At last, someone’s worked out a way to make EDM on a 1920s typewriter

With most of the world on lockdown, many of us have been taking on a few projects round the house - a spot of decorating and tidying up the garden, for example - but we’re guessing that not many of you have turned a 1920s typewriter into a MIDI controller and EDM beatmaking machine

That’s assuming that you’re not William Sun Petrus, of course, who decided to adapt his vintage Remington Portable typewriter and turn it into what he calls an EDM drum machine. “I've attached a lot of wires, an arduino [microprocessor] and plugged it in,” he says. “It now makes cool noises.”

Going into further detail, Petrus explains: “Whenever a hammer contacts with the ‘live plate’, it will send a signal to the arduino. The arduino recognises which hammer has been pressed and fires a signal into my PC via the cable, and into Ableton. Ableton sees some MIDI information and understands that it needs to trigger that specific sound.

“This song is composed of 17 different sounds, played live for you, right here, right now. This typewriter is actually just a small part of a much bigger project, so there's still a lot more to come!”

Petrus has also released a follow-up video breaking down how his track was played and supplied the Ableton Live project so that anyone can have a go at doing the same. One question, though: shouldn’t this thing have a ribbon controller?

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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