NOPIA - Semi-modular MIDI harmony generator

Categories: Hardware Prototypes/Non-Commercial products

Submitted by:Martin Grieco-Levy

24 May 2023

Elevator Pitch

NOPIA - Semi-modular MIDI harmony generator

Nopia simplifies music theory and unleashes creativity by making tonal harmony accessible, helping you develop musical ideas with ease.

Product Description

NOPIA - Semi-modular MIDI harmony generator

The other way of moving around the chord builder is in “real scale” mode, which is useful if you already know your way around the keyboard. For example, in “real scale major mode” if you chose G on the tonal selector the note G on the chord builder will be the I chord. Additionally, the shift button moves a voice in each chord, typically turning 3rds to 4ths or major 7ths to flat 7ths. Adding suspended chords, tritone substitution and other secondary dominants to the palette. Once you are familiar with this idea of using the notes on the keyboard as functional degrees, you can easily make these emotions flourish from basic triads to rich extensions using the central knob. Or add depth to the chords with the bass module, which can be linked, triggered via its pads or on autopilot with MIDI from an external kick and snare. The bass has both a root or a changed note available. Unfold these chords in time by using the arpeggiator, and give them extra colour and expressiveness with the synth section. Loop progressions and easily overdub automation in the 3 slot looper. All modules send MIDI Out for linking up with external instruments or different MIDI channels in your DAW. With its hands-on approach and the ability to play the chords from virtually any song that exists, Nopia can unlock new possibilities for musicians. Whether you're composing in the studio, performing live or just starting out, it’s got you covered! Prototype 1 designed and assembled during the three summer months of 2023 in Buenos Aires, Argentina by Martin Grieco-Levy and Rocío Galarza.

How It's Innovative

As the first chord building instrument that uses tonal harmony in this way, it allows for intuitive expression without necessarily having theoretical knowledge. The reimagined piano keyboard layout is streamlined for music creation by organising notes in a way that lets you, with just three variables - key, degree, and extensions - rapidly and comprehensively navigate large sets of chords. And what's more, it doesn't just transpose the chords up and down, but can accommodate the voicings to always be in register, providing a seamless musical journey across all keys.

See MIDI Innovation In Action

Most Inspiring Use Cases

We built it to bring inspiration to three main areas: composition, live performance and education. As a compositional tool, it enables you to experiment with chord progressions and develop ideas. In the studio, Nopia's workflow makes it a versatile production tool for building and arranging tracks, and when performing live, its minimal, hands-on interface allows you to play with ease. Those versed in the world of harmony can modify or create chord sets from scratch. We’re currently using a set composed of 360 chords, in which each degree has two options (accessed via the shift button) all with 3 different levels of extensions. But the sky’s the limit here! It would be really inspiring to hear what other people come up with. It can also function as a valuable tool for music educators as well, allowing them to teach tonal harmony in a fun and interactive way. I’ve already been using this as a music tutor and the results are promising. With guidance, it really helps children grasp these concepts from early on. For those just starting their musical journey, Nopia aims to be an accessible and user-friendly entry-level instrument that offers a gateway into the world of music production and performance.

Expansion Plans

Nopia is part of a suite of instruments that explore ways of combining the power of digital with analog-style, hands on user interfaces. We’ve built prototypes for three other modules that focus on sequencing, polyrhythms and sampling. Once we get to grips with Nopia on how to manufacture and commercialise this sort of product we look forward to developing the entire series. This suite would be accompanied by a small fifth module capable of receiving the MIDI and outputting sound through its speaker, turning Nopia and friends into a true standalone, DAWless environment of music making. Prototype 1 is built entirely out of laser cut MDF and acrylic running on an Arduino Mega paired to an Ableton Live rack with Max for Live devices. The next steps that we are heading in are developing it into a robust, commercial, stand-alone MIDI instrument. Here your expertise would be much appreciated, especially in unleashing its full potential through MPE. And obviously, growing our team!!! As of writing this submission we’re on the lookout for a programmer, electronics engineer and industrial designer. Currently just a team of two here :)


With the growing demand for MIDI instruments and the increasing interest in music production, we believe Nopia has the potential to add something fresh and innovative to the modern catalogue of music-making tools. Its workflow and approach fill a gap in the market for a product that is both user-friendly, versatile and accessible. Ideally we want to turn this into a commercial product. With its design oriented aesthetic it can be easily assembled in a boutique way using fairly inexpensive materials. It already works with just basic buttons and knobs! However, as of now we have no experience in taking something like this to commercial scale. We are looking into how to assemble it in a way that is as ergonomic and durable as possible.