Digital Theremins!

The theremin is a cool and spooky musical instrument.  People have been waving their hands around its antennae since the dawn of electronic music!

A new twist is accelerometer-controlled versions.  Folks have been hacking them onto smartphones (some examples here and here) but it’s also possible to build something from the ground up.

A couple years back, I attempted to build one with Jason Bartl for a class project.  The software, which was written in assembly for the Microchip 18F452, was mostly finished.  The PCB we sent out for wasn’t correctly designed…  There was a bit of trouble with the SPI interface with the accelerometer, and other issues finding an appropriate output DAC.  I also burned through more than one 452 because I tried to drive a speaker directly from an output pin :S

With my recent experience on the Word Clock, I feel more confident about doing up my own PCB, so I’m going to give this project another go.  This could probably be done with a much cheaper Microchip MCU than the 452, but hey, I’ve got 5 4520s just sitting around so I’ll use them first.

I’ll be posting the source files up here soon.  I’m thinking this would be a great project to release with the OHANDA licence.

2 thoughts on “Digital Theremins!

  1. I’ve kicked around a bit more with the code recently, but I haven’t gotten it back to prototype stage just yet, lab resources are consistently unavailable this time of year on campus…

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