In anticipation of the Circuit-Bending Challenge later this month, I’ve rounded up a few great resources to inspire and inform those of you who’d like to get started in the wonderful world of Circuit Bending.
First: according to Wikipedia:
Circuit bending is the creative short-circuiting of low voltage, battery-powered electronic audio devices such as guitar effects, children’s toys and small synthesizers to create new musical instruments and sound generators.
Second: It’s quite easy and fun, and you’ll be able to produce interesting results very quickly.
Third: To kick things off, I’m going to defer to the esteemed Reed Ghazala, considered by many to be the Father of today’s movement. Y’know, like how James Brown is the Godfather of Soul?
The circuit-bent instrument, often a re-wired audio toy or game, is an alien instrument: alien in electronic design, alien in voice, alien in musician interface. Through this procedure, all around our planet, a new musical vocabulary is being discovered. A new instrumentarium is being born.
Reed has an extensive primer on the science and art of circuit bending. He lays out some safety guidelines, tool recommendations, principles to follow, and his site has many fine examples of “finished” products.
Getlofi.com is an ongoing chronicle of interesting bent projects, innovative techniques, performance videos, and interviews with benders around the world. A must-read.
Make Magazine’s Bre Pettis has a fun video tutorial on circuit bending with Justin Gerardy : link. They highlight a good technique for exploring possible bends using just your fingers.
A host of links related to circuit bending, including how-to’s, examples, and discussion groups can be found at Cementimental‘s resources site.
John Hollis has some good tips for interesting bends, including advice on how to create audio loops and how to alter a circuit’s internal clock.
And, if you’re not itching to fire up your soldering iron yet, here are a few inspirational videos of completed projects. Some are simple, some quite complex, but they all start with the desire to play and experiment:
Here’s a simple toy with a pitch/speed shift bend connected to a photoresistor for light-controlled tweaking:
This is a nice modification of a “talking” toy:
In this video the bender added an extra circuit to the toy, in this case an oscillator, to control some of the functions:
Lastly, here’s a project I did last year- attaching a “christmas light timer” to a toy drum pad, thereby “automating” the drum hits into a sequenced pattern:
Other stories from CDM on circuit bending