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Atari Drum Machine Controller


KevKelley

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Hello!


Normally I hang out in the batari Basic and programming forum trying to make games but this has been a side project of mine for a couple years and I have finally made a working prototype to share. 
 

I present the Atari Drum Machine Controller (and sample program). 
 

Basically this is a controller that can plug into either foot pedals, piezo triggers, or drum pads. It features five buttons, four of which also correspond to a 1/4” jack and a dial for sensitivity. 
 

How It Works

 

First you would place your Drum Brain cartridge into your Atari or compatible system (I have not tested on modern devices like a Retron 77).

 

You plug the Drum Controller into a controller port. 

 

Now you can attach the Drum Controller to your preferred drum kit setup using one of the four 1/4” jacks. You can run a 1/4” cable from the Drum Controller to an electronic drum pad or you can plug a piezo drum trigger into the Drum Controller and attach the trigger to a drum head, hi-hat, or cymbal.  You also have the option of plugging a foot pedal into any of the jacks. 
 

There is also a fifth 1/4” jack reserved for a foot pedal. This is designed so that programs can be made to allow for hands free operation during play, like if sounds needed to be changed, kits customized, etc. 

 

Once plugged into your preferred input method, you must then calibrate the sensitivity using the corresponding dials since each trigger or drum pad is different. You do this by turning the dial all the way off so that the trigger is continually activated. Then slowly turn it until it stops. You can then adjust it to make it more or less sensitive to accommodate your kit and playing style. 

 

There are also five buttons on the top of the Drum Machine that can trigger the sounds as well if you would like to use this as a game controller, hand drum machine, or if future programs utilize menus or button presses to customize the kit.
 

Here is a poorly made video of it being tested. 
 

 

C82F626E-43E0-471D-9657-4AB6BCAEBC38.jpeg

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FD6C9B37-13C7-40F8-88F7-5D3D809DEE0D.jpeg

57E66F0A-8809-4F98-9896-CD74B42EA8C0.jpeg

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5 hours ago, KevKelley said:

Hello!


Normally I hang out in the batari Basic and programming forum trying to make games but this has been a side project of mine for a couple years and I have finally made a working prototype to share. 
 

I present the Atari Drum Machine Controller (and sample program). 
 

Basically this is a controller that can plug into either foot pedals, piezo triggers, or drum pads. It features five buttons, four of which also correspond to a 1/4” jack and a dial for sensitivity. 
 

How It Works

 

First you would place your Drum Brain cartridge into your Atari or compatible system (I have not tested on modern devices like a Retron 77).

 

You plug the Drum Controller into a controller port. 

 

Now you can attach the Drum Controller to your preferred drum kit setup using one of the four 1/4” jacks. You can run a 1/4” cable from the Drum Controller to an electronic drum pad or you can plug a piezo drum trigger into the Drum Controller and attach the trigger to a drum head, hi-hat, or cymbal.  You also have the option of plugging a foot pedal into any of the jacks. 
 

There is also a fifth 1/4” jack reserved for a foot pedal. This is designed so that programs can be made to allow for hands free operation during play, like if sounds needed to be changed, kits customized, etc. 

 

Once plugged into your preferred input method, you must then calibrate the sensitivity using the corresponding dials since each trigger or drum pad is different. You do this by turning the dial all the way off so that the trigger is continually activated. Then slowly turn it until it stops. You can then adjust it to make it more or less sensitive to accommodate your kit and playing style. 

 

There are also five buttons on the top of the Drum Machine that can trigger the sounds as well if you would like to use this as a game controller, hand drum machine, or if future programs utilize menus or button presses to customize the kit.
 

Here is a poorly made video of it being tested. 
 

 

C82F626E-43E0-471D-9657-4AB6BCAEBC38.jpeg

FCFC8D88-63A6-4EC7-8287-2F60ADD85E3A.jpeg

FD6C9B37-13C7-40F8-88F7-5D3D809DEE0D.jpeg

57E66F0A-8809-4F98-9896-CD74B42EA8C0.jpeg

Dude I just have to say this is one F>>king cool piece.

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So, the drum pad detects the hit, which is sent to the console via the controller port?

And the sound comes from the 2600?

 

I assume it's meant more for the electronic music scene, making Atari synth style sounds from a "drum set". But I keep seeing that it may be a few short steps to turn the demo program into some sort of "Drum Hero" game.

Edited by BigO
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3 hours ago, Yurkie said:

I have to ask @KevKelley will you put up a youtube video of yourself playing using this awesome device please?

Maybe. I am not really a drummer or a live performer. Two of my main hobbies are Atari and vintage electronic instruments that I use to record music. I typically would record and edit but I love fiddling with weird electronic musical gadgets.

 

I stumbled upon this idea one day when I was reading the schematics for a drum pad I bought and then saw how simple it was and that it handled the same voltage as what can come out of a controller port. I wondered if I can somehow hook them up. I didn’t really do much with this idea until I found a breadboard in Goodwill along with some foot pedals and decided to come up with something. I had been finding it hard to finish but stumbled on a fortune cookie while cleaning that told me to be creative so I took the time to hammer this out. 
 

Once I figure it out, I will try to make a much better video than a quickie with my iPhone. I will hook up my bass amps and mics and try to mix it into something for a demo… but I also need to write a program now to feature this device and plan maybe a second device. While I am not a live musician, I wanted this thing to be for a stage if needed. That is why I opted to make a pedal control (all of the jacks can operate with pedals but I wanted one for selection so a player can manipulate the device while playing). This idea leads me to the idea of a two drum controller program. 

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2 hours ago, BigO said:

So, the drum pad detects the hit, which is sent to the console via the controller port?

And the sound comes from the 2600?

 

I assume it's meant more for the electronic music scene, making Atari synth style sounds from a "drum set". But I keep seeing that it may be a few short steps to turn the demo program into some sort of "Drum Hero" game.

Basically yes. A drum pad, trigger, or pedal detects the hit and sent to the console via the controller port. 
 

My thoughts were for multiple uses. 
 

I like the idea of electronic musicians using the Atari as an instrument. I loved the SynthCart and newer things like Jam Loopy but feel while other 8-bit sounds get all the praise, like the SID chip in the C64 (I love the Sonicware 8-bit warps synth), the 2600 has such a great lo fi crunchy sound that can blend nicely with either electronic music or even garage bands that want to mix some electronic sounds. 

 

I also like the idea of the Atari “augmenting” or complimenting an analog drum kit. I love the Dubreq Pianomate. While they are more well known for the Stylophone, they had made an attachment that sat on a keyboard so when you pressed a key it also played a tone from an amp giving you both an acoustic and electronic sound. 
 

I also love the idea of using cartridges with a drum synth. Like older synths from the 80s that used cartridges to do things like store instrument sets, I thought what better way to support a drum controller than to have the potential for various synthesizer programs made for it. Whether it is drum kits, or maybe different programmers take different approaches in utilizing both channels of the Atari. Maybe make fun drum games like a Drum Hero or rhythm trainer. Or Track and Field style games but instead of an athlete you control a musician. 
 

While I have my simple test program that I made, I have a couple design ideas. 
 

The basic one would be similar to how some drum machines work, where I will have sound banks for each part of the drum. Then you customize the kit by pressing the foot pedal and hitting the pad you want to change. 
 

I also want to make a synthesizer program that allows you to modify the parameters of the drum. 
 

The possibilities are endless. 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Testing the unit with an Arturia Beat Step Pro sequencer since it has 8 separate drum gates.

 

Initially it would trigger as soon as it was plugged in. I attached a 10k potentiometer in addition to the sensitivity dial to test if that made a difference. It kind of but the controller still didn’t trigger when a step had a sound programmed. 
 

I was hoping on the off chance I wouldn’t have to do much to get it operational. I’ll have to look at the output of the sequencer and figure something out. I think I had read that the gates are 10-12v vs the 5v for my pads and triggers. 

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  • 10 months later...

So just a little update. 
 

I have been working on a new prototype. While the original worked with my pads and triggers, it did not work with the sequencer. I had not considered the differences between a gate and a trigger. 

 

I have been working on a new circuit that would convert a gate into a trigger but I also want this to remain compatible with triggers, pads, and drum machines without any additional things from a user standpoint. Just plug and play. 
 

I think I have the design ready and with minimal parts or pieces. I have yet to test my breadboard prototype but will soon. Unfortunately it has been insanely busy at my work and after a couple years of waiting from hurricane damage, I am finally getting a new roof, which means it will be soon that I can make my studio and workshop. 
 

I have also been toying with possible alternative designs for the controller. I had looked at making streamlined versions with no buttons, smaller versions with 1/8” jacks, Eurorack designs, dual controllers, etc., but this will all be determined later once I get a working prototype and idea for initial program.


I want something that captures that retro video game feel while also feeling like an instrument. I had even considered gutting a Flashback to get that Atari look. 

 

 

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