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Cygnus midi bass pedal conversion project-1

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Flux Jetson, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. Along with the 2 channel Jazz bass project ....


    ... and the modular bass amp project ....


    .... I also have this project on the bench.

    It is a midi conversion of a set of organ bass pedals. It provides a midi note out so that old organ bass pedals may be used to trigger anything that can be triggered via "midi note on" signals. In short, you can use organ pedals to play synths, trigger samples, trigger backing tracks or accompanyment parts, and many other functions. This is a fairly popular DIY ambition that is done pretty regularly. Old organ bass pedals can be found for as little as FREE, but usually they run anywhere from $20 to $100 depending. There is a wonderful thread here at Talk Bass that is all about bass pedals (in fact it was that thread where I discovered the conversion kit that I'm using).


    There are some kits out there that make this project simpler. I've elected to use the Cygnus Kit, offered by midipedals.com. Talk Bass member "twocargar" sells these kits and he is essentially "midipedals.com". Here's a link ....


    The Cygnus Midi Bass conversion circuit was initially developed by a fella named Howard Cano. Midipedals.com sells the Cygnus kit under license from Howard. Howard is a Talk Bass member and goes by the moniker "howardcano".

    I have a small collection of pictures of DIY midi bass pedal conversions done by other people, here is an example (I quite like this one).....


    I'll post more later just to add fuel to this fire.

    See, I have a choice (well, not really). It's either somehow obtain money or a loan or credit to purchase a ready-made setup (such as what Roland offers, or the venerable Moog Taurus 3). First of all the Moog has gone out of production, used units are around, as are some units still in stock at various places. But you need to turn loose of about $2K for a set of those. So we'll call that option "plan B".

    I'm fair with a soldering pen, and not bad with a hacksaw and a file as well. So ..... I've decided to tackle this project, and just like what I've done with other bass guitar related projects here in Talk Bass I'm posting a photo journal of the entire midi bass pedal conversion project here, start to finish. I'll go through all of the steps and choices I'll end up dealing with within this thread and I'll update it anytime something of value needs to be added.

    From the beginning:
    The first step (after chosing the circuit one wishes to use) is obtaining the conversion parts, and a set of old organ bass pedals. So I bought a Cygnus kit online, it was about as painless as things like that can be. I am also on the watch for a decent set of bass pedals, preferably Hammond.

    It should be noted that there are 12 note bass pedals, and 13 note bass pedals (at least the ones that come out of spinets anyway). 12 note pedal sets only go from C to B, while 13 note pedal sets go from C to shining C. That may not seem like a big deal, but that extra C in the 13 note sets makes a giant difference when playing them. There are also 25 note pedal sets and even 32 note pedal sets, both of which come out of "console" organs. The Cygnus kit is set up to deal with pedal sets all the way up to 32 notes! I my case I'm hunting for a 13 note set. I have been bidding on a particularly nice set of Hammond pedals out of an M100 spinet, on ebay. It ends on Saturday .... wish me luck!

    Onward ....
  2. Cool thread! :D. Thanks for the shout out!
  3. The Cygnus kit that I ordered two days ago just showed up in this afternoon's post.

    Kit = PCB and a ribbon cable.

    Here's the PCB all by it's self ...


    The board has the midi connector soldered to one side, as well as a SPST toggle and a dc power connector. The unit runs on 12vdc power, negative center. On the back side there are two momentary push switches (perhaps for programming?). There's also a green LED on the back.


    It also came with this ribbon cable and a multi-pin connector installed on it. It seems to fit on the multipin "header" on the PCB. I haven't actually verified it on any instructions just yet, but I'd say it's safe to presume that this ribbon cable is what it used to connect the bass pedal switch leads to the PCB. I like this touch. I've seen other kit-project pcbs where you're required to solder tiny little wires to tiny little through-hole solder pads. On such designs there's a high likelyhood of accidently shorting two solder pads with an unintentional "solder bridge" (some extra solder that accidently connects two pads together that are not supposed to be connected together). The use of this multipin connector eliminated the requirement of soldering the switch wires to the PCB, and really helps less skilled or shakey-handed DIYers. Just split the ribbon cable apart at the other end and splice the proper ribbon wires to the proper bass pedal switch leads.


    There's a little bench method for making that task easier with a reduced chance of making a mistake. Coming up soon here in this thread.

    So far, so good. Time to check the online documentation for the next steps. :) I need to check that bass pedal auction that I'm bidding on as well.

    This project is going to be loads of fun!!!!! :hyper:

    "We will call you CYGNUS, The God Of Balance, you shall be" (the very last line out of the song "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" from the Rush album known as "Hemispheres". Circa 1978).
  4. You're very welcome. Thank YOU for providing an easy to use kit for those of us that want to be a part of the midi bass pedal users!

    This is going to be such a cool setup. I can't wait to get the pedal set in so I can begin planning it out!

  5. howardcano


    Dec 4, 2012
    Olathe, KS
    Hi Flux Jetson,

    You don't need the pedals to do a quickie test of the system. The Cygnus will generate the MIDI data if you just touch the appropriate wire for a note to the common (ground) wire. This is often a good first step to make sure everything works before connecting to the pedals (which are often old and can create some problems of their own from dirty contacts or open/shorted wires).

    Oh, and you'll probably agree that while you can purchase a ready-made bass pedal synth, it's much cooler to tell people that you MADE your own killer rig.
  6. Excellent suggestion, considering all things involved ;)

    Yea, I'll do a bench test before I go mounting it all up. As you mentioned if there are problems when it's all wired up at least the bench testing of the board will have cut troubleshooting and the probability of what is failing down to most likely something on the pedal set (cruddy switch contact or a wire broken inside of the insulation, and so on).

    Thank you!

    And yuh .... "built not bought" is always cool braggin rights! I enjoy that feeling with my modular synth .....




  7. If haven't already seen them, there are some PDF's as well as a couple videos at http://MIDIpedals.com/install to help with everything from testing your pedals, to converting normally closed pedals to normally open, to installation of your Cygnus MIDI Adapter.
  8. howardcano


    Dec 4, 2012
    Olathe, KS
    That modular synth is impressive. Do you have a blog/photos/ or some other documentation of its build? I'd love to see it.

    EDIT: Oops, just saw it was in your signature!
  9. Thank you! .... But take care about going into that thread Howard! It's currently up to TEN PAGES of pretty much just me rambling on and on about what I'm doing with that rig and a shipload of other implementations.

    You've been warned! :D

    A little help: Page 4 is where the 2-channel bass mods are photo-entry recorded. And page 10 is the most current setup and probably the most clear explanations of what I'm intending to accomplish as well as how far I've progressed. There's also thirteen soundcloud audio tracks buried within it's pages. Totally nothing to write home about, just some silly noodlings to show off what some of the filters sound like when used as common EQs for bass, as well as ring modulator FX and envelope follower FX. Fairly lousy bass playing to top it all off, too! :) (Hey ... I said I've been playing a long time, not that I was any danged good at it!). There's literally hundreds of pictures in that thread. Many of which are photoshopped pictures of the patches used, and I use those drawn-up patch pics to explain various routings and ideas as well.

    I have two separate ~chunks~ of modular. One is the synth itself, the other is a killa rack mounted routing system used to take advantage of my 2-channel J bass, and also provide 4 sends and 8 returns of parallel signal routing for parallel signal processing. Makes using distortion and band pass filters very bass-friendly. I also use it to allow me to change pickup settings with my foot while playing!

    They actual synth chunk is outlined here:

    :) - Five VCOs that double as LFOs (each one has five waveforms, two of the VCOs have waveform mixers that permit the creation of never-before-seen waveshapes. GREAT for LFO use).
    :) - Three VCFs. Two are "State Variable" filters that have four modes, all of which are available simultaneously. 12dbLPF - 12dbHPF - 6dbBPF - 6dbNOTCH. One of the State Variable VCFs has a mode mixer (like the VCOs) that allows the mix of the four modes to create a unique filter. The 3rd filter is an excellent rendition of the Moog Ladder Filter (same type of filter used in the venerable Minimoog). It has 6, 12, 18, and 24db rolloff modes. And of course all filters are resonant.
    :) - Three 4-stage envelope generators (ADSR).
    :) - Ring Modulator.
    :) - Two VCAs, one of which is a panning/fading CV controlled VCA.
    :) - 4 channel AC/DC signal mixer.
    :) - Instrument interface module, for use with some outboard instrument (such as a bass guitar) to trigger envelope generators and oscillators and filters .. y'know .. like for doing "envelope follower" sounds (Yo Bootsy!! I gots me sum funk all up in hyuh!).
    :) - Various routing and processing modules.
    :) - Custom double-decker cabinet.
    :) - MONDO power supply. Enough power for up to 44 modules.
    :) - Covered in five coats of spray-on bedliner for pickup truck beds. Rustoleum product. Excellent stuff, I call it "Tolex in a can".
    :) - Currently being modified with full normalization to set it up to be basically a Minimoog without using a single patchcord! All of the normalized connections use switching jacks so to override a normalized connection all I have to is insert a patchcord. Exactly the same way the old ARP 2600 was (I had one of those back in the late 80s).

    I most definitely love my modular synth. I plan on exploiting the bass pedals and integrating them into patching with the modular in as many ways as I can, on top of just using it to play the synth. I'll be able to plan out much more once I get my hands on the bass pedals, then I can start ~inventing~....

  10. Thanks! I went and either created links to each page or downloaded and saved the info for each page that I could from there. It will all serve to be very helpful.

    Thanks twocargar! :)
  11. superdick2112

    superdick2112 Mile High Bassist Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2010
    The Centennial State
    Flux - I meant to tell you earlier - your modular rig is stunning!
    Good luck with your pedal project, and keep us posted.
    BTW, I love the "swirl" treatment you applied to disguise the circuit board photo - it looks like the black hole of Cygnus X-1!

  12. Thanks! :) Yea, that modular is the manifestation of a lifelong pursuit. I've owned more synths than I care to admit. This one is going to be the culmination of what I have learned about what I want and what I don't want in a synthesizer.

    That swirl bit is the "passage to Olympus", the doorway to the heart of Cygnus captured in still life for all to marvel upon.

    Heheh .... :)

    Thanks for the compliments. :) I'll post every small detail just as I have with the experimental bass rig (the one in my sig).
  13. Ok, another piece collected for this project. I just won these on Ebay. Bid on them about four days ago and no-one else bid against me.


    These look to be in very good condition. I hope they work out ok.

  14. Sweet! If they're wired for normally closed, there's a great guide Howard wrote that describes how to change them to normally open. It's on the link I gave a couple posts back.
  15. Got it covered, I created shortcuts to all of the webpages and vids required for Cygnus installation. :)


    Sep 15, 2012
    SLC Utah
    Schweet, I have the 12 pedal version of the same thing. I took very close up pics when I converted it to normally closed, so if you need anything additionally to reference, let me know. All in all it's pretty easy. I recommend adding an insulating coat of paint or epoxy under the switches to prevent them shifting over time and shorting to ground. Cool to see someone else doing stuff with these, even though I'm just using them to control a synth and not doing a MIDI conversion. :cool:
  17. I'll know a lot more about what I'll be doing with them once that Hammond set shows up. I have been toying with (perhaps) making metal framework and either powdercoating the whole thing --OR-- using the same stuff I used on my DIY modular synth cab, which was spray-on "bedliner". I used Rustoleum Bedliner and put five coats of the stuff on that synth cab, it's hard as a hub of hell! Very tough finish, and easily patchable in the event it gets damaged. So I may go that route with these midi pedals.

    If I do go all-metal, I'll put the electronics in a stomp-box-like chassis (I have many), and I'm sure there will be welded elements in the set up as well. I am SO NOT a wood guy .... "I cut it off twice and it's STILL too short!". I've been a metalworker since I was about 12 when my stepdad taught me how to light a cutting torch and also taught me the basics of oxy-acetylene welding and brazing. I built all of my own BMX frames ... WAY before BMX frames were made and offered in bike shops (we're talking 1973 here). So I am a lot more comfortable with metal ...

    (Circa 1977 .. I raced for RedLine back when RedLine frames were TIG welded chrome moly and nickle plated, but this frame is one of my own design and making) ...


    I did all my own suspension mods to my motocross bike too when I raced in the 250cc class on a 175cc bike (circa 1974)...


    So metal is my favorite material. But we'll see what happens once those pedals show up. We bought two sets of 13 note Hammond pedals, the first one is due to arrive (hopefully) tomorrow!!!!!

  18. And explain more about what you are doing with the bass pedals, it sounds interesting!


    Sep 15, 2012
    SLC Utah
    Holy smolly, that's quite the skillset! I still have not determined what to do about an enclosure unfortunately, and have been considering going to the local military surplus to find a mojolicious enclosure large enough to accommodate the wide array of controls to be mounted to the thing. My only other option is a wooden enclosure, but seeing as I have no real woodworking experience, there will likely be little wood used.

    I'm only on lunch at work at the moment, however I will try and type out some more details on my project once I'm home (it will be late though). In short, I took a Casio Pt100 keyboard from the 80's and wired up the hammond pedals to it's lowest register it's capable. This still isn't really low enough for bass, so I'm adding a DCO in order to lower the clock speed and the pitch. I'm also working on a 555 based comparator and voltage divider as an octave down effect. Also looking into an LFO and an ADSR section, but the ADSR may be unlikely due to the constraints of working with an altready integrated synthesizer. There will be patching options for the individual voices and the various extra circuits, so it will be semi-modular in a sense.

    That's all for now, gotta get back. Thanks for the interest!
  20. Thanks for the compliments RAMUSIC .... I don't think of myself as ~skilled~ really. To be honest I kinda think of myself as a shadetree hack. When compared to people that REALLY know what they're doing I'm just a greasemonkey. No college, barely graduated from a rural high school in Arizona of all places, no formal training at all in electronics or audio processors. The only thing I have going for me is 40-odd years of trial and error ..... heavy on the ~error~. And a willingness to continue forward in the face of previous failure. It's all about attitude I think. Thomas Edison once said about his roughly two thousand failures at creating the proper filament for the incandescent light bulb "I now know of two thousand ways how NOT to build the light bulb". That attitude is what keeps me moving ahead after picking myself up from yet another trip-and-fall flat on my face. So thanks for the uplifting words, in any case. :) I appreciate how you view me.

    So then, back to this project's progress. I was hoping to see the bass pedals yesterday, but current tracking data says it will most likely be tomorrow. Bah! Oh well. :) It isn't like a day or two will make much difference anyhow. I have so much to do, so many projects at hand, and a limited amount of personal energy and time to do it all that two more days time waiting on the arrival of the Hammond bass pedals really means nothing in the end.

    Like anyone I'm just excited about receiving a new toy. :) So I get impatient. Where's that danged Big Brown Truck at!!!!!!!

    Ha! :)

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