Developing A Midi Foot Controller

Developing A Midi Foot Controller

In an effort to create a better live performance experience, I’m developing a midi foot controller. One that is more simple and more advanced than any other I’ve researched on the market.

Why? Well, I caught a glimpse of Ed Sheeran playing live and found that his rig is a customized device that is fairly large. Initially I went looking for ones on the market that I could twist to my will. The common problem is they’re generally too simple or way too complex. None of them actually show you the computer’s screen that you’re connected to. Most are made of thin materials and plastic, meaning they’re not super durable.

I had an old midi controller for a traditional guitar rig that I have of normal hardware like an amp, power amp, effects racks, etc. I connected it up to the computer to see if it would communicate correctly with the software I’m going to be using in a laptop. What I discovered was disappointing. It could do a few things, but not everything, despite being a very advanced midi controller. Oh well.

Next Step:

A couple of months ago I started sketching (using Paper by FiftyThree) on my iPad for a pedal board that would do what I wanted it to do.

Ideas - 1

Then I picked up a 20″ x 30″ piece of foam board. I started poking holes and tracing things out to make a bit more sense. My next sketch became this:

Ideas - 4

I mentioned my endeavor to a buddy of mine at lunch and how I was looking to find a fabricator that could make the casing. That sent me on a long journey. I learned about metals and how they get cut and/or welded. The original company I went to sent me on an excursion. First I needed a version of my design in a file format I had never heard of, dxf. Then he could give me an estimate. I called my sister and asked if she had heard of that format because she’s an architect. Sure enough she had and asked me to send her my drawings. A week and a couple of lengthy screenshare sessions later – she sent a dxf of the design that was improved upon initial vision.

I went back to the builders to get an estimate. Then he sent me on another journey to ask about powder coating. I ended up talking to about 8 different manufacturers. None of whom could do the case from front to back. Everyone had one thing they did and charged a lot for. So I went back to the first company and said: Let’s go with it. They responded, sorry – our cutter won’t do aluminum because it screws up their machines. I wanted aluminum because it would be strong a light.

Another round of hunting and I found a company that could do it from start to finish. And to make things even cooler, the guy rendered my case into a 3rd model.


And gave me a much better quote than all the previous people, by a long shot. Then came more questions and in the process of talking about it, he had additional ideas to help improve the design of my foot controller from a builders/welders standpoint. To which my sister agreed. The next rendition was:


At this point I was ready to say – let’s do this.

Story of the foot controller will continue in the next block post.