Press Better with Sky Creature

Back in 2021 I built a Four Button MIDI Box for the band Sky Creature. The controller itself had to fit certain requirements (with regards to dimensions and functionality) and while I did build at least one more for another musician it was a bit of a pain, so to make things easier I created the MIDI Controller 4 Button LC which was an easier-to-assemble (and Lower Cost) build. I’ve sold a few of them this year… Anyway, back to Sky Creature!

It’s eleven months later and I heard from Matt again and he let me know that Sky Creature did a 42 show tour across the country, as well as a few shorter tours, and the controller held up beautifully. Good to know! I mentioned to Matt that I seldomly get to hear about my devices after they leave the shop, and rarely get to see them in the wild… So he sent me this photo:

I like that they named it “Press Better” as well. As for Sky Creature, they’ve got a unique sound… I mean, what if Enya were in Minor Threat? I’m definitely a fan of their DIY take on things. They booked their tour themselves, and are very much about just getting out there and doing it. Sure, they got some help from Steve Albini to record things, but most smart people do.

Oh, total side note here… I’m excited for Majel’s new podcast A Music of Their Own, which will “seek advice from women artists that have their act together”. It’ll be on NPR starting December 8th, 2022.

Matt and I are discussing another controller right now, and honestly it feels good to get new challenges for the things I create. I’ve been building various controllers and physical computing devices for over ten years now, and without customers and a purpose it can often feel a bit isolating, even when you are learning new things. Having people use and enjoy thing things you make is great feeling.


QLab Four Button MIDI Controller

I was contacted by a QLab user who wanted a custom controller. He wanted a device with a 5 Pin DIN MIDI output and rectangular buttons for go, stop, next, and previous. It was a bit of a rush as well, and since he wanted something similar to the MIDI Controller 4 Button LC I had previously built, I started with that as the base.

I did up a quick sketch to make sure I knew what I was building (mainly to determine button spacing) and then got to work making it. We just used four different MIDI noteOn events for the buttons. I should also note that while USB is used to power the device it can also operate as a USB MIDI device. This means you can choose between the 5 Pin MIDI output, or the USB MIDI output, or use both… going to two different computers even. I think that’s a nice feature.

The one snag on this project (which I blame on doing it very quickly) was that I accidentally swapped the position of the red and green buttons! I did not notice until it shipped, and offered to correct it if needed. It turned out it was very easy for the recipient to pop off the red and green covers and swap them on his end. Problem solved!

The one other think I did here was separate the cover from the enclosure so it could print separately, which makes it a bit more modular of a system for future changes, and also allows printing without support. So, less material, and faster production. Nice. The black screws on the top are also a good fit.

We also used a USB-C connection for this one. I’m normally not a fan of USB-C but if requested it’s certainly an option that can be provided.

Do you need a custom controller? Get in touch with me!


MIDI Control for Delay Guitar Pedal

MIDI Control for Delay Guitar Pedal

I was recently contacted by a guy named Marcus who was looking for a custom MIDI controller that could be used with a guitar pedal that accepted MIDI input. First of all, I’ve never seen a guitar pedal that could take MIDI input but… that’s pretty cool.

Marcus said it was a bit of a rush because they were leaving for tour in two weeks. That was a bit rough, and I wasn’t sure I could get something custom built (and delivered) in two weeks.

Well, we traded a lot of emails, and I sent a render of what I thought I could get done in time using hardware I had on hand. (Marcus also suggested some large knobs.)

It was a bit large, and Marcus suggested a specific Hammond enclosure. It seemed a little small, but I did a render and included the size of knobs I usually use, and thought it would work…

So I decided to go for it, told Marcus I would order some of the enclosures, and while I waited for them to ship I did a 3D print of my model to test the fit of things.

Once I put it together I realized I had to move things bit, but was confident it would all fit okay.

Marcus shared a video with me Neil Finn & Liam Finn Of Crowded House [Guitar Rig Tour 2022] to show the existing setup. Wait. What!? Yes… Marcus is the guitar tech for Neil Finn from Crowded House, Split Enz, and Fleetwood Mac. Okay, that was wild! I was building hardware for Neil Finn.

MIDI Control for Delay Guitar Pedal

Also, I did not built one, or two… but three of them. As Marcus says “If you have one, you have none. If you have two you have one.” And this is because things break. Getting three was probably a safer bet, since if two broke they’d still have one. (I really hope these don’t break though!) Part of what a guitar tech does it make sure the guitarist always has equipment that works, so that involves a lot of spares. (This isn’t a new concept to me as it was a good rule when I built interactive exhibits.)

MIDI Control for Delay Guitar Pedal

And the pedal that takes MIDI input? It’s the Art Van Delay by Bondi Effects. (How can you not love that name!?) The manual goes into depth about how MIDI can control it. I believe the Art Van Delay will replace a Boss DD-3 delay pedal Neil has been using.

MIDI Control for Delay Guitar Pedal

This is probably one of my favorite builds. Marcus was just awesome to work with. I ended up checking out a few interviews with him and he seems like a great guy, so that make things even better. Also, I built hardware that will be used by Neil Finn while Crowded House tours across Australia. Hey now, hey now… that’s pretty cool!

MIDI Control for Delay Guitar Pedal

My only regret is that I wish I could have got the enclosures powder coated as I’m not a huge fan of the bare metal. Since this was a rush job there was no time for that, but I did polish them up a bit on the buffing wheel before they went out. Otherwise I do love how they came together and I’m proud to have built them. Cheers!


USB Footswitch

I made a USB Footswitch. Someone got in touch with me and wanted a button that could work with QLab and that they could easily trigger with their foot. I designed and printed an enclosure and I made it pretty darn solid. I’ve stood on it and it hasn’t broken yet.

You can find this USB Footswitch on Etsy if you want or need one. It can be programmed to do pretty much anything you could do with a computer keyboard, and it can alternately work as a USB MIDI device. Which, as long as you need only one button, might be useful!

Here’s a shoe for scale. It’s a shoe that belongs to my wife. I asked her if I could borrow a shoe and she didn’t even want to know what I was using it for. Anyway, it shows how you might trigger the button with your foot.

There’s a port for a Micro USB cable, and you’ll get a 6 foot USB cable with it. You could use a 10 or 15 foot cable if you have one, or use a pair of USB over Ethernet if you want to go even further. Maybe your computer is in another room, or another part of the building. Maybe it’s in the control room and you’re in the booth. I don’t know.

Those rubber feet on the bottom should prevent it from sliding around. It’s also fairly heavy for its size, so that should help it from sliding around. Stay put, footswitch!

Here’s a computerized rendering of the device. I model everything I 3D print using OpenSCAD because I love it.


A Real USB Knob and Virtual Knobs

Back in 2021 I built this USB controller featuring a rotary encoder that can turn endlessly in both directions. I sell the S1 Controller on Etsy.

If it’s programmed as a USB device it can act like a mouse scroll wheel, which I discovered some people love for controlling analog-style knobs on-screen. Typically someone will have a DAW with a bunch of dial in the interface where they can adjust them by putting their mouse pointer over one and then using the mouse scroll wheel. But some people really like the feel of turning an actual know… So we can do that!

With the S1 Controller you just put your mouse over a control and then turn the knob on the S1 Controller and the knob on-screen changes value. Along the way people would ask if the S1 Controller would work with their software, so I made this for people to test things:

Basically if you can control that knob with your mouse scroll wheel, we can program the S1 Controller to work for you. It’s that simple. (I’m a huge fan of simple devices.)

The S1 Controller can also be programmed as a USB MIDI device. Some people use it to control specific parameters in their DAW. Typically we set the knob to output MIDI CC3 (from 0 to 127), and the button to send 127 on CC9. (But we can use any CC number, or noteOn/noteOff, etc. Anything MIDI really.)

I’ve been pleased that so many people have wanted a physical control for an on-screen UI element. As much as we love what computers can do for us and the capabilities they provide, it’s still nice that the analog world (or the desire to emulate it) hasn’t completely disappeared.

(Oh, the code for the virtual knob can be found here: It uses the JavaScript pure-knob from Andre Plötze)