OK, so I’m lying. It really isn’t. We’re talking about housing a Pi in a Gameboy. While it’s already been done, I’m looking to create a controllable game of Minecraft with the Gameboy in the left hand, and a wireless mouse in the other. The Pi can be utilised with an emulator so that traditional DMG/GBC/NES games can be played also with the front panel, (as well as a little bit of LSDJ/nanoloop fun)
So I’ve been hankering after a Raspberry Pi for a while and I just couldn’t justify buying one for the hell of it. My initial desire was the interest in some basic coding skills in linux because I work as a Cross-Platform analyst and the truimvirate of Mac and Windows and Linux is desirable to me. Mainly because I’m such a fussy completionist.
So when I saw that such a thing as Minecraft Pi exists, I immediately splashed cash on a Pi for next day delivery, convincing myself that I’ll have my own Pi-Pirate broadcast network in my neighbourhood and build an intelligent thermometer to control the water boiler in the flat.
But fuck all that, because making something simple that works is a lot more rewarding that an experiment that fails right? Probably not. But that’s my ballsy arrogant mantra for the project and if it gets the job done, then let’s do ‘er.
So it’s not Minecraft on a Gameboy. It’s Minecraft Pi, on a Raspberry Pi in a Gameboy shell, with a working set of buttons on the front. The D-pad will control Steve’s footwork and a wireless mouse will help him look.
What is Minecraft Pi then?
Let’s talk about what this thing isn’t going to do first. It isn’t the guts of the Gameboy anymore. We’re putting a computer into it and emulating the Gameboy part. Minecraft Pi is also not even the full Minecraft experience. It’s a very stripped down version of the full fat release. It doesn’t have sound. It isn’t online. It’s essentially free and offline. It works smoothly and it’s still the building-block part of Minecraft. It also has a Python API for real time hacking and coding, which is the exciting bit.
I’m trying to make a fun machine that sits alongside your other older Gameboys. Essentially, the iconography of the classic shell, mixed with the inner workings of the most modern micro computer available. Not only this, I’m going to show you the easiest way to do it and lay out your options as I go.
I recently received a parcel through the post with a California post stamp on it. I was super-pumped, because Scott was sending me one of his CMOYs: a tiny, symetrical board, mini-jack in and out, potentiometer and LEDs that amplifies anything you plug into it to the max. It was mounted, fairly neatly in a Tazo tin. Sadly, the California customs decided that even though it was leaving the country, it needed its face smashed in, even if it didn’t have one. It arrived broken with a few leads snapped. It must have been used as a football.
Brilliantly though, its a kit that you put together yourself, so I just fixed it under his instructions with a couple of solder spots and it was up and running.
Because I wanted to paint the Tazo tin, I got viciously annoyed with the amount of adhesive on the tin and set up a tiny replacement box instead while I wait to get some paint thiner. The replacement box originally came with a foam insert for the mouse. I ditched that. The beauty of this tin is that you can see inside the board and LED.
The sound that you get out of this thing is MASSIVE. Why would you need such a thing? It’s a fun piece of kit to have around. It’s small. It’s fun and simple to make and it can amplify a hell of a lot in such a tiny box. Perfect for amping up Gameboys, Toy pianos, Speak and Spells. There’s a revision coming shortly and we’ll make these available. With the kit placed at about ten dollars, it’s hella cheap and hella fun.
With the advent of smaller, lighter software and clouded services and hardware such as the Chromebook, redundancy as access to files on the fly has never been more important. On travelling to the states to perform music to my friends, I found my LSDJ had corrupted. That wasn’t a problem, of course because I’d wisely backed up my tracks, but I couldn’t access them if I’d have left them on my computer at home.
Fortunately, I’d been wise enough to zip everything and upload it to Google Drive, so I quickly downloaded them and got to work loading them onto my spare cart. With instant access to the files that matter in an emergency, I was graetful that the contents of my files went with me.
Twisted Wave is an online editing package that allows you to import music from your Google Drive. You simply need to grant access from your Google Account and a currently free service is truncated 30 second clips. If you spend a further 30 seconds signing up, you can edit full content. During the beta period, purchasing is disabled and the limits are 20 minute documents / 10 hours storage. The software comes with a variety of basic features such as cutting, marking, looping, copying and pasting, and goes further to adding in VST effects of the standard variety. As a tool, it is clean and concise and allows to to export to your Soundcloud account.
Twisted Wave isn’t even a replacement to Audacity despite being just like it, but….. it is a free beta, compact, use anywhere, browser-based ‘awwwww shiiit’ reducing tool when you’re in a jam. Give it a try.
We here at ONN have had a long journey with these Produinoboys. We have them functioning now with MGB so far, but were waiting for them to be tested with LSDj and Nanoloop. For clearance issues, the boards will be about .2″ wider, which is hardly noticeable, and quite frankly, it’s VERY close to our expected measurements. Another small yet noticeable change is the resontator is now smaller, and safer. the last resonators were very easy to cause issues due to exposed pads all around the component, which poses for shorts, and crashes (DONT PANIC!). Due to budget constraints, we have not been able to submit these final circuit boards to production, but will be ordered on or before march 27th. if you would like to contribute to the manufacturing of boards, whether it be donations or a few encouraging words, comment below.
USB Boy – What It Do
Thursday Customs has recently rolled out a new product, the USB Boy. The device functions like an Arduinoboy in every way, except for the fact that it lacks USB ports. For ages, the integration of LSDJ and other Gameboy music software into a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) has been a thing of mystery and awe. In this feature we’re going to go into detail as to how you can take advantage of this MIDI port-less device to open up your world of mobile production and composition. Click here for a full video review, read on for more details!
Composition with LSDJ
The LSDJ MIDI OUT + Live Sync patch is something that first appeared in 2011 and was something experimental in nature – essentially, LSDJ was used as a MIDI sequencer as well as a tracker to generate noise out of the Gameboy. This meant that anything you could hook up to a MIDI cable via Arduinoboy could be programmed/played by a Gameboy to some degree. Some artists such as Auxcide exploited this on a brutal level, using as many as 4 or more synths and 6 or 7 Gameboys in unison to create jaw-dropping textures and tunes. The Sync maps allowed for the Gameboy to be slaved to receive special MIDI data rather than send it. One example would be creating loopable tunes in Ableton Live or other session-based DAWs with MIDI loops corresponding to certain chains in LSDJ. This allows for Live mode utilization in LSDJ without touching the Gameboy, handy for strictly sequenced tunes and heavily improvised jam sessions alike.
Application for the USB Boy includes things such as being able to compose on the go, and feed note data into a DAW. The if LSDJ’s tempo matches your DAW’s master tempo, recording note data is as easy as hitting the record button in your DAW then pressing START on the Gameboy. Benefits of this are being able to track songs for DAW usage while away from the computer, as well as sending data in realtime to control things such as DMX lighting or effects loops in DJ software. One could easily record their song data as MIDI and use those MIDI files in VJ software with both LSDJ and the USB Boy set to Master, enabling someone to create highly detailed visuals to go with their music.
MIDI OUT is a spectacular function, and MIDI IN via the LSDJ keyboard mode and midiGB software allow for spectacular exploitation of realtime Gameboy performance at its highest level. The LSDJ keyboard was designed years ago to enable LSDJ users to perform their tunes live, on one channel at a time, and have better input for their compositions on the Gameboy. With the USB Boy those same functions are still present, with the option to use a real USB MIDI keyboard or finger drumming controller such as the Novation Launchpad or MIDI Fighter to provide note input. For some folks, one channel in LSDJ isn’t enough, and they crave more input. The midiGB ROM is a free homebrew software for the Gameboy that allows for simultaneous yet independent control over the pulse, wav, and noise channels. The catch is that while these sounds are highly modifiable and extremely easy to color (MIDI CC’s will change parameters), it typically can’t outperform the level of detail LSDJ can create in sound design. midiGB is definitely a go-to option for keyboardists wishing to jam on a Gameboy as a hardware synth along with soft synths in their DAW or even other hard synths.
Another excellent opportunity for compositional freedom is the LSDJ keyboard function of the USB Boy. It is possible to map MIDI controllers to certain notes and macros that are user-defined, allowing for a custom workflow. Gone are the days of having to locate and modify a compatible PS/2 keyboard or punch in entire songs with your thumbs. The power is in your hands and under your fingers to utilize MIDI automation and MIDI controllers to create a workflow that fits your needs. Currently there is support for using only one Gameboy with the keyboard function at a time, but that may change as time goes on and LSDJ and the USB Boy are developed further. A change in the composition process by using MIDI controllers may be frustrating or liberating, but always flexible given the nature of MIDI mapping, something the PS/2 keyboard modification doesn’t allow.
Composition and Production with DAWs
It’s no secret that producers like Savant, Frostbyte, and Whitely use LSDJ now and then in their productions, often using LSDJ as both a creative exercise away from their computers as well as a core part of their sound design now and then. The USB Boy allows for fundamental tempo sync, meaning you can record from your Gameboy straight into your PC without the need to warp the audio to the correct tempo, as the Gameboy without external sync tends to drift. This also means it’s easy to sample, resample, and reapply your chippy sounds in new creative ways in your computer productions. It’s easy to make your creative cover tunes remixes with a vocal acapella, and expand your own LSDJ works with more synths, drums, and other sounds. It also makes it easy for folks who mix and master their own LSDJ releases to draw automation over their individually recorded tracks for things such as EQ and effects, again a consequence of not needing to warp the tracks to drift-less beat grid. As far as integration with computer productions, the sky’s the limit.
Live Band Performance
We’ve already touched upon the USB Boy providing the capability of live jamming in LSDJ and midiGB, but what about enhancing LSDJ-only performances? Or integrating your Gameboy tunes into a live band? Well, after doing extensive (read: completely unplanned and unrehearsed) testing, I found that it is profoundly easy to take your LSDJ game to the next level with the USB Boy. How easy is it? Read on for my personal anecdote.
Back in late December, I received the USB Boy prototype from Thursday Customs, asking that I provide a thorough examination, beating, and testing of the device where possible. As luck would have it, I was invited to play in a friend’s band the following month: Matt Owen and the Eclectic Tuba. They had a song called “Hyperdrive” which almost felt like an old Anamanaguchi tune, minus the NES. I asked Matt what I would do, and he said “play along, and solo,” which sounded great on paper. Matt’s band uses two laptops running Ableton Live to drive background instruments (like rhythm guitar recordings), send a tick to the drummer, filter in vocals and instruments for EQing, and provide softsynth support for the two keyboardists. For me to be properly mixed into a band whose drummer operates on a metronome tick, I needed to make sure my Gameboy was in time with that tick. Rather than simply press “play” on my sequenced part of their song (and solo section I pre-wrote), I thought it would be wise to bring the USB Boy and hook it up to Matt’s rig.
When I arrived at the bar, soundcheck took only seconds and I was nervous. I had not used the USB Boy too much yet, and was afraid I might not be able to play on the tune. However, as soon as I plugged the USB Boy into Matt’s Macbook Pro, drivers installed themselves, and when Ableton was loaded up, there was the “Teensy MIDI” device (the USB Boy) ready for action. Making sure to turn on the appropriate output functions, I threw the USB Boy into LSDJ slave mode. Later when it was time for Hyperdrive, it was as easy as turning on the Gameboy, putting LSDJ in slave mode, and then cuing up my segments while the band jammed and Ableton sent MIDI data to the USB Boy. I even have video from the gig!
Here’s footage of the whole ordeal! You’ll notice that something rhythmically was off – the band swung and the Gameboy didn’t. The big caveat here was that on the album, where I learned to program the song, the song was not swung. This was an overlook by myself and the band, which will be properly compensated for next time when we play together in March by taking better advantage of LSDJ’s Groove function. Overall the performance was awesome and the Gameboy mixed very well with the band. And shockingly, it was easy to jam along because the USB Boy was literally plug and play, aside from setting it up as a device in Ableton which took literally a few seconds.
Enhanced LSDJ Performance
In the LSDJ scene there has always been a special pedestal for artists who rock a 2xLSDJ setup, typically with a DJ mixer. Notable acts to do this include Knife City, Trey Frey, Roboctopus, and Galaxy Wolf. The big deal with doing live performance at clubs and bars with LSDJ is not only having a decent sized live audience, but also being able to approach performance more from the DJ end of the spectrum. This means effects, EQ tweaking, and transitions are huge parts of the performance. Often, hardware mixers cost upwards of $100 and provide the bare necessities for LSDJ: amplification, EQing, and a few basic effects. Some folks use devices like Kaoss Pads and guitar pedals to help color their sound, which adds more money to the live setup. Most bars use mono-oriented sound systems, meaning stuff like panning effects doesn’t really matter much and will have no effect in these venues. It’s possible to use mono-output in clubs to your advantage, as well as DAWs such as Ableton or FL Studio to design a highly capable software mixer on your laptop. Other software such as Guitar Rig, Izotope’s Trash, and even Traktor can be used to make your performance setup be feature-rich without breaking the bank. Expect an article soon detailing this process using the USB Boy! These techniques will work with 1xLSDJ works as well. Keep your eyes peeled!
In addition to being able to layer all sorts of effects, sometimes the ability to sidechain Gameboy audio fed into your computer make a world of difference – using high quality drum samples to beef up your tunes can help bring your sound design up to most standards held in EDM, especially with a bit of creative EQing.
Stay tuned for more articles in the future about MIDI and its uses with LSDJ, we’ve barely scratched the surface!
As we are coming close to finishing the Produinoboy kit, we at ΩNΩNΩ would like to give you guys a little update of our progress.
A few things to note is that we have updated the resonator to have a surface mount foot print, rather than the bulky through hole as the previous version. This is also cheaper to have assembled, while all parts are now surface mount. Another update made to the Produinoboy is that the switch header is moved to the other side. This placement choice will be utilized when mounting the pcb into a unit, while the LED’s can be mounted directly next to it without the need to have excess wire management. There are also some other components laid out on the pcb, which were ignored the first version. This was due to irregular sleeping habits and lack of coffee, but now everything is A-ok!
Expect to see the Produinoboy hitting the shop around mid to late February!
OhmNohmNohm’s finally starting to turn its wheels a bit more, and we plan on gaining lots of traction as the year goes on. We have lots of ongoing projects, people on deck for interviewing (some of which are far from the chipscene yet very relevant), as well as many article series planned!
Custom Kits in the Works
This introductory post will serve as a sampler for a short time being, another article will be out on Friday featuring the infamous half clock kit available in our store, designed by our own Scott Griffitts. This is the first of many kits we’ll be offering in the near future, others include a biversion kit and MIDIBOY kit modeled after the original MIDIBOY designed by NeX. The solution Scott is designing is meant to be installed internally in a DMG, allowing for all sorts of possibilities we will cover in future blogposts.
Speaking of Possibilities…
We at ONN plan on doing a lot of extra-chipmusic coverage as we are aimed at lofi music, art, and hardware as a whole. Coverage will range from upcoming synths we think are really cool, as well as other kinds of hardware great for making music. Artists such as SKGB have outstanding knowledge of MIDI from both a music and hardware standpoint, and we hope to have interviews and guest articles with similarly talented folks so we can help share the knowledge. There is also a good bit of interest in publishing a series of articles on different things such as pixel art, glitch art, painting electronics (courtesy of Michael Television), more on that in a bit.
Things You Can Look Forward To Seeing This Month
I have tons of ideas I can’t share, but I do have enough to help fill out the month of January.
We’ll have a feature on installing Scott’s new Half-Clock kits, to be followed by my guide for using LSDJ with live band. After that, I have a few other things in store:
As you can clearly see, we are gushing with ideas and cannot wait to flesh them out. The order I’ve written the bullet points in is my projected order of creating the series and writing for them. I hope you’re as excited as I am, because what I’ve told you is only a fraction of what OhmNohmNohm has to offer.
Thanks for reading!
In an effort to start filling in our Wiki here, I’ve began pasting in details I can scrounge from the internet. The chip and micro music scene is made up of a lot of old mardy men who act like wounded soldiers. We’re just trying to make a factual wiki to make up for the loss of a unified source for these things. If you feel you aren’t getting the credit you deserve, contact us and we will rec-rec-recognise. Also, it allows us to check on the available information and improve it with the help of the original authors. If you’re reading this and you want to help, there are quite a lot of areas we need covering. For the time being, let me list a few areas we need assistance in:
A Kickstarter opened on the 19th of November encourages people to start creating games, play with coding, make a server or just generally goof around with it with Kano. This is entry level stuff, but in terms of putting a Pi in the palms of the public, this is something that there should be more of. Pre-bundled kits for the school, colleges and it’s a toy for seasoned hackers. You can buy into the Kano Keyboard at around 60 dollars and get a full git for just over 100 dollars. It’ll tear your heart out not to grab a hold of one. (We’re told it’s actually named after its creator, Kano Jigoro, a lifelong schoolteacher)
Our team would like to introduce to you, the Produinoboy. What is it you ask? It is a pre-built Arduinoboy, the size of an Arduino ProMini (roughly .7″x1.3″).
The Produinoboy comes with everything you need:
The kit can be purchased HERE for $25 USD.
information on the Arduinoboy project can be found here.