Monome

Back in March, I wrote about wanting a 16×16 grid sequencer, and some of the options that were available.

Since then, Monome released a new kit that was expandable to 16×16, and I took the plunge. It was a bit more money than I planned, but it got me what I wanted and provided the most flexibility.

I’ve been working on the kit off and on for some time now. The base kit is an 8×8 button panel, which takes a driver board mounted to the back. A logic board controls the whole thing, and can accept up to four button panel/driver pairs. Some assembly is required, as they say. Part of which is soldering one LED and one diode per button. And the diodes are surface mount components, which means they are relatively small. Once you get done soldering 256 LEDs and 256 surface mount diodes, you’ll be better at it than most people ever get.

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(Actually, in this case, it was 259 LEDs – a few proved to be bad and had to be replaced.)

One of the drawbacks of the kit choice is there’s no enclosure. Monome makes these gorgeous wood and metal enclosures for their assembled units. So you have to put it in something. Doesn’t have to be fancy – you can use tupperware.

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You can spend hundreds of dollars on a pre-made Monome enclosure. You would still be ahead on the cost of an official Monome 256. I decided to design my own and make it out of acrylic on the laser cutter at CRASH Space. Here’s the top panel (still covered in paper):

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My CAD skills are still developing, and this my first big prototyping project. Plus there have been some unforseen challenges. I’ve had to re-do a few things… a couple times. The holes were too small (so I had to drill them out), the slots were too big (so I had to re-design), and so on. I decided to use flat-head screws, so I had to countersink all the holes – and there are a bunch of them (close to 80) – all by hand. And the top is 12.75 inches a side, and the laser cutter bed is 12″x24″, so I had to come up with a way of registering the cutter and make it in two passes.

Enclosure build is ongoing. I’ll post pictures as it progresses.

After that, I have to learn to program it. The cool thing about the Monome is that it’s just an interface. You can make it do anything you can teach it. There are a bunch of samples available on the Monome web site, for all kinds of platforms (Max MSP, Pure Data, Ableton, etc.)

I’m planning on using Pure Data because it’s free, there’s a large community for it, and I don’t own Max/MSP (which is essentially a commercial version of PD with a more refined interface).

But I’m just learning PD, so it might be a while before I get my Monome to do anything interesting. When I get it to do anything at all, I’ll post an update (with video).

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