The Lo-Fi Orchestra

A collection of lo-fi synthesis, Arduino tones and other MIDI controlled devices based on projects from my "Simple DIY Electronic Music Projects" site.
None The Lo-Fi Orchestra grew out of a desire to demonstrate some of my Simple DIY Electronic Music Projects with something a little more musical than my existing basic technology demonstrations.

It became a collection of "performances" of classic works, film themes, and other well-known tunes using a range of microcontrollers using Arduino tones, the Mozzi synthesis library, relays, servos, and some off-the-shelf synthesis modules and shields, all conducted from a MIDI score built up using MuseScore.

It is purposefully Lo-Fi in all respects - collections of relatively straight-forward projects, basic inter-connectivity and audio processing, raw "one-take" videos with lo-fi sound recording...

What you see, is what you get from each single-take performance, played "live" by a computer over MIDI.

In any typical performance, you can hear Arduino tone() on brass; Mozzi additive synthesis on strings; simple PWM/R2R synthesis on high woodwind; Mozzi FM synthesis for low woodwind; VS1053 based synth modules for additional instrumentation; and relays and servos on "kit".

There is the occasional guest too - past performances have added a Bare Conductive Touch Board; an Adafruit Feather; and a Raspberry Pi running MT32-Pi.

Side story The Lo-Fi Orchestra started as a demonstration of a range of relatively straight forward 8-bit DIY MIDI music projects for the Arduino. The idea was that each of the individual "instruments" is well within reach of anyone starting out with microcontrollers and music. Full details of each individual project are provided on my "Simple DIY Electronic Music Projects" blog. This just became a way to link all the various projects together.

The first iteration of the Lo-Fi Orchestra was literally a set of stripboard and microcontroller projects strung together with jumper wires.

This latest version uses a range of custom circuit boards to simplify the wiring and build, but the essence of each project is still the same.

The orchestra is driven over MIDI using a custom MIDI file played from a PC. Each piece is arranged by me using MuseScore to take in the unique limitations of each instrument line. The piece is then exported as a multi-channel MIDI file, tidied up slightly using MIDIEditor and then played out through the Lo-Fi Orchestra.

My YouTube channel has a collection of arrangements, from Sci-Fi movie themes, through pop and rock, up to performances of the entirety of Ravel's Bolero, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, and all seven movements of Holst's Planets Suite.

Frequently Asked Questions
What inspired you to do this?
I just wanted an excuse to try some of the microcontroller music projects I'd been reading about online, myself.
How long did it take to make it?
My Simple DIY Electronic Music Projects blog has been running since mid 2020. The Lo-Fi Orchestra's first "performance" was in September 2020. It has continually evolved since then.
How long have you been doing things like this?
I've always been interested in electronic music, but simple 8-bit synthesis using microcontrollers is a relatively recent interest.
How much did this cost to do?
I've never counted up the cost of the individual projects.
Have you done other things like this?
I have a whole range of different music and microcontroller projects on my blog.
What did you wish you knew before you started this?
Nothing really. I just wish I'd started sooner!
Are there plans available to make this? Do you sell this?
All details for all the projects are available on my blog: with any relevant code and PCB designs on GitHub.
What’s next?
I plan to just keep reinventing these musical wheels for my own interests. It's all just a bit of fun.
A massive thank you to the whole Arduino ecosystem and anyone who has ever published an online tutorial about music, MIDI, and microcontrollers.

Kevin : Maker, arranger, builder
Always experimenting where music and making overlap, especially anything cheap, diy, and "Lo-Fi".

Connect with Kevin
How I can help you:
All the individual elements of each video are described somewhere on my website in a range of project write-ups at the intersection of music, making, microcontrollers and programming. There are projects for beginners, some intermediate projects, and a few advanced.
How you can help me:
Do look up my "Lo-Fi Planets" - performances of some of the movements from Gustav Holst's Planets Suite - and my Lo-Fi Orchestra rendition of Ravel's Bolero featuring a relay playing the snare part.

Look out for new "performances" in the future too, so please subscribe to my YouTube, or follow @diyelectromusic on Twitter or Facebook.