A few years ago, I bought a kit of Jason Hotchkiss’s Le Strum midi controller project. It’s been lying around in various stage of incompleteness since then, as I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it.

Here is the first usable prototype – I tried to make the enclosure a cross between a guitar, an accordion and a kalimba. This is how the controller works:With your left hand, you select the chords you want to be mapped onto the spokes, while your right plucks the notes you want to play from those chords. The chord keys are mapped out in a circle of fifths, as in an accordion, while the notes get mapped onto the spokes in triads over a range of octaves. Combinations of keys allows you to choose chords with added voicings, like major/minor/dom 7ths, and add4/add6 chords.

As for the name – an Mbira is another name for the family of instruments the kalimba belongs to, so MIDIbira seemed appropriate.

Here’s a brief video:

Guitar/kalimba MIDI thing

A post shared by Saurabh Levin (@saurabhlevin) on

Fun thing I discovered while 3d printing the enclosure – if I angled the parts at 45*, no extra support layers were printed, which greatly reduced my print times.

Potential updates:

  • A wooden enclosure instead of a 3d printed mess
  • Laser engraving faceplate with labels
  • Redoing the entire thing as a MIDI foot controller (eek – but this could be really useful, as a guitarist who likes to have my hands free)

Banana Apparatus Mixer/Patchbay

Here is a fun utility box I made sometime last year that that’s been seeing quite a bit of use. It’s a patchbay with two channels of mixer and splitter circuits, which allows me to mix and play with signals in a hands on, and (relatively) hassle free manner.

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It consists of 6 X 1/4″ -> 1/8″ jack convertors, which allows for easy patching for multiple effects pedal loops (3, usually) using the mix of patch cables. Different signal loops can be blended and split using the mixer modules on top. The blending can even be controlled via an expression pedal, which allows for some interesting effects.

This Document contains the schematic I used for the mixer/splitter: Splitter Build Doc

The mod to control the blending via a footpedal isn’t too complicated. When the expression pedal jack is inserted at the top, a switching jack disconnects the blend knob and rewires the leads to the expression jack instead. This image helps visualize it.

Modded Voice Looping toy

A friend got this fun voice looping toy from the souvenir shop at MoMA that lets you record 3 second long clips and play them back. It has a pitch/speed shifting dial, which is fun, but it does lack one or two features that could make it pretty usable. To remedy that, I added an option for line out, and a toggle switch instead of the pushbutton, so that it could play back a given loop infinitely. Here’s a quick test of the same:

Gear: Hacked MoMA voice box-> MXR Blue Box-> Digitech hardwire looper

Synths for ISRO

After my tinkering about with circuits and noise last semester during the toy lab, I decided to intern with Yashas Shetty, artist-in-residence at Srishti, and periodic hacker/noisemaker along with ISRO (Indian Sonic Research organization, of course; the local (and perhaps only) experimental sound lab). I made a couple of synths, in addition to taking apart printers, mucking around with feedback, and generally annoying the hell out of anyone within earshot with all possible forms of ungodly rackets. Anyway, here’re a couple of the synths i made, most of them based on existing DIY projects.

The first one’s the Auduino, the basic platform of which i used in my toys as well. It’s based on the arduino microcontroller, though i didn’t really alter the schematic or program much here. The casing was meant to look like really retro radios, and maybe partially inspired by Dieter Rams’ work (at least, that was the intention)

This one is the dronelab, which we designed to put into the mughal looking table/box thing below (hence all the wires). I’ve decided to simplify that, so the final form is going to look far less intimidating, be easier to play, in addition to being more durable.


And here’s An Atari Punk Console, housed in a box made from 2mm HIP.



i thought i had lost this recording, but thankfully found it sometime last week. It’s again in a stream-of-consciousness form of improvising – i’ve noticed it’s a form where i sometimes get confused as to the distinction between speaking through my guitar, and speaking to it.
I was in a sort of a creative slump when i recorded this…it helped me realize that one of the best ways to get around a feeling of being uncreative and generally useless is to just express exactly that feeling :)

lying still, feet in water

Another idea that I’ve never bothered to flesh out fully… but honestly,i quite like it like this.
This was relatively simple to make, I was attempting to create something along the lines of Brian Eno’s and Robert Fripp’s ambient work (although they did it with analogue tape-delay processes), and i ended up with this after a few overlays and filters.

The title doesn’t really suggest it, but a lot behind this piece was a memory i have of viewing kanchejunga from Pelling (Gangtok). Around sunrise, the mountain’s colour changes steadily, from a grey barely distinguishable from the sky, to a brilliant golden yellow, before it’s all too suddenly obscured by clouds.
I’m not very focussed when it comes to naming things, so i titled with something that somehow evokes a very similar emotion for me :)