Ribbon controller DIY (VHS...)

I want to try this and make a little drawing.

As everyone is starting to know, I am far from an expert in theory, and would prefer a little peek of a @analogoutput or @fredrik for example :slight_smile:
Does this seem logical, correct, safe, … ?

thank you in advance


Looks okay to me.

My understanding is that VHS tape varies, some kinds are useful for this and some are not (different resistivities) so you may have to try several.

Another way to do it is to put the tape above a conductive surface with a small gap in between, then use your finger to touch the tape and press it against the conductor. In that case the conductor takes the place of the probe here.

Note that this always puts out a voltage — 0 V when you’re not touching the probe to the tape. Or when you are touching the probe to the tape right at the left end. That is, this produces only a CV, no gate. If you want a gate on when you touch the probe to the tape and off when you don’t, you need something more elaborate. Here is the first of a series of blog posts I did about a ribbon controller I made, mostly the same as the one here. (They also did a MIDI version.) It used a rather expensive Softpot but you could do it with VHS tape.

An Arduino reads the ribbon and generates both CV and gate. It was the first electronics project I’d done in a long time and a bit sloppy, and I think there’s a thing or two that could be improved in the controller design; I’ve considered rebuilding it using a downsized version of my dac/ino board but I haven’t gotten around to it.

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From what I understand is that you need to use SVHS tape (no idea where to get that), as VHS tape is not conductive. Also, you may need to use an amplifier for the signal to drive the LED or anything else and use the tape just as a voltage divider.

There’s also this for a considerably more complex, non Arduino approach:


I’ve tried this with VHS tape, audio tape, antistatic bags, no luck :frowning_face: I haven’t heard of SVHS but I tried many, many (charity shop gave me them for free as they were overloaded with donations)standard VHS tapes.


The Softpot works great, but costs something like $25 for a 500 mm one.

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Thx @analogoutput, i just want a simple pitch controler (i had seen your vid’ :wink: )

it’s just for an on/off power led indicator

Also for the tape after look your comments, i hope that’s work, because i havn’t heard about SVHS too …
All the vid about that with VHS i have seen, don’t speak about that.

to be continued …

SVHS : it’s a mini format with better quality and with an adaptater VHS style box


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You need a particular kind of black rubber? Anti static bags that iirc don’t make much sense to import from Japan.

I’ve had some limited success using diffuser film with a graphite pencil applied. The issue is getting consistent coverage at a suitable resistance. (My final resistance was a bit lower than I was comfortable with as I applied the pencil thinker than my initial test pieces. Carbon / graphite will get makes a very good heater if too much amperage is applied!


So, i’ve tested with my mutimeter, many many style VHS, big, little, DAT, …

no conductivity at all :frowning:

on the vid it’s seems so simple (and not a special VHS)

The best will be a Softspot but … 28€ !!!

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Hi. SVHS is coated / sealed. I have had no problem with older VHS tapes and audio tape.


I might try again with audio tape(I only tried 2…) if I can find any.

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I’m not so lucky, or maybe the french one are different ?

You may look here :

follow the link to the instructable :

But that velostat isn’t cheap (well, you’ll get enough to make many ribbon ctrls… but for a single one you may as well get a soft-pot, at least you’ll be sure it works…)


Yes thank you I had seen that tuto with Velostat, but I wanted to test with a VHS it looked easy and really cheap.

But I will surely turn and test to this now

Heavy pencil marks on paper seem simpler.

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After some others test, i’ve order a piece of Velostat and go for a more complet controler with gate.

So @analogoutput please have you your schem and code with your mod of your build ?

I didn’t change anything in Audette’s hardware except for using a different analog pin, I think.

As for changes to Audette’s software, they’re described here. A few of them were tweaks to numerical constants to reflect slight differences between voltages. Others were just personal preferences. All are very minor.

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Thx, the link don’t work for me but i found it on your blog.

i don’t understand why CV out and Gate out are on the same jack.(tip/sleeve and ring)

and can i just used some jack directely, what’“Audio Jack breakout” is ?

Audio Jack Breakout is a small PCB with a jack on it and, usually, pins for breadboarding (although some are made to solder wires to it)…

It uses the tip and ring of a stereo jack, I guess this was for another use than modular.
You can use two jacks.

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