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15 Minutes to a Ribbon Controller

15 Minutes to a Ribbon Controller

While often used in electronic music, you can oftentimes use a ribbon controller wherever you’d use a potentiometer, with the caveat that you have to keep pressing down. I’ve used this design to control display brightnesses and motor speeds, as well as hooking it up to an ADC & microcontroller to send MIDI CC info.
The first thing you’ll need is some SVHS video tape… that’s SVHS, normal VHS tape, in my experience, will not work. SVHS tapes were used for ADATs, if you remember those. The ribbon controller in this example is made of my old band’s demo tape, and it’s Ampex 489, as pictured:

The nice thing about the SVHS tape is that it’s a good size for a ribbon controller as is, and doesn’t involve having to source/cut up an anitstatic ankle cuff or bag, although PAIA’s design is far, far superior to mine. But, mine’s cheap, and one tape can make many, many ribbons, so don’t worry about screwing up.

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