A Controller Love Supreme: Beautifully-Crafted Wooden Jazz Controller with Ableton Live

Nick Francis poses with his DIY, wooden controller – good enough for jazz. Photo: Justin Steyer for Seattle’s KPLU radio. In a world of disposable computers and electronics, making something “custom” is an antidote to throwaway hardware, a way of putting one’s own handiwork, care, and attention into the object with which you play music. Of course, it’s one thing to say it, and another thing to do it, but Nick Francis falls squarely in the “doer” camp. A jazz-focused radio broadcaster from Seattle’s KPLU, Nick says he’s been chopping up audio since he was doing it with razor blades …

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With Inventions Mechanical and Whimsical, Artist Ranjit Again Tackles an Instrument a Day

Like a fresh ingredient in food, sometimes all you need is a good idea. And whether your work is digital or analog, acoustic or mechanical, compositional or improvisational, sound artist and musician Ranjit Bhatnagar can provide ample inspiration. His best idea: forcing himself to come up with one musical idea a day for a month. Of course, having mad chops in instrumental invention doesn’t hurt. Ranjit’s creations are remarkable partly in that people can pick them up and play them as instruments, as with the 8-bit violin – a pixelated concoction of the lasercutter – seen at top in action …

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Glitch ‘n Grind: DIY Video Grinder Hardware Does Wonderful Things

Juergen Koppmann, Vienna-based digital media artist, shares his latest creation – “a video shredder live VJ box” that applies horizontal oscillations to “grind” and distort video signals. Specs: 3 horizontal line oscillators, triggered by 3 arcade buttons all 3 can be combined for line and color grinding of any video input signal. additionally voltage reducer from 9Volt (intern battery) down to 4,8Volt for more [destructive] artefacts. It’s a sort of video circuit bend, and it produces some really beautiful results. (At least I know I want one.) More samples below. These are just first tests; the box remains in development, …

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Glitch 'n Grind: DIY Video Grinder Hardware Does Wonderful Things

Juergen Koppmann, Vienna-based digital media artist, shares his latest creation – “a video shredder live VJ box” that applies horizontal oscillations to “grind” and distort video signals. Specs: 3 horizontal line oscillators, triggered by 3 arcade buttons all 3 can be combined for line and color grinding of any video input signal. additionally voltage reducer from 9Volt (intern battery) down to 4,8Volt for more [destructive] artefacts. It’s a sort of video circuit bend, and it produces some really beautiful results. (At least I know I want one.) More samples below. These are just first tests; the box remains in development, …

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paperrecordplayer

A Record Player Made from Paper, as the FlexiDisc Lives; Thanks Be to Pythagoras

It’s not in any way digital – we’re in paper and needle territory – but clever design transforms packaging and notecard into playable music device. Create Transducer Music, anyone? Designer Kelli Anderson concocted a novel approach to the wedding invitation for her friends Karen and Mike: turn the paper invite into a playable sound device. The couple even made and recorded their own song for the occasion. (The story of the individuals is worth mentioning – Karen advocates for the rights of makers and coders and Mike is a Grammy-nominated engineer.) The device itself plays music without electricity or circuits. …

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Kaleidoloops: Beautiful Box for Collecting and Layering Sounds by Critter and Guitari

In a week awash with new music gadgetry, Kaleidoloops are a reminder of the electronic musical object at its most basic. It’s a box for collecting and making sounds. The Kaleidoloop contains basic digital audio recording capabilities – 16-bit / 22,050 Hz mono WAV. You can now save those recordings on an SD card, with up to 32,000 tracks and – if you upgrade beyond the paltry included 256M card – hours of sound. What makes it interesting is its simple controls for manipulation. Knobs control speed and direction, and you can switch the speed control between a continuous mode …

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Hand-Built Bass + Ableton + SoftStep Foot Pedal: Diego Stocco on Playing, Recording Live

When it comes to playing a hand-built Fence Bass and recording it live, there aren’t hard and fast rules or techniques you have to follow. But musician, composer, and sound designer Diego Stocco can certainly make the mysterious timbres of his exotic instruments into evocative atmospheres. In “Dustland,” the performance and effects are all recorded live – no edits after the fact, no layering — and the results could take you to another world, planetary or psychological. To make all the real-time performance work, Diego combined his Fence Bass with a Keith McMillen SoftStep for expressive live foot control and …

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Lo-fi-Arduino-Guitar-Pedal

Handmade Effects, Grungy Goodness of the Gallolizer, and DIY Hardware FX

The Gallolizer is a handmade multi-effects sound mangler, an array of dirty, delicious sound-destroying effects in a single handcrafted box. It’s the work of a Spanish engineering and art collective called MP19, an Arduino-loving, free software-using, open source group of artists who turn those platforms into the kind of grungy sounds that make them happy. (And that, of course, is what it’s really all about.) But before we talk specifics, check out the video. We long ago departed the world of high-fidelity sound; this is digging your toes straight into the mud. I’ll wait. Got it? Good – now onto …

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handmade101010

New Year, New Handmade Music: Call for NYC, Austin/SxSW, the World

Pete Edwards of casperelectronics making some noise at Manhattan’s Culturefix in October. Handmade Music is our party for people who make things that make music. If you create your own musical tools – whether acoustic instruments and soundmakers, hacks, circuit bends, custom Pd and Max patches, electronics, or code – we want to hear from you. We’re looking for contributors in NYC, Texas, and around the world: Live acts and projects in New York Street team volunteers in NYC and to help organize and promote events in other parts of the planet Live acts and projects for a special South …

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wickslooper

Elegant, Simple Soundmakers Handmade by Brian McNamara

Dead-simple, focused on one task, the Wicks Looper reminds us why we liked looping. And I love the handmade gift case he made to go with it – an idea worth duplicating with other gear. All images courtesy Brian McNamara. For all that latest plug-in may perform every kind of synthesis ever, much of electronic sound boils down to a few basic techniques. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal of DIY electronics: it’s a chance to do less. What strikes me about Brian McNamara’s work is how elegant it is: simple boxes interconnect with basic functions. These are digital instruments …

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