Building Zynthian into an old USB MIDI controller keyboard...?

I have an old 49 key USB MIDI keyboard with various faders/knobs that I thought would be cool to make into a standalone synthesizer. I found Zynthian and am hoping I can put it on a Raspberry Pi inside my keyboard, with the MIDI commands being passed to it and install some audio jacks for the output.

I guess what I’m wondering is, has anyone already done this and could offer any tips/advice? I’m assuming I can configure it so that all the keyboard’s MIDI controls give me access to all of Zynthian’s commands, or if not I understand it has a web UI that I could access via a computer or even my iPhone in order to gain access to Zynthian’s more complex controls/settings?

I might even toy with the idea of building an LCD screen into my keyboard in order to get better controls of the software, but that’s assuming I can get the thing working in the first place…

Anyone else tried anything like this?

@opteig1 did it on the success cases thread.

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Tooting my own horn!


Thanks guys! Will look at both of these cases for tips :+1:

Can I ask, in case you know, can you run Zynthian ‘blind’ (albeit with less usability) without using an LCD screen? And also, is it possible to remap the functions that the 4 hardware knobs around the screen would control to other knobs already present on my MIDI keyboard instead?

I have a screenless device that only has 3 customaction knobs.
Right now I need the external HDMI screen and a mouse to create snapshots.
But I am working on making the webconf capable of creating snapshots, so that I don’t need this step anymore.
I mapped the customactions to load existing snapshots.


This is sounding more and more promising every minute. I’ll give it a shot!! Thanks!

Here’s another keyboard mod from success cases.

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Zynthian: Behind the Scenes
:movie_camera: :grin:
Thanks, @mheidt, for all the features we never saw coming. :wink:

Do you guys know if it’s possible to control Zynthian without the knobs hard-wired to the Pi, but rather just by reconfiguring the system to respond to MIDI commands sent from my keyboard’s control knobs for controls like menu/back/select?

I’ve buildt a Zynthian (only the Raspi4 and a Behringer UCA222) into a novation impulse. That keyboard has a few encoders, faders an knobs. And they are programmable in a wide range. So I can control the zynthian only by sending commands in note-form. It works very well.

In the Zynthian user guide you can find the note commands and in the success-stories you can find a picture of my impuls-keyboard with the buildt-in zynthian. (No 222)

Thanks, I’ll take a look at the user guide. Did you run into many problems getting your controller’s MIDI knobs to replace system controls like menu navigation etc? Or was that all fairly possible via CC commands? I expect my issue will be trying to navigate menus/preset lists etc without endless encoders so I might end up adding a few of those anyway…

It´s a question of the controller. If I use the pad at the impulse, I can edit the parameters note, value, velocity, channel and if I choose to control via notes I can set the channel to 16. Thats my controller-channel. At the picture you see some logos on the pads. They stand for up and down, yes or no, yes option, no option, snapshot and all sounds off (never needet). This logos correspondent with some Zynthian commands like selet short, select bold, back short, bach bold. If 8 pads are not enough, I can use a patch with channel 16 and then I have 61 keys to send commands to the Zynthian. The faders and encoders are also programable and under the faders there are knobs. I use them to send load-snapshot directly.
There was a short time with a midi-loop that has produced doubble-triggers. But thats solved since a while and now there are no probs.
It shall be possible to control the Zynthian with CC#-commands. I didn´t tested that.

Thanks, good setup!