A standalone grid musical instrument? Done. And it can be a new way to venture into the worlds of harmony.

Marc “Nostromo” Resibois is back with another clever Raspberry Pi hack. We saw him last fall, beating KORG to the punch with his own – digital – MS-20 mini, using the Pi. It’s still appealing, in that he has some other synth ideas the analog recreation can’t muster.

This time, he’s made a standalone practice instrument for grid players, using a Novation Launchpad and the Raspberry Pi computer. Some shopping around for a Launchpad could mean you could put together this setup for about US$100. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it does indicate what the Pi (and embedded computing, generally) can accomplish – and it boots in ten seconds, flat.

Exploring the outer reaches of music harmony, one grid square at a time. Photo courtesy Marc Resibois.

Exploring the outer reaches of music harmony, one grid square at a time. Photo courtesy Marc Resibois.

Another video (Casio!):

Marc offers some more thoughts:

It uses the old mda piano model which is open source and the scale selection is based on what the lauchpad95 script was doing.

makes me wonder how long before we can have a launchpad with the scaling in the firmware and a midi out
it’d be such a great thing to carry around
or alternatively a casio version that plays ‘wake me up before you go go’ as demo 😉
i live the push scale system but I wanted to take it out of the live environment; sitting at a desk; waiting for everything to boot up

Actually, what’s funny about this is it means you could have an on-the-go practice system mapped the same way as Push, and leave Push in the studio. An iPad could do the same job, but without tactile feedback, it wouldn’t really work for practicing – Launchpad comes close enough.

And this is one of many, many of the frontiers opened up by inexpensive embedded computing. For anyone wondering about the relevance of Linux to musicians, I think the fact that the entire computing system, with software, costs about the same as a cable for the iPhone speaks volumes.

More on the US$25 Launchpad Pi:

By the way, that book he’s reading looks fascinating –
Harmony for Computer Musicians

The work of Dr. Michael Hewitt, it is essentially a theory for beginners book, with this unique conceit:

Rather than using a conventional score format, most of the materials are presented in the familiar piano roll format of computer music sequencing programs.

Follow Marc’s adventures (including building a MIDI-enabled monotron-derived synth) at his blog:

What are you doing with grids? With Pi?

And how are you learning and practicing theory and performance?

Let us know.

  • Kris Keyser

    I can see the usefulness of this extending beyond simply practicing- It could be a great way for grid players to augment their live rig and include a grid controller in a no-laptop live setup. This is making me want to trade in my old Launchpad for a Launchpad S and buy a Pi, for real.

    • Marc Nostromo

      It works with all launchpad Kris. And you could also easily pipe resulting midi to an external midi interface, which is something I plan to do.

    • Kris Keyser

      Oh wow, that’s awesome ! I was under the impression that the original Launchpad was only compatible with Live, but that’s great to hear! Looks like my next purchase will be a Pi!

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Only the new Launchpad is driverless / class-compliant.


      There are drivers on Linux for the original. 😉

    • Marc Nostromo

      Yes. There’s not even any need for manual driver update on ArchLinux for RPi. From my experiments, the ‘old’ launchpad seems a little more slow at updating but all in all, there’s no real difference. Also, You WILL need a hub to use the newer LP in full power mode.

  • thoughtswondersandthelike

    Not too pricey by this industry’s standards I see.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      What do you mean?

    • thoughtswondersandthelike

      I essentially mean that this industry is generally an expensive investment.

  • Mike

    would this work with the original launchpad?

    • Marc Nostromo

      The first video is the original LP. The second is a LP mini… so yes.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Any comments on the new one?

    • Marc Nostromo

      you mean the lauchpad mini ?

  • RichardL

    His newest book looks great, but it’s clearly much more advanced. I have Hewitt’s previous titles. “Music Theory for Computer Musicians” is an excellent starting point for people wishing to explore contour, harmony and scale options with Ableton Push (and presumably this RaspberryPi-based device).

    When developing PatternMusic I collected up lots of scales. I’ve been working on getting those scales working in Push using the scripts Julien Bayle decompiled. It’s pretty cool. (I’ve run into some trickiness because of the version dependencies of those scripts, but it should all be worked out this weekend.)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ah, I’d love to hear more about this.

    • Random Chance

      From the preview on Amazon the book looks like a standard treatise on the basics of harmony. The only obvious difference to less recent books on the same subject matter is that it’s got greyish screenshots of piano rolls in addition to traditional music notation. So it should be useful to people wanting to learn how to sight-read.

  • http://protman.com/ protman

    Is there more info about the software available? I’m not readily finding anything on raspberrypi.org, the store, or m.nostromo’s site.

    • Marc Nostromo

      At this moment, it’s juste a personal project. If people show interest, I could try to make a SD image available for download.

  • RajaTheResidentAlien

    “Boots in 10 seconds”

    Sheeit, i’m happy enough when something simply boots :)

    Sheer wizardry, Props!

  • John Canning

    Hi Marc,

    Is there any chance you could post the code for the scale/lights on the Launchpad please? I’ve been looking into similar things but have not gotten as far as adding a Launchpad into the mix. (A granular synth running on the RPi is as far as I have gotten)


    • Marc Nostromo

      I’ll try to package the code for this one into something that doesn’t use a big framework. Or at least that could be understood

  • dot



    (cc4av.info) Building Handheld Instruments with Raspberry Pi and Pure Data by
    Sebastien Piquemal and Building Visual Synthesizers with Raspberry Pi
    and openFrameworks by Krisjanis Rijnieks

    • Sébastien Piquemal

      Yes … I was about to post about that one as well :)