Arduino makers project - Gridi


GRIDI is a large-scale midi sequencer created by Yuvi Gerstein. It is a fun and intuitive way to interact with music in the physical world and equally important, it looks aesthetically appealing. The idea is simply to allow people with little to no background in music to compose an original track, by placing transparent balls inside the interface. The balls light up and when the beat reaches the ball it plays its sound. The user can easily create a drum track, a bass line, and then a melody on top as well. GRIDI translates the world of computer music creation into a physical object, which is rather easy to interact and play with. GRIDI also acts as a learning tool, which illustrates how a lot of the modern music we hear today is composed. Anyone can try it without the need to know computer music software or notation. It also works great for groups of up to four users composing together, listening to each other and making musical choices. It forces strangers to listen to each other to achieve a musical result.

Electronics and programmer: Michael Zeron
Live programming and electronics: Ronen Peri Max
Designer: Nadav Vainer
Photography: Guy Prives


What have you made?

A large-scale 16X16 midi sequencer comprised of four heavy wooden plates, placed together on top of a metal construction. GRIDI plays a two bar loop which can be filled with sounds chosen by the user, simply place transparent balls anywhere on the grid and listen to the results. The lights provide a clear indication of the music being played and the tempo of the track.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

I was invited by a yearly art event called Contact Point, to create an installation at the Israel museum. The idea was to relate or comment to a given artwork in the museum. I walked around the museum looking for ideas and saw the large-scale spots painting by Damien Hirst. It immediately gave me inspiration to realize my project in front of that piece and also inspired its aesthetics as well. The spots came of the wall and people could interact with them to create music.

What is the original idea behind this project?

As a musician who started out as a guitarist and moved to mainly creating computer music in the past eight years, I had this idea of creating a physical way to compose music. A project, which anyone could relate to and play with, without the need to use a computer or have a degree in music composition. The idea was to make it as intuitive as possible, but also musically interesting and serve as a learning experience as well.

How does it work?

GRIDI has 16X16 grid of holes inside it. Each hole has an LED and a button behind it. The LEDs are programmed to light up according to the tempo of the track (determined by myself). Each column lights up in its own time and represents the cursor moving from left to right in 16th notes, as in a music software. When a ball is placed in one of the holes, the LED changes its color to show an input was received. Once the beat reaches the ball, it makes a sound. The user can compose his music by placing the balls anywhere he wishes on the grid. The administrator can make effects and tempo changes by using touchable software controlling Ableton live on an Ipad.

How long did it take to make it real?

GRIDI was an extremely complicated project; it took a team of four people, expert programmers and electronics wizards to accomplish. It took six months since the original idea was born. Towards the exhibition in contact point, it took many sleepless nights to finish up. My eternal gratitude goes to the people who helped me to make it happen.

How did you build it?

GRIDI combines a physical construction and a code. Starting with the user who places a ball in one of the 16X16 grid. The ball presses a momentary button placed below the LED (A button similar to the one found in a computer mouse), the button transmits a signal to the Arduino, which tells it a button was pressed. The LED under the ball lights up. At the same time the signal reaches the computer and tells it to write a midi note in that particular place in the grid. When the beat reaches the ball, a sound will come from Ableton’s midi sequencer, which was preprogrammed to make a certain sound. The sketch on the Arduino communicates with a max for live plug-in which makes it all work together. Physically, GRIDI is made out of four wooden plates (MDF), colored in white and placed together on a metal base. A CNC machine, creating beautifully shaped holes in perfect symmetry with each other, cut out the plates. Under the hood, each hole has one LED and one button. The LEDs are pre wired and connected in a sort of “snake” fashion. Each button is individually wired to ground and to the PCB board which acts as the brain of each plate. The wiring was the most difficult and time-consuming job (lesson for the future). One Arduino Uno unit enables the entire communication of the project.