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The Snap-Together Studio: What littleBits Can Do Now

For all the power you might imagine of various tools, sometimes it’s combining simple devices that yields the greatest results. Our friend Chris Stack is no stranger to deep synths and powerful modulars. But he’s been doing inspiring things with the littleBits line of snap-together modules made with KORG – particularly now that they’re paired with modules for MIDI and CV. You might have seen some of these videos on (cough) other sites, while I was getting behind in my workload, but Chris has kept making more in the interim. He writes: “I was able to hook LittleBits into my …

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Tour the Wild, Modular Robotic Percussion of Bastl Instruments

Think of it as the real world interface for your Eurorack modular. The boys from Brno have been busy. After a range of desktop modules (one that continues to grow), they’ve quietly put together a complete modular system this year. With a bunch of new gear announced at the beginning of the year, you might have thought they were getting some much-deserved rest. Not so. Among other introductions this week, they have unveiled three modules that work with motors, and one that takes sensor inputs. Together, these can let your modular make stuff happen in the physical world. And they …

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The Saw Bench is a 100€ Analog Synth; Here’s What Its Creators Say

The list of inexpensive electronic instruments you can have for a little bit of change continues to grow. The Saw Bench, now on Kickstarter, is a 100% analog monosynth. You get one voice, one oscillator with modulation, in a box with some hands-on control via knobs and MIDI input (for notes and control). It’s so nice, and so cheap, that I had to go talk to its creators to find out the whole story. And that lead to a nice chap from the Netherlands by the way of Pieter van der Meer. I was especially confused about the price – …

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See the Exquisite Drawings Bob Moog Made of Prototypes, Circuits

We’re all touched by the musical inventions of technologists. But it’s something special to see those creations in their original hand. The Bob Moog Foundation has been posting circuitry, panel layouts, and prototype drawings made by Bob Moog (many in his hand) – and they’re beautiful. Don’t drink a lot of coffee before drawing plans if you want yours to look anything like this. You’ll see a range of creations – oscillator circuits from classic modular units, synth control panels, and even a percussion controller and tape heads. I’ve pasted a few here, but go to the Moog site for …

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Bleep’s Rad-Fi: Hackable, Bendable Synth and Effect on a Breadboard

How much freedom do you want when building things? You want the ability to experiment and make choices, but you also want the process of making to be easy enough that you can play. Bleep Labs last week introduced the first two kits in a series they’re calling Rad-Fi. The idea is, follow the instructions, and you can build a synth and an effect quickly by connecting parts on a breadboard. That makes kit assembly stunningly easy, because there’s no soldering involved. It also means it’s very possible to make modifications by snapping in additional parts, or, if you want …

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Put a Radio in Your Modular: Music Thing Radio Music

Once upon a time, musicians made music from the sound content pouring invisibly, inaudibly from the air. The likes of John Cage and Kalrheinz Stockhausen turned the radio into stochastic source and instrument, a means of making music in the now. And now, you can, too, in the latest Eurorack module. Whether you want a modular or not, this is one module you definitely don’t need. You don’t need to act out Cage-ian fantasies and turn your local hit FM station greatest tracks of the 80s and 90s into an experimental noise performance. Nor do you really need to understand …

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Perfect, Beautiful Music for Free From Erased Tapes [2014 in Review]

Erased Tapes was an endlessly inspiring label in 2014. With a singular, understated focus on quality and music orbiting the keyboard, the acoustic, and minimal post-classical introspection, they were a calming counterpart to the year’s steroid-pumped festival commercialism. And first and foremost, they were about records — not fancy design accessories, not “throw everything at a wall and see what sticks” experiments in distribution. (There’s a place for that, yes, but a record label about records was nonetheless refreshing.) And Nils Frahm was a consistent star amidst all of this, a favorite live performer cutting across genres, wrangling keys electronic …

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The Arcane Arts of Experimental Instrument Design: 3DMIN [Videos, Gallery]

From the dawn of civilization, musicians could always be counted on as the ones inventing the truly weird technologies to make noise. Here – bang on this. Blow into this. It’ll make some sound; it’ll be noisy; it’ll get everyone’s attention. And so, the art of such designs continues. New instrument design explorations have gone hand in hand with electronic music research from the moment electronics (and, eventually, digital technology) were capable of real-time performance. But if 3DMIN follows in the footsteps of those programs, it also seeks to intertwine questions about other fields and disciplines. And tonight in Berlin, …

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Mods Make The Moog’s Werkstatt Synth More Educational, More Fun

It began as an exclusive for a limited-edition workshop. But it’s turned into more. Moog’s Werkstatt synth is a lovely little analog synthesizer in its own right. But, driven by its educational mission, it’s also become a means of learning electronics. This is a synth you want to hot-rod.

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Lo-Fi SES Looks Like a Game Controller, Plays Like a Chip Instrument

What if there were a hacky, hackable handheld game platform – just for making noises? That’s what the Arduino-powered, Lo-Fi SES is all about. It’s basically a little 8-bit music toy, with a control layout borrowed from Nintendo of the past, but expandable, hackable, and open. The sound is very grungy and digital, but it all appears easy to play. The cutest touch: you expand the board with “cartridges,” add-ons that connect to the top to add functionality. “One”Final Sound Adventure” adds more sounds. “USB: A Link to the Hack” lets you program the board from your computer, using Arduino …

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