I wasn’t intending to get into MIDI instruments at the time I started on this project, and construction of the Superstylonanophone came about by accident when I acquired an apparently non-working Korg Nanopad.
Essentially, what it is is a cut-down Nanopad attached to a Stylophone, so that the middle 12 keys of the stylophone operate what would, in the Nanopad, have been the 12 pads. The touch sensitivity of the original pads seems to have all but gone, which is a big loss – but the pads didn’t work at all on the device I acquired, so the present arrangement is an improvement on that.
I have since learned that stuck pads is a common fault in Nanopads, and there is currently an instructional video on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuomrJNd0cM, uploaded by treilaux, telling you how to fix them. If you have a Nanopad with stuck pads, you could do that instead of what I did; even if you don’t, you can see from that film how I took the Nanopad apart and detached the pad section from the electronics section.
I continued by sawing off the large right-hand section of the Nanopad with the pads in it, and was left with just the circuit board, ‘Scene’, ‘Hold’, ‘Flam’ and ‘Roll’ buttons and the track pad. I trimmed down the back as well, to fit the remaining piece of Nanopad front panel.
Everything was removed from inside the Stylophone (it was no longer working), except the PCB with the keyboard on it.
The difficult bit was connecting the Nanopad PCB to the Stylophone PCB. This was not difficult in principle, but only in practice. The Nanopad pads were operated by a plastic film connected to the PCB via a 14 way ZIF socket. The connections on the PCB were too small for me to get at – just 1mm apart – so I was hoping to find a replacement 14 way jumper cable that would be long enough to go from the ZIF socket, out of the new Nanopad enclosure into the body of the Stylophone.
I couldn’t find one: it wasn’t a proper ribbon cable, but another thin plastic thing, and in the end I had to get a short one and solder a proper ribbon cable to another ZIF socket at the other end of it. I managed to find a type with alternate pins pointing in opposite directions, giving me 2mm space between each one.
The other end of the ribbon cable attached to the backs of the 12 middle keys on the Stylophone PCB. I chose C – B because these are the defaults for the Nanopad’s Scenes 2 – 4, which resemble a conventional keyboard. You can change this with the Korg Kontrol Editor program, but there seemed no point.
The 14 lines from the Nanopad PCB to its pads were one connection for each pad, plus 2 control lines, one for the top row of pads and one for the bottom row. I was gambling that these two control lines were, in fact the same, as the Stylophone’s stylus has only one wire going to it and I obviously wanted to be able to play all 12 notes.
Fortunately, I was right, so in the end only 13 connections were needed. However, since the Nanopad is polyphonic, it seemed a bit of a waste not to take advantage of this, so I added a socket on the side for a second stylus. This is connected to the same spot on the circuit board as the integral stylus. After using the Stylonanophone for a short while, I realised that this is a great asset, especially for playing drums and percussion, even if only one note at a time is sounded.
Because foot controls would be more natural for some applications (e.g. bass drum and hi-hat, or bass pedals) I added an external socket for other input devices to connect to, giving access to all 12 notes. I’ll be writing in more detail elsewhere about the switching systems I’ve devised, and later on in the blog about any of the input devices I’ve been working on, as and when they get finished.
The Nanopad doesn’t have MIDI in and out connections: instead, it has a built-in MIDI interface, and requires only a USB cable. To allow for the possibility of future expansion (for example, I also have a Nanokeys I plan to work on), I decided to add a USB hub. I found a flat square one that fitted into the base, and didn’t interfere with the vast amount of wiring inside the Stylophone body. I superglued this in place. The Superstylonanophone connects to this hub with a very short mini-USB to USB A cable, and the hub connects to the computer with a longer one. The hub has proved very useful when I’ve needed to plug in more USB devices.
The Superstylonanophone logo, by the way, is just printed on a slip of paper tucked into the edging of the Nanopad trackpad. This is easily removable, but isn’t thick enough to prevent the trackpad operating properly. This was something I also saw on YouTube, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNKFJZX4Na4, uploaded by meltdownband.
There are no sound files to go with this instrument, as it’s a MIDI controller, and can be used with any real or virtual MIDI instrument.