Design of Input Devices for Music

David M. Birnbaum
Joseph Malloch
Mark Marshall
Marcelo M. Wanderley

This music technology seminar was centered around hands-on experience with sensors and digital musical instrument design. The operating principles behind sensor and actuator technologies were introduced, as were basic signal conditioning circuits. Students constructed their own sensor systems using microcontroller-based signal acquisition, developed parameter mapping schemes, and experimented with synthesis techniques.

MUMT-613 1

MUMT-613 2

MUMT-613 3


  • Principles behind transducers and electronic instrumentation
  • Signal aquisition (ADC, sample rate, resolution, analog, digital, PWM, multiplexing, etc.)
  • Principles of sensor technologies
  • Basic electronics prototyping and microcontroller programming
  • Communication protocols (MIDI, OSC, HID, serial, wireless), higher-level gesture and sound descriptors, GDIF
  • Actuator technologies and feedback, including tactile and force-feedback devices, and frameworks
  • High-end 3D trackers (magnetic and optical)
  • Examples of Input Devices for Musical Expression employing these technologies

Class schedule

  1. Input devices for music
  2. Transducer principles, signal acquisition and conditioning, project discussion
  3. Sensors I: visible light, flexion, pressure, 1D position, piezoelectric
  4. Microcontroller principles and programming, project definition
  5. Sensors II: infrared, hall effect, strain, inclinometers, air pressure
  6. Microcontroller implementation and sound synthesis examples
  7. Sensors III: inertial (acceleration, rotary velocity and acceleration), capacitive, ultrasonic, compass
  8. Communication protocols
  9. Actuators I: vibration
  10. Actuators II: force
  11. High-end motion trackers
  12. Biosignals
  13. Demonstrations and wrapup

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