The Pianocade Is An Open Source Chiptunes Synthesizer Arcade Keytar Thing!

PIanocade Chiptunes Synthesizer

If you took all the stuff we like – synthesizers, video games, open source software, etc – and combined them, you might get something like the Pianocade chiptunes style synthesizer & MIDI controller.

The Pianocade Synthesizer

The Pianocade is a synthesizer designed to sound, look, and feel like vintage arcade games.

The Pianocade’s built-in synthesizer is based on the sound hardware of the Nintendo NES and Game Boy (specifically, one of the square wave channels: it’s a monophonic square-wave synthesis engine with a 4-bit digital-to-analogue converter). Because it’s monophonic, it does what many early games did in lieu of chords: it cycles through the notes of the chord rapidly (arpeggiation).

Pianocade MIDI Support

The Pianocade has traditional 5-pin MIDI ports (in, out, and through) as well as USB MIDI. You can use the Pianocade to control any device with MIDI in, or control the Pianocade via an external controller or sequencer. The Piancade’s arpeggiator automatically syncs with incoming MIDI clock signals, too. You can also reprogram the MIDI messages of the joystick, coin buttons, and player buttons for a totally custom MIDI controller.

  • MIDI In, Out, and Through, plus experimental USB MIDI in and out
  • Integrate MIDI velocity and aftertouch into sound banks for amazing effects
  • Synchronize the arpeggiator to external MIDI clock signals, with adjustable tempo
  • Add “extra” controls via pitch and CC messages
  • Reprogram the MIDI message sent by each control

Here’s a video into for the Pianocade:

The Pianocade is available for preorder, with three options:

  • One octave: $250CDN
  • Two octaves: $325CDN
  • Electronics only: $100CDN

See the Pianocade site for details.

via adafruit

15 thoughts on “The Pianocade Is An Open Source Chiptunes Synthesizer Arcade Keytar Thing!

  1. From what I’m seeing here I prefer the critter & guitari pocket piano: seems more fun to play except the joystick I kool, seems to have quicker changes in sounds and arpeggiation, seems more portable, the smaller size also leaves more room for your wallet too! Pocket piano is more reasonably priced.

  2. I like this just because it’s different. Conventional controllers tend to lead you towards conventional results.

    I’d like to see knobs for tweaking the sounds, though. Anybody know if there would be a way to do that?

  3. I’m still trying to understand the whole chiptune thing. I was weened on these types of sounds as a kid, I grew up with Nintendo and the like. But whenever I hear stuff like this my first reaction is to laugh, followed by a deep compulsion to destroy the source of the sound if it continues more than a few seconds. It sounds awful to me! I’m no “hater” (except I hate that term!) but why in the world do you guys like these 8-bit and under sounds!? Does anyone actually use them on recordings?? Or is this all based on nostalgia?

    1. It’s a matter of taste, like all art/music. Chip sounds are pleasing to my ears, from when I first heard them as a kid to the present day. But I can see how those types of sounds are not for all, for sure.

  4. Hey Folks,

    I saw this and thought it was too cool to be true. I preordered the two octave version last fall. While there were several delays, mine finally arrived last week and I can attest that it’s pretty awesome and fun. Being in Toronto, I was able to get the features adjusted from the inventor himself. He’s a nice guy and is open to new ideas. I had him rotate the response of the joystick so that pitch is left to right like a synth, and octave switching is up/down. It sounds really authentic, it’s very well made, and once I got the features tweaked, I can express myself on it like a synth. It sounds good through Moogerfoogers.

    The way the arpeggiator works is unusual for a synth, and it’s a really cool interactive feature I haven’t seen anywhere else. The sounds can be programmed to be touch sensitive over midi. Right now, editing is done by executing commands in a way that is like computer programming, but I think he is working on an editor with a GUI and stuff. The decals that came with mine are AWESOME!

    Everyone who has seen it on my FB page or in person really likes the vibe, sound, and feel. As a keytar (which I generally hate), it is so obscenely nerdy that it is over the top awesome. You can buy a 9 volt adapter so you can be portable with a battery pack. I’m currently looking into this.

    The volume knob only controls the output to the headphones. I suggested he look into making it control the line out as well. The line out is huge and clean (in a 4-bit way), but the headphone out is also great because the volume knob adds overdrive from about 7 onwards. Therefore, it allows both volume control and additional tonal shaping live.

    I can attest that it works as a midi controller. I think this could be a great controller for Live. I am going to suggest that he find a way to allow users to change the midi channel from the unit itself as opposed to software. Right now, it appears to always be on channel 1.

    I’m happy I got this instrument. I’ve never seen something with such an awesomely nerdy vibe. People who see and hear it fall in love with it immediately. It’s fun and functional, and not too expensive. I look forward to an editor at some point to help make my own sounds and settings, but as it is right now it’s funktacious like nothing else.

  5. It’s nice, I suppose. I hope they’ve been doing well with it. But I just got a Twisted Electrons AY3 with six voice polyphony, sixty-four patch storage, eight waveforms, LFO, arpeggiator and sequencer for each voice, stereo out, MIDI in, and it’s about the size of a Korg Mini-KP. And it costs less.

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