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SparkFun MIDI Shield Build

October 04, 2018

SparkFun MIDI Shield Build

Control MIDI the old fashioned way. With knobs. 

Part one of a multi-part blog post on building a MIDI synth instrument. 

The basic idea is to use 3 Arduino's to make a visual / sound instrument. 

Arduino 1) Send control data.

Arduino 2) Generate wav audio from MIDI input. 

Arduino 3) FFT EQ visualization. 

Yes, it would be simper to do this with an Arduino Micro (or RPi3) + a teensy for similar functionality. But not as much fun. 


Soldered the MIDI jacks first. Make sure to solder them flush to the board.

Since they need to withstand plugging cables in & out, good to get them perfect. OR make a case which takes some of the brunt of the insertion force. 

Soldered the rest of the surface components. This kit is relatively quick to assemble. 

The variable resistor traces are quite close to the push buttons so watch out for that. I may look at these solder joints again under a microscope. 


So theoretically you should use stackable headers, but the SparkFun Instrument board which I'll be sending signal to (from this) is pin incompatible, so using breakaway headers. Measure the length of the MIDI shield's headers & gently snap off what you need with a set of needle-nose pliers. 

Ideally you have an old unused shield around to act as a brace for soldering the header pins, but in a pinch can use a breadboard to keep pins in line.

Snap Male headers attached.


All done !

Really useful additional tutorials

MIDI Tutorial

MIDI Shield Hookup Guide

MIDI Wikipedia

Stay tuned (pun!) for the rest of the build of the Hydra instrument !