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2. Use a ruler to measure the cavity for the correct location of the AmpTone microcontroller—the black box with the LED in the top. This is where all the XY MIDIpad’s magic happens, and you want the LED to be in the very center of the screen once it’s in place. Measure from corner to corner, and then go back to that trusty bradawl and mark screw positions at either end of the controller. You need to get the measurement along the long axis of the cavity as exact as possible, but the short axis is more forgiving because the controller has a long section where the whole unit can move along the screws.
3. Screw the microcontroller down with the wires pointing away from the main control cavity
of your guitar.
4. Install the rotary encoder, hold button, and on/off switch, threading the wires through the new holes. You’ll find that AmpTone has done an incredible of designing and building a kit that’s fast and easy to install, and one of its highlights is the fact that you really don’t have to solder anything. Each part has a numbered connector that effortlessly clicks into its mate. Make sure each component—including the MIDI out socket—is securely in place before clicking it into its partner. Also, be mindful of how you route the wires. You don’t want them to inadvertently obscure the glow of the LED—or rattle inside the cavity. Be sure to use the supplied p-clips to secure the wires to the wall or floor of the cavity.
5. Wire up the screen. This is a little more complex than some of the other steps, so be sure to check out the video. A tiny, gray drawer pulls out from the center of the nest of wires emerging from the microcontroller. Carefully pull this drawer open using a bradawl or similar tool. The glass screen has a ribbon wire attached to one side. The other end of the ribbon has a white rectangle on one side. You’re going to slide this end of the ribbon into the little drawer, and the white rectangle must face the guitar as it goes in. This is one of the few points in the wiring process where you could conceivably go wrong (though the only result would be no signal to the brain from the screen, an easily reversible mistake). Once the ribbon wire is inserted, push the drawer shut again using a small, pointy implement, locking the ribbon securely in place.
6. Put the white light diffuser underneath the screen, place the screen in its cavity, and secure it by screwing the surround in place over the glass.
7. It is often not required, but to prevent extraneous noise from the screen as it sends its data, solder a wire from either of the two lugs on the on/off switch the back of a grounded pot. This is the only time in this whole build that you will need a soldering iron—bask in the genius!
8. Replace and secure all scratchplates and covers.
The AmpTone Lab XY MIDIpad runs on a 9-volt battery, which can be situated either in a battery box or inside the control cavity. (Batteries last a long time in this application, so it’s up to you.) Plug in your battery, press the MIDIpad’s power button, and—if all has gone as expected—you’ll have a working MIDI controller in pretty much the most convenient spot possible. Plug it into any MIDI-compatible sound generator and wail, bleep, blurg, or explode—the sky’s the limit!
Ben Crowe is head luthier at Crimson Guitars in the U.K. Visit crimsonguitars.com to see his entire line of bespoke guitars, extended-range instruments, and tools and jigs for luthiers—as well as an impressive series of tutorial videos.