monolith

The Monolith is a huge synth powered by Teensy, shown at Maker Faire

The Monolith is a “ginormous” music making machine, powered by a tiny chip and tiny code – the Teensy and one single Arduino sketch. And what you get is a completely non-portable synthesizer with flashing lights, controls for sequencing and synthesis, and the ability to make beats and melodies. It won accolades at this year’s Maker Faire in California, and creators Darcy Neal (aka Lady Brain Studios) and Paul Stroffregen (the Teensy’s inventor) joined Tested to show it off. (That’s the YouTube show by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage.) They’ve packed a lot of clever features: Arcade button controls 8-step sequencer with …

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Summertime means less synth, more Synth Bike

Electronic musician – mad scientist – inventor LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER is taking his synth bike on tour, finally answering the question “how can I have more synth, but get exercise and a tan?” And for all of you stuck in a windowless basement studio, that means he can do his jam in places like the landmark Tempelhofer Feld airport in Berlin. It’s busking, with wheels. Synth shop Schneidersladen is another obvious destination: And the invention itself is just mental – a bunch of electronics strapped to a bike, with the advantage of mobile sound and even backpack recording, now …

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ETC video synth is like the love child of Tumblr and MS Paint

We may be at the saturation point for sound synthesis and modular. You know what that means: it’s time for video synthesizers. East Coast American boutique darlings Critter & Guitari are diving into that field headfirst with their ETC video synth. Here’s how it works. Pick a background color. Dial in a mode – from various preset animation styles. Choose to leave accumulation on or not (whether those animations stack atop one another). Add an audio input if you choose for sound reactivity. Then adjust parameters manually, or use MIDI for automation (via scenes and CC automation). That might all …

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ardutouch

ArduTouch is an all-in-one Arduino synthesizer learning kit for $30

This looks like a near-perfect platform for learning synthesis with Arduino – and it’s just US$30 (with an even-lower $25 target price). It’s called ArduTouch, a new Arduino-compatible music synth kit. It’s fully open source – everything you need to put this together is available on GitHub. And it’s the work of Mitch Altman, something of a celebrity in DIY/maker circles. Mitch is the clever inventor of the TV B-Gone – an IR blaster that lets you terminate TV power in places like airport lounges – plus brainwave-tickling gear like the Neurodreamer and Trip Glasses. (See his Cornfield Electronics manufacturer.) …

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fieldkitfilm

KOMA’s Field Kit, connecting contacts pickups, and motors, is now reality

So much of the idea of signal and the definition of an audio “mixer” is fixed, we’ve begun to take these concepts for granted. Microphones plus line level, into some faders — that’s what a mixer is. But why does it have to be that way? By creating a new instrument around connecting to contact mics and electromagnetic pickups, and even making output to DC motors and solenoids, KOMA Elektronik leapt out of the mainstream – and turned the concept into a runaway hit. Here’s a beautiful video showing how one artist is making use of the instrument: The artist, …

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dadamachines is an open toolkit for making robotic musical instruments

There was a time when using controllers to play music was still novel. Building them was a technically complicated task, limited to a handful of individuals – most of whom had to keep solving the same basic problem of how to get started over and over again. Now, we know, that’s no longer the case. There are controllers everywhere. You can buy a finished one off the shelf. If you want to customize and modify that, it’s easier than ever before. If you want to make your own, that’s easier than before, too. And the result is that musicians separate …

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When a record label gets into making cool, weird instruments

Streaming revenue may be hit or miss, but record labels can always make their own boutique sound hardware. Ghostly International have long pioneered new ideas in the category of “selling stuff that isn’t vinyl.” There was the Matthew Dear Totem, for instance – though that served zero practical function and didn’t make sound. Their store feels as much a trendy boutique for design fetishists as a record outlet. But I think it’s their musical instrument collaborations that are most interesting. Yeah, okay, you could say this is getting a bit hipster-y. But remember that it’s really musical instruments that have …

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dsc03290

These circuit-bent instruments and sounds are simply gorgeous

Mention “circuit bending” and you may think of someone making unlistenable noise on a Speak & Spell they … broke. But in the grand tradition of Reed Ghazala, circuit bending can mean instruments that have exquisitely mutated from vintage devices, resplendent in new paint and making bizarre but wonderful new sounds. I guess you can think of it as the difference between a conservatory-trained woodwind quintet and … the sound of your first-grade music class playing those plastic recorders. Ivo Ivanov is squarely in the master builder category. We can drool over his visually beautiful creations, in this gallery here. …

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It's so bad. ()CC-BY-SA) Matt Mechtley.

Dieter Doepfer made the Nintendo Power Glove work for Kraftwerk

German YouTuber “studentsmusic” has come across the Nintendo Power Glove mod used by none other than Eurorack originator Dieter Doepfer. And he had a hell of a client – Kraftwerk. Now, whether you have any desire whatsoever to don some gloves and wave your hands around, the peculiar category of music glove has a long history intertwined with a lot of today’s thinking about music, controllers, and expression. Michel Waisvisz gets a brief mention here, but it’s worth noting that his project “The Hands,” originating in 1984, was one of the first gestural controllers and likely shaped many other devices …

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Now you can sync Ableton Link to your Eurorack with this open gizmo

Ableton Link has become the de facto, configuration-free, seamless sync and jamming protocol for software – with or without Ableton Live itself. (Even VJ app CoGe just joined the party.) Now, it’s time for hardware to get in on the fun. Vincenzo Pacella has been in touch for a while as he hacks away at a solution to connect Ableton Link to analog hardware and Eurorack. Now, it’s ready for prime time, as an inexpensive, easy-to-build, open source project based on Raspberry Pi. Jamming with Ableton Link is as easy as this: And then, all your analog gear can groove …

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