing goal: be able to sing all of Moondog 2, which just blew my mind
I couldn’t find the lyrics for all of the tracks collected together in one place, so here are as many as I can find or figure out.
Bells are ringing dinga linga linga linga ling-a linga linga linga ling
dinga linga linga linga ling-a linga linga linga ling
dig all the kids who carry bells, merry bells
who are they?
why they're the
Voices of spring were in chorus
each voice was singing a song
I could not sing in that chorus until I wrote me a song
I wrote my song and joined the throng (source)
What’s the most exciting thing about life?
tell me or I’ll tell you
come on come on
I know you know what I know it’s in your eyes
I’ll have to tell you, I can’t wait
it’s L O V E it’s love
and I’m in love; I’m so happy
it’s L O V E it’s love
I’m incoherent my dear
oh happy happiness
oh happy happiness, happiness
Darling the answer is love (source)
All is loneliness before me
loneliness before me
My tiny butterfly butters my bread
my briny flutterby keeps me well fed
why should I mutter?
Why spend a dark night with you?
what a fearful price to pay
other nights nights would but be
lonely dark ages for me
Coffee beans make the finest coffee of all
it’s time to take
a coffee break
to sit a while and savour
the rarest coffee flavor
of bean coffee
I make with bottled spring water
is my day (source)
Down is up and so up is down because the earth is round
there is no such thing as up or down
Be a hobo and go with me
from Hoboken to the sea
Remember, remember, remember, memeber
to vote the way
the way we say
or else what
I love you
for your lovely still small voice
I will love your still small voice
till my voice
Nero’s expedition up the Nile
because the water hyacinth
had blocked the river
denying Nero’s vessels passage through
the Sud of Nubia
No, the wheel was never invented.
no, no, no, no
your legs are spokes of a two legged wheel
and your hips are knobbly axles
the world was always on wheels
With my wealth I wish I had lived when great genius lived
what I would not have done
Fool, the writings of your dying beggar reveal that he is
by far the greatest one
This student of life
as that student for life
his Alma Mater
is all the world
with father time as mentor
Some trust all
some trust some, ho
some trust one
I trust none, ho
not even myself
Wine, woman and song are too, too much for me
I am contented with the latter two
woman and my song are simply
wine enough you see
Sadness was so mixed with gladness
that she wept with joy
she was so sad
tears filled but enhanced the smile on her face
she was so glad
Maybe, maybe, maybe someday
I’ll be recognised for what I am
before I’m dead and gone
or if not before then after it all
Each today is yesterday’s tomorrow which is now
now is all I have
now is all I need
now is all I want
Imagine what it's like to have a long suffering
night walker walking on you
I’m standing there barefoot, facing the meadow
oh, oh, something is crawling on my muddy foot
what the, it's a wet worm
I tell you I started walking, too
I mean we parted company
maybe we think it safe enough to say,
we had quite enough of us that night
You, the vandal
plunder the village as you will
the earthworm will pillage you
when you are under
Trees against the sky
fields of plenty
rivers to the sea
spreads before me
Behold the willow bows before me
but not the oak I’m uprooting
remarked the wind
Sparrows wake me in the morning in Gotham where I live
except when I’m up to Tioga
other birds wake me there
so fair their singing
Emilyn Stam (5 string fiddle) and Barnaby Walters (hurdy gurdy) playing some tunes in the basement at Folk Marathon 2016 Tübingen. 2016 changed into 2017 half way through the third tune (in our timezone, at least).
High Park Schottisch (John David Williams)
Squat Waltz (Barnaby Walters)
Kathryn’s Yellow Schottisch (Emilyn Stam)
New music from Solarference! Not only amazingly innovative sounds but solid artistic and cultural goals:
“…songs that carry a collective theme of freedom: freedom from the constraints of relationships, gender, poverty, imprisonment and working conditions.”
Sounds good to me. Go support them on indiegogo! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solarference-locks-bolts-album
Thanks to everyone who came to the workshop on Saturday! It was great fun to dance with you all, and to get some international perspectives on polka traditions :) I hope you all had as good a time as I did!
If you missed it, didn’t hear about it or want to do it all over again, we’ll be running a similar workshop at this year’s Vaka festival in Akureyri (15th-18th June), and there’ll be all sorts of other nice stuff going on too.
Until then, keep up the nice music and dancing in Reykjavík, I’m looking forward to being back :)
P.S. if anyone took photos, it’d be great to have copies — posted here is fine, emailed in high resolution to firstname.lastname@example.org is even better!
Event: Tanzimpro/Balfolk Workshop in Múltí Kúltí
Where: Múltí Kúltí, Barónsstígur 3, Reykjavík
Tanzimpro (“Traditional European Dance-improvisation, also known as “balfolk” or “eurodance”) is a form of music and dance which has evolved all over Europe for centuries, and continues to do so today. Casting aside the nationalism, gender roles and silly costumes so commonly associated with “folk dance”, tanzimpro focuses on the intense, flowing connection between dancers, music and musicians as everyone involved improvises and reacts to each other.
If that sounds like fun, come along and learn the basic grooves for a variety of common dances (wickler/slängpolska, schottisch, polka, waltz, mazurka, polska… if we have time!) as well as techniques for building connection with your partner and the music, and ideas for improvisation and variations.
No need to bring a dance partner along if you don’t have one, you’ll probably end up dancing with everyone anyway :)
Entry is free, donations for the musicians and dance leader are gladly accepted.
Barnaby Walters (Hodgepig, Buzz, Duo Gerhardt & Walters) is a hurdy gurdy player and builder who, after spending ten years playing various folk and traditional music, discovered tanzimpro two years ago and wondered what he had been doing with his life for the previous eight years. Trying to make up for lost time, he has since danced and played for dancing in Iceland, Turkey, France, England, Germany and Austria, most recently as half of Duo Gerhardt & Walters.
Benjamin Bech (Bech and Bomholt, PÚLK, Vildspil, Tyrolerband) is an excellent dancer and clarinet player from Denmark, currently researching Icelandic traditional dance music.