Qwerty Midi Controller

Categories: Hardware Prototypes/Non-Commercial products

Submitted by:Richard Ordenanz

24 May 2023

Elevator Pitch

Qwerty Midi Controller

Open source MIDI controller based on a QWERTY keyboard and an Arduino. To control in real time 100s of hidden parameters of the Hardware Synths.

Product Description

Qwerty Midi Controller

Since the VST PlugIns and all that software-based technology came out, I dedicated myself to getting midi controllers to control all that wonderful but often tedious and complicated software to configure. It was then that I bought the Korg Kross 2, a technological and fun marvel at a very good price. I was delighted with the possibilities, ARPs with hundreds of arpeggios, Drum Track with hundreds of patterns and their variations, A Step Seq, A Program mode with hundreds of sounds and their parameters, a Combi mode with hundreds of combined sounds moving. I was realizing that to access its internal parameters in real time was not very practical, only 2 CC potentiometers, a mod wheel, 2 buttons and some configurable pedals. Whoever buys a keyboard like this is to play in real time and have fun, this needs more buttons and knobs I thought. Hundreds of wonderful and fun parameters and functions that I can't access conveniently. It was there that I campaigned to make a specific Midi controller for this type of workstations. I realized that Arduino was good for that, to learn programming and make things possible for almost anyone in the world. I started with a prototype of 8 pots and 12 buttons, then 12 pots and 30 buttons, then a prototype with arduino mega 16 pots and 50 buttons, but I needed more buttons. I looked for something that gave me the possibility of many buttons and I discovered that there was a library to connect a QWERTY keyboard to the Arduino, it was there that the possibilities of making something really effective, cheap, strong, fast and with many keys opened up enormously. I've been learning to program for two years, it's not easy for me, I can't find specialized teachers in MIDI and C language, two people helped me a lot but they don't know midi. In April 2021 I met Franco from YAELTEX, I had two classes with him, I told him about my project and he told me that he did not have time to accompany me in this tremendous task. Today I have quite advanced the project, I am very satisfied with what I did, at times I see it as very complex but I think it is a matter of balancing between practicality and complexity.

How It's Innovative

How is it innovative? It is Light, cheap, strong, we are all used to QWERTY keyboard, blind people also use QWERTY keyboards. Not only the 104 physical keys, with the combination of Shift, Ctrl, CapsLock, Alt, AltGr, I multiply the number of keys, in total as 1400 keys or buttons ready to play in real time. I put on the keyboard (depends on the Arduino you use) 7 or 8 knobs and a Joystick, all the keys are available to assign banks, CCs, SysExs, and all kinds of MIDI things with the Arduino Midi Library. The Korg Kross 2 went from something more or less static to something dynamic, fun, with hundreds of possibilities to make and shoot in real time. The keys of the QWERTY keyboards are very friendly, they are durable, they are made to withstand gamers and the excitement of the game, they will surely withstand the excitement of music. At first I thought that I would need more pots, but it is very easy to go from bank to bank, so 7 or 8 pots is enough.

See MIDI Innovation In Action

Most Inspiring Use Cases

What inspired me to achieve this controller is the need to control the internal parameters of the Kross 2, I imagine that any Synth hardware could use it, and it would be much more fun to be able to control its hundreds of parameters and functions in real time, assign to a QWERTY key rhythms and their variations, arpeggios, DrumKits, CC controls, program changes, grouping, banking. I imagine that there is no limit to the use and configurations that can be given to it.

Expansion Plans

I don't have expansion plans yet, this is a one-man project, for now I'm putting my energy, time and intelligence into learning to program, and at the same time seeing how to build the hardware in a conscious, professional way. You can't get everything here in Argentina, so I'm arming myself with what I get in the market. And yes, I could use a work team, it's too much for me to do everything by myself. I have no experience in this area, so I'm moving slowly.


Marketing Plans? At first I thought to make a specific line for the Korg kross 2, then the idea arose of doing it with an open source license, with an Arduino Nano and uploading the project to Github. At first I would make the controllers by hand, with the components I get in Argentina, with my jeweler's tools then I would see which way things would go. Since I don't have much production capacity, I would offer them directly in Synths hardware facebook groups, I would show them the benefits through videos, I would have to do some tutorials on how to edit the sketch so that if they want, they can change the Arpeggios, Drum Kits and Patterns, and at the same time, enter the world of Arduino programming.