Custom Arduino gift for extremely smart nerdy musician, desperate for help

I hope I’m posting in the right place for this, because technically it is project guidance, but I know it’s a little unorthodox.

See, I have a really close friend who is super interested in learning Arduino, but would never spend the money on themselves, so I’d really like to put together a kind of custom kit for them. I know they’re super interested in using it in some sort of musical application, such as a midi controller or new instrument. Now, you may say that is a little ambitious for a beginner, but seriously, this person is an extremely talented & smart individual, so I know they can handle whatever I throw at them.

I had intended to learn Arduino on my own eventually, but their birthday is fast approaching and I was really hoping I could get some suggestions of parts/pieces etc to put into this kit of sorts. I have been looking for the last week all over, but since I don’t know enough, it’s very confusing & hard for me to understand stuff & I’m feeling rather lost.

I’d just really like to do something nice for my friend & I think they’d love this more than anything.
So any help will be appreciated deeply & I understand it’s a weird request, but I’m hoping maybe there are some of you out there who know just what kind of modules & shields & boards I should be looking into.
I have a budget of about $130, & something that allows for MIDI control would be a great start. They play guitar mostly, but are multi-talented & able to adapt to things very easily as long as they’re interested. They’ve also mentioned they like the synths & drum kits people have been making with Arduino. I don’t know if this is enough information to help me, I rather hope it is because I can’t ask any more questions without them getting suspicious. They really have no idea I’m doing this.

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

I would start with a genuine Arduino UNO R3 (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11021) for $24.95 and a MIDI Shield (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9595) for $19.95 which will give him control of existing MIDI instruments. Another good choice might be the SparkFun Musical Instrument Shield (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10587) for $29.95 which is a serially controlled General MIDI synthesizer.

For prototyping it is handy to have Male/Male, Female/Female, and Male/Female jumper wires: https://www.sparkfun.com/categories/141

The arduino clones at less than $4 are inexpensive enough to order several.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-ATmega328P-CH340G-UNO-R3-Board-USB-Cable-for-Arduino-DIY-XRC-/271803519122?hash=item3f48c09092

johnwasser:
I would start with a genuine Arduino UNO R3 (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11021) for $24.95 and a MIDI Shield (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9595) for $19.95 which will give him control of existing MIDI instruments. Another good choice might be the SparkFun Musical Instrument Shield (SparkFun Music Instrument Shield - DEV-10587 - SparkFun Electronics) for $29.95 which is a serially controlled General MIDI synthesizer.

For prototyping it is handy to have Male/Male, Female/Female, and Male/Female jumper wires: Wire - SparkFun Electronics

Thank you so much, that is extremely helpful! Exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for. I’m surprised I didn’t see those things on Sparkfun earlier. Then again, I’m not sure if I’d have known if they were the right things or what else will be necessary to have to make it work. I had been looking on Adafruit at the cool projects/kits they had like the piano glove or drum kit glove, but I didn’t want to limit things by doing that (where the only option would be to make that one thing).

Anyway, thanks & that should really help. :slight_smile: Is there maybe a starter kit featuring the UNO R3? I was thinking it would be really cool to get one & then the Musical Instrument Shield, because then it would open up his creativity & allow him to do more. Would this make sense for me to do? I like the starter kits I’ve seen, especially the ones with books, considering right now his internet access isn’t great or often. I mean, I could always just download tons of information & tutorials & stick it on a thumbdrive for him, but if there’s a book that might be better, I’d probably rather go with that due to time constraints. I could see him doing a lot more with a starter kit considering all the awesome stuff that comes with them. Plus I like to go all out(or some like to call it overboard) when it comes to gifts like this., I want it to be one of the most awesome gifts ever, that’s why I’ve spent the last week trying to learn enough to be able to pick things out. I hit a brick wall though. So thanks.
Sorry for any redundant questions or remarks.

The official "Arduino Starter Kit" is a good choice but costs almost $100. It comes with a genuine UNO R3 and all the parts you need for the projects in the 170-page booklet. Amazon.com has (what appears to be) the official kit for $85.59.

There are many cheaper clones of the official "Arduino Starter Kit". Amazon caries versions of what is called the "Arduino Uno Ultimate Starter Kit" which has a 70-page booklet. The "Arduino" in that kit is likely a clone and will probably require a third-party driver be installed. Those kits cost about $55 to $65.

You can get the "Sunfounder Project Super Starter Kit" for $35.99 (does not contain an Arduino clone). It has a 63-page booklet and a bunch of parts that will work with a genuine Arduino UNO. That would make a good add-on for a genuine Arduino.

An excellent choice for music making is the "Arduino Compatible 37-in-1 Sensor Module Kit" for $28.19. This would give him lots of choices for human input and sensing the environment. It's not a "Starter Kit" so it doesn't have a booklet of projects to run through.

For books there are: Programming Arduino Getting Started with Sketches by Simon Monk (Paperback $8.92) Exploring Arduino: Tools and Techniques for Engineering Wizardry by Jeremy Blum (Paperback $20.70)

not sure of the budget, but something that was mentioned was a starter kit. there are lots of variations. most you find on e-bay are just over priced collections of parts.

some are more directed to motors, some to sensors, some to relays

if your friend is smart, any one will do. he will figure out that a motor has a coil, a stepper has a coil. a solenoid has a coil. a relay has a coil.... once you figure out how to drive a coil, the world opens to all other coils.

driving an LED is not much different than driving a transistor and very similar to driving an FET, An FET and transistor are both like switches, you turn them on and they in-turn turn on things with lots more power. once you figure LED's, driving transistors is a small step.

basically, if they are smart, they will use any starter kit and figure out how to apply that to the things they want to do.

I would offer that a gift certificate to e-bay would allow them to pick umong the hundreds of parts you can get for under $3.00