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Dave Sharples and David Glanzman had a pretty lofty idea. They wanted to create an entirely new instrument. Not just another keyboard based synthesizer or grid of buttons. They wanted to make an interface that felt entirely different. The two pulled it off pretty well with the Joytone. At very first glance, it may just seem like a honeycomb shaped grid of buttons, but if you look a little bit closer you’ll see that there is a joystick within each of those hexagonal compartments.

Unfortunately the RGB function was put on hold.

Unfortunately the RGB function was put on hold.

The Joytone has 57 “keys”, each with its own RGB LED inside. Unfortunately, at the time of the first showing, there was an issue getting the RGB part of it all to work correctly so the videos only show the default blue color that the joysticks use when powered. As you can see in the picture above, the added effect of the RGB is quite pleasing, so Dave plans on implementing that a little further down the road.

All of those keys are run through a Raspberry Pi which handles the audio libraries. Even that part of it wasn’t without issue:

We also hadn’t finished writing the code to make it polyphonic, so we were playing in monophonic mode (one note at a time) during the demo. It’s actually a miracle this worked at all, considering we’d been awake for about 48 hours.

14 Joytone with lights

Despite these setbacks, the admittedly limited version visible in the video is still very impressive. Hopefully Dave will share his future updates with us as he unlocks these added capabilities. If you’d like to see more pictures of the build, or follow along with the rest of the Joytone updates, you can find that on his blog.

[via: Adafruit]

Caleb Kraft

Caleb Kraft

Community Editor for Make:
I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I’d always love to hear about what you’re making, so send me an email any time at [email protected]


  • Wim
    • Tom Clarke

      Similar layouts Wim, that’s true, but the joysticks do add an extra level of potential expressiveness.

      • http://www.makezine.com Caleb Kraft

        yeah, the joysticks are the key. I’m not sure they’re really utilizing them much yet though.

        • Tom Clarke

          Perhaps not to their full potential yet Caleb. Looks like in the current configuration the different joystick directions trigger different waveform combinations (triangle, square, etc…). It’s a nice idea, but I do wonder if pitch bending and vibrato might be a good use of the joystick controls. Also wonder whether analog “nubs” (rather than joysticks proper) might make it easier to play. For an example of “nubs”, see the OpenPandora/Pyra (note that they also work as buttons):http://pandoralive.info/?page_id=2828

    • http://www.makezine.com Caleb Kraft

      that is pretty cool, definitely a resemblance.

  • http://www.segmation.com segmation

    Looks like a fun game!

  • Dave Sharples

    Hey! It’s Dave Sharples – we did actually manage to get polyphony working. That quote is from a story about the first time we demo’d the instrument when it was still monophonic. Later in that same blog post I wrote about how we got polyphony working. In fact, the version in those photos (and the video) is polyphonic!

  • http://houstonindependentconsulting.com Pete Mendoza

    Reblogged this on Strategic IT Consulting for Houston Area Small Businesses and commented:
    Oh my family needs one of these :)