I would be remiss if I didn’t follow mention of a burgeoning community in the real world for synth DIYers with the foremost virtual community:

E-Music DIY Archive

You’ll find profiles of all the members of the Synth-DIY list. There’s quite a range of work, from assembled modular systems to circuit-bent and modified instruments to entirely scratch-built instruments. Several people here even modify their Ensoniq and Casio keyboards. (Sadly, they don’t fully pimp their synths, which clearly needs to be next.) So the good news is “DIY” can mean whatever you’d like it to.

Most importantly, you’ll find important reference material: schematics of basic components, plus a reference guide to electronic topics like soldering/desoldering, an unusually comprehensive look at resistors, and for the more ambitious, how to trim your resistors to a different value.

Pictured: Toby Pronteon working in his lab, not because this Seattle dorkbot regular has an extensive set of projects on his site like a Theremin-style controller with CV out, but mostly because this is what I imagine synth labs should look like. (Always wear a lab coat.)

Now, a lot of this stuff is decidedly retro in flavor. I wonder if a new generation of synth builders will give their gear a more futuristic digital/analog hybrid flair.

  • so where's a good spot to start for a brand new wanna be DIY Synth maker?

  • Good question … aside from this tag:


    … it would be great to have a walk-through on a beginner project. That's something I'm thinking about, so I'll see what I can do. 🙂

  • Damon

    I recommend MOTM modules… They are not cheap, but they will last forever and sound great… I've only built 3 but have one kit on the shelf… and you may be familiar with PAIA… probably the easiest way to start out… the advice i followed was get a quality soldering iron and set of quality tools… chances are you will get hooked, and it is cheaper to get the right stuff up front, rather than upgrading after 2 weeks… I learned to solder while building my first MOTM module… I am still not really smooth at it, but all my stuff works, and that is what matters… to run the synth via MIDI, I bought the Future Music Mobious CV sequencer… I paid like less than 300 American on eBay, and it is both a sequencer and a way to use a computer with the synths… the amazing thing is, it is more satisfying to generate a really obnoxious and crude sound wave from a hand built synth, than it is to generate an ultra lovely sound with a purchased synth… then you get to meet lots of really bizarre and weird people who can't wait to tell you a million ideas and tricks about synth design… and they all seem way smarter than you, but that is half the fun…. Oh, and be sure to take pictures as you build, so you can post the process online. It is like porno for geeks….