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DIY EVI-Style Windcontroller

The EVI is at-risk of becoming extinct. Explore the development of a DIY EVI Windcontroller for survival of this great instrument

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POC: Using readily available hardware and parts, develop a simple but robust Midi EVI windcontroller that can be used for both live playing and recording situations, preserving the key aspects of the Steiner EVI physical design.

The EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument), a trumpet-style electronic musical instrument in the Windcontroller family, was developed in the early 1970s by inventor and musician Nyle Steiner. The EVI is an endangered instrument and the EVI player is an endangered musician. Why? Because no one is creating new EVIs anymore. Nyle Steiner was making MIDI EVIs for a period of time, but no longer makes them.

IMO, the EVI is one of the finest windcontroller designs in existence. The octave mechanism is sheer brilliance, and the vibrato mechanism is the best thing out there (IMO). The fingering system is efficient and fluid. It's a great instrument. But it's an abandoned instrument. A relic. My EVIs are older than my children and they are about to go to college. An old trumpet can live forever, but a technological instrument ages in iPhone years. Our EVIs, even the Midi EVIs, ARE ANCIENT!

Our choices these days are trying to find a used EVI (which is rarer than hen's teeth - you essentially have to wait for an EVI player to die), or use an EWI or Aerophone in EVI fingering mode. Those are grim options for those of us who really like the EVI design. The EWI in EVI mode is OK, but it doesn't come close to a real EVI, IMO. It's only an option if my EVIs get stolen. The only option is for EVI players to make their own EVIs in the future.

I have decided to explore creating my own EVI with micro-board technology such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino. I would still GLADLY pay top dollar for a new EVI but there is currently no options on the market other than used MIDI EVIs which are virtually never available. And they are old technology now.

In short, the EVI as a musical instrument, is at risk of being left behind. EVI players (and I am one of them) are in serious trouble down the road unless we step-up and take measures to preserve this well designed and long used instrument. It may fall on the individual at this point. The EVI is a superb musical instrument. It deserves to be preserved and improved (like the Bach Strad trumpet). This project will attempt to create a reliable and gig-worthy DIY EVI using commonly available materials that can be used professionally.

I invite all interested electronic musical instrument enthusiasts to join me and help SAVE THE EVI.

NuEVI-merged.ino.hex

Prototype firmware for Teensy 3.2. Just upload with Teensy loader.

hex - 167.07 kB - 09/17/2017 at 16:58

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Identified EVI parts.pdf

Basic enclosure and body hardware listing

Adobe Portable Document Format - 232.39 kB - 07/20/2017 at 11:20

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Functional Requirements.pdf

EVI Essential Requirements

Adobe Portable Document Format - 35.41 kB - 07/04/2017 at 17:39

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EVI control arrays.pdf

A detail of the MIDI EVI controls top and bottom, and additional MIDI DIN information

Adobe Portable Document Format - 180.47 kB - 07/04/2017 at 13:57

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EVI Cannister.stl

Basic Cannister design for prototype

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 24.88 kB - 07/04/2017 at 12:07

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  • 1 × Freescale MP3V5004GP Breath Pressure Sensor
  • 1 × Sparkfun ARM Teensy 3.2 Dev Board
  • 1 × Adafruit MPR121 Capacitive Touch 12-Key Sensor
  • 1 × Switchcraft DIN Connector 5 PIN FEMALE Midi port
  • 1 × Electronic Wire AWG 24 Wire

View all 6 components

  • Short prototype demo

    Johan Berglund09/30/2017 at 21:04 0 comments

    Just to show off some more of the progress:

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BZgrAc0FRci/

    Sat down with the list of functional requirements the other day. I could tick them all off. And there are of course goodies added to the list :) So I suppose what's left is fine tunings and body construction. Pretty cool :) Ordered a 3D printer for that body. Very exciting stuff!


  • Up and Running!

    Steve Anderson09/23/2017 at 14:52 0 comments

    So we have prototype TeensyVIs up and running! We have dubbed this NuEVI.  Currently testing software/hardware for basic playability, but this project is moving fast. Amazing possibilities and it looks like existing EVI players with aging EVIs - and those that have wanted an EVI but could not get one -  will have a very viable option in the near future.


    The above is my prototype built quickly solely for the purpose of testing. But I could probably play a gig on this thing is necessary.  Touch sensitivity is handled by the Teensy and add-on touch sensor board.  It works very well, and we are now in the tuning and refinement stage of testing.  

    For this prototype, I used simple materials. Off-the-shelf nuts and bolts, simple metal for the benders (which work amazing btw!) and other readily available parts.  Plexiglass for the sandwich body. And other parts that weren't too hard to source.  I will add special keys and vibrato sensor in my next iteration, but first wanted to test the basics - breath, fingering, bending.

    In short, we are making great progress! Stay tuned.

  • Assembling the Prototypes

    Steve Anderson08/12/2017 at 00:27 0 comments

    Currently, we are in the process of assembling basic prototypes for testing.  We continue to work on sourcing of materials for the instrument itself.  The primary challenge that remains is the physical construct for the EVI vibrato sensor. This is a critical part of the EVI, however I am confident that between Johan and myself, we will arrive at a solution.  We knew this would be a challenge, but it is not insurmountable.

    In the meantime, we are making testable EVI instrument forms.  I will be using a plexiglass sandwich design with a canister.  The hardware is so tiny, that there is plenty of room for wiring, tubing, etc.  Space is not an issue. In fact, we have a luxurious amount of room to play with.

    Technically, one could fabricate a small EVI. But I personally like the size of the EVI. Much like a trumpet player would prefer the feel of a traditional trumpet to a pocket trumpet or cornet.  

    So let the drilling, sanding and cutting begin as we build our Franken-EVIs!  We make tremendous and rapid progress. However,  this is hard work too! Lots of time and thought already has gone into this project. This makes it all the more worthwhile that we work to preserve the noble and well designed Steiner-EVI for future generations.

    Next to come - user testing, tuning, etc. to make sure we have a stable, usable instrument that plays well in a variety of conditions. Also some experimentation will likely occur along the way!

  • Electronics and firmware

    Johan Berglund08/08/2017 at 13:06 0 comments

    Since this project started, we have made a lot of progress. My part so far has been making PCBs for easy testing and prototyping, experimenting with sensors and writing the first prototype version of the firmware

    Now I'm very much looking forward to putting all of this into a prototype controller body with keys and octave rollers! I'm so done with playing by just touching loose wire ends and blowing into a tube :)

  • Gathering Materials

    Steve Anderson07/15/2017 at 19:49 0 comments

    Currently gathering materials for the prototype build. The MIDI EVI is not that complicated of a build, especially with 3D print technology now available. You can print up a custom EVI body now, which can be much easier than gathering all the tools, etc. This is ideal for a DIY EVI.

    Prototype will initially be simple - a sandwich of plexiglass with a cannister, open design with spacers. Finished versions may include a 3D printed enclosure or a custom wood body with a wood canister!

    The components are amazingly tiny. The Teensy 3.2 is astonishingly micro-sized. The MPR121 is also tiny. This will leave lots of room to work with inside the EVI body, and allow for a greater option for powering the EVI.

  • Making the DIY EVI enclosure and parts

    Steve Anderson07/05/2017 at 13:07 0 comments

    Looking to 3D print some of the DIY EVI components for use in the prototype. I'll be shopping around for the best price and service for this. Fortunately, the cost of 3D printing is uniform for 1 or many. Later, as I learn from the development, we can look at creating a more professional enclosure / instrument body for the EVI.

    The EVI should be light, made of strong enough materials to withstand a 4 foot drop, but also be elegant enough to fit in with traditional instruments without looking like a a cyborg.

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