All posts by Hank

The Curmudgeon’s Corner #3 12.20.2010

By Hank The Curmudgeon

Greetings And Salutations! First off Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Wacky Festivus and/or anything else you can celebrate. Oh, if I don’t get #4 out by the end of year Happy New Year! May you have a safe and wonderful holiday season. Here’s hoping you get that soldering station or capacitor assortment you’ve been dreaming about. Now onto this episodes insanity…

Selected Videos.
“Miniature” Microtonal Udderbot & Dulcimer Duet

Frank Giorgini’s Udu Utar Played by Brian Melick. Thanks to Gene Barth for finding this video!

#11 Math.

Your generic ubiquitous Switchcraft #11 1/4″ Open Frame Mono Jack…shopped around on 11/26/10.

But Hank, you whine, why didn’t you note the prices on eBay? Because the jacks may, or may not, be available, shipping can be outrageous, I don’t want to wait 2+ weeks for Taiwanese post, I’ve seen the plating flaking off due to corrosion, etc. That’s why I didn’t list eBay…but I’m not ruling eBay totally out.
If ANYONE knows of better prices for Switchcraft #11’s PLEASE contact me! *We have some Plastic Stereo jacks in

DIY Heavy Metal. Go explore the individual instruments at:

Ballet Mecanique At The National Gallery Of Art

Interesting background material:

Ooo Shiny…Hi-Tech Shiny. @ “Only” $12,843.77 each we’ll take a dozen!

Urban Planning Meets A Music Sequencer?
Thanks to Chicago Buck for finding this. There is some very interesting potential for teaching musical theory and composition to someone who has no music background or training.

Can One Really Bend “Star Wars”?
Or at least use it as a sample source? Yes!!! If anyone follows through with this I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT!

Virtual Breadboard.
Sadly NOT a dynamic circuit simulator but still a neat idea. Plus it’s great if you need a graphic illustration in your handouts for a class!

Extra Credit: What circuit do I have loaded in this example?

$1.2M Accordioning Brass Musical Watch. Even if I had $1.2 M to waste I’m not so sure a watch, this or any watch, would be on the shopping list…

Performance: Catherine Brisset On The Cristal Baschet And Gilles Dalbis On Percussion. What? You don’t own a Cristal Baschet!

Nicely Done 555/556 Time Page. Good clear explanations of our little friend Mr. 555 and what he is capable of.

Jumbo Otamatone: DIY Seed? First watch the video:

Now, ignoring the silly giant musical note form factor, this would be an easy DIY project coupling either a DIY ribbon controller or a COTS ribbon potentiometer such as with almost any VCO or APC circuit. Now the question becomes what goofy package can you house this in to make a bunch of money.

After You’re Done With That Holiday Brew…

The Curmudgeon’s Corner #2 11.23.2010

by Hank.

Greetings and salutations!

Lot’s to talk about! MEECAS was a very cool event and I’m looking forward to next years. Oh, before I forget Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s get going…

Selected Video.

Part 1 of 3 – Harry Partch and his Strange Musical Instruments

Score V1.0!

Stupid cheap 1/8” x 6 ft. male-to-male patch cords. Like $0.60 each cheap! Other lengths available as well, look in left hand column. Cheap enough to snip one end off and make them into piezo leads.

Score V2.0!

Though I understand this was already covered at GetLoFi I had not heard about this so…$2 Saw 30 sec. Sound recorder: and a pro-fes-ional set of bending instructions: (Thanks to Tim T. @ phasor~ for pointing this out.)

Spirit Halloween Voice Disguiser Update.

Remember my previous column about the Spirit Halloween Voice Disguiser? Well one of my readers, Dave, took this and ran with it! From Dave:

“1/4″ audio in/out, pitch control, only what I can describe as a low pass filter-type effect, a flange-like effect (these are just descriptions, not technically what is taking place). And of course when you switch to different preset voices, the bends change. Beats are awesome through this thing. I utilized the resistors that I pointed out as well as a starve 10k pot to achieve some of the effects.”

Movin’ pic-turs with sound!

Well done Dave! And all crammed in a wart freezing kit storage box of all things! Dave will entertain questions regarding this project at davidhills at g mail.

Behringer FX600 Pedal Mini Review.

The instruction sheet says it better than I can: “This ultimate digital multi-effects pedal delivers 24-bit high resolution stereo effects including Flanger, Chorus, Phaser, Delay, Tremelo, and Pitch Shifter.” No too bad for something that costs $30 ( with free shipping) and fits in the palm of your hand. One particularly strong point is, with the stereo I/O jacks, the output can be looped back through the other channel to increase effect durations and overall sound mods. Downsides? Effect selection control labels are cramped and hard to read and it eats 9 volt batteries like mad. Buy the power adapter or make a regulated one yourself.

So just what do all these effects actually affect? The instruction sheet also provides a good primer:

Chorus: This effect slightly detunes the original signal. A very pleasant detune effect is created in connection with the pitch variation.

Flanger: Originally, the flanger effect was generated with two tape recorders running synchronously. The same audio signal was recorded on both machines. If you put a finger on the left spool of one of the machines, the spool and the playback speed are slowed down. The generated delay results in phase shifting of the signals.

Phaser: With the phaser, a second, phase shifted signal is added to the original audio signal. The resulting sound is thicker and above all livelier.

Pitch Shifter: The pitch shifter slightly detunes the audio signal.

Tremolo: The tremolo effect is achieved by periodic modulation of the input signal level. This results in a continuous change from low to high that lends a quivering, tremulous sound character.

Delay: A delay of the input signal with various repetitions.

Get it on Amazon for only $37!

Bridge Music.

What do you get when you attach a bunch of contact mics to NYC’s Hudson Bridge, proceed to pound on said bridge with mallets, sample and edit the result? Bridge Music! (Click on any of the file “MP3” icons and a pop-up window with a strange little player appears. Check ‘continuous’ to play all files in sequence.)


After listening to Bridge Music what other structures could be mic’ed and how different would the results be?

10 Questions With…

I met Adamon at MEECAS and was immediately impressed with both him and his gear. You can see and hear his uberneat gear in action at the following sites:

Marsynth on Youtube:
Marsynth on Flickr:
Adamon on Soundcloud (my solo performance):
Tensor Sensellation on Soundcloud (my duo performance):

Name: Adamon

Age: 26

Hometown: Lawrence KS

Years Performing Music: Lets say 2 (Does high school marching band count? If so then like 6…)

Q1: In you own words describe the type of music you make.

A1: Boiling it down to one word, I would say ambient. Boiling it down to a sentence, I wouldn’t know what to say really.  I play (and listen) to a little bit of everything, although recently, I’ve been doing a lot more dark ambient/drone type stuff.  I’ve had an addiction to modulated timbre for the past year or so, and it lends itself well to long, drawn out, darker pieces. I enjoy chopped up, noisy, buggy sounds as well, and I’ve always got a little bit of that going on as well.

Q2: Would you say your music is more bent circuitry/homemade stuff or conventional instruments played/processed unconventionally?

A2: Definitely a mix of both; I rarely use just one or the other.  When I’m playing or performing, there’s no dividing line in my head that says certain gear has to be used together or at a certain time; its all just about whats happening in the moment and where I want it to go.

Q3: Any influences that guide you what you build or how you play?

A3: As far as building is concerned, most of my influences come from people doing similar things to what I’m trying to do with marsynth: Tom B at Bugbrand, the Dewan brothers (Dewanatron), the guys at Folktek, Tim Kaiser, and others. I’m influenced by plenty of what I would call more “commercial” sources as well: Tony R of Makenoise, Gur M at Tiptop, and the common big names like Moog and Buchla for sure too.  As far as playing, I’m usually just influenced by whatever I’m currently listening to.

Q4: Do you have any formal music or tech based education?

A4: Yes and yes.  I had piano lessons when I was young, played trumpet through junior high and high school in band, and have been playing music on my own in various forms since then. No formal music training since high school though.  As far as the tech stuff goes, I have a BS in mechanical engineering (KU 2007) and am currently working on my MS in mechanical engineering as well (also at KU).  My background in electronics has stemmed from what I had as an ME undergrad and the rest has been all self taught.

Q5: Is there a DIY music scene in your hometown?

A5: There’s a little bit of a scene here, although its really kind of hard to tell.  I’m constantly running into people in the area that are doing things on their own with circuit bending, or building their own instruments, or just playing really weird stuff, but there really isn’t any mechanism in place currently to bring them all together.  I was in Chicago a few weeks back for the MEECAS event put on by the guys from Roth Mobot, and I talked with one of them, Patrick, about this a bit.  I was really impressed with the weekly event that he had organized there, and I mentioned I’d like to try and get something going around here as well. I’ve got a lot of motivation right now though, so hopefully I can get something going soon.

Q6: What is your favorite DIY instrument that you own or have played and why?

A6: That’s a tough call; it’s hard for me to play favorites. I built a grid sequencer over the summer that I was pretty proud of; it was inspired by the Rene sequencer that Tony from Makenoise came up with.  Its basically a 4×4 grid that takes two clock inputs and combines them to determine the x-y location in the grid.  It has eight outputs: four rows and four columns, and basically generates a bunch of control signal patterns and sequences.  There’ a bunch of information about it floating around in the diy forums if anyone’s interested.

Q7: Any unusual sources for parts and gear that you want to share with us?

A7: I don’t really use any thing too fancy part-wise in my stuff.  I suppose the most unusual parts of my creations are the enclosures.  I routinely visit all of the antique malls and thrift stores around here (or where ever I am) and keep them in short supply of things like old metal tins, cigar boxes, tool boxes, and other weird enclosure-like things.

Q8: Name five of your favorite bands.

A8: Again, its really hard for me to play favorites here… this would probably have to the hardest thing for me to come up with.  I often listen to new music only for months at a time, without re-listening to any one song more than just a few times.  For the sake of the question, I’ll just name five groups or individuals that I’ve listened to in the past few days:  AO, Lezrod, the Astro Boy, blindoldfreak (Alessandro Cortini), and Morton Subotnick (I am comfortable saying Subotnick is definitely an all time favorite).  (check out testtubenetlabel for the first three)

Q9: If you could have one piece of music gear [DIY or COTS] what would it be?

A9: That’s a tough one.  I am completely obsessed with everything buchla, so I’d be lying if I didn’t say a 200e system (or a 200 for that matter).  But I’ve always really been into Dewanatron’s stuff like dual primate console, so I’d take one of those for sure if it had to be a more diy-esque thing.

Q10: Any ideas how benders/DIY music makers can get a wide audience? Do we want to?

A10: Get out and start playing and meeting people; that’s what I’m doing right now, and coincidentally, that’s how I got this interview!  Circuit bending and diy instrument stuff is no different than any other art form, you just have to make yourself be seen and be heard.  Definitely support others who are doing things that you are into as well; we can all help each other out.  One other thing that I would say based off of personal experience is that the internet will not give you everything you need to succeed, whether that’s a large audience, or more sales, or whatever you measure of it is: going out to new places and talking with people face to face makes a huge difference.  That’s not to say that the internet isn’t an amazing tool that allows for so much communication; I’d truly be lost without it (sad to say), but the in-person stuff really goes a long way.  Plus its just fun to travel and see new things anyways!

Yabba Dabba PVC?

The Original, Low-Budget Harpejji Demo Video

Delia Derbyshire – Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO

If you watch Dr. Who you’ve heard her work. Thanks to Will S. for posting this on Facebook.

The Curmudgeon’s Corner #1 10.22.2010

Greetings and salutations! My name is Hank The Curmudgeon. Alex, who I’ve recently bombarded with e-mails about DIY music related stuff, finally threw his hands up and said “Hank, I’ve got no time to read the fluffy nonsense you send out! Would you be willing to put it in the form of a regular column in my blog here at GetLoFi?” Ha! That young man has no idea what he’s in for!

I am, by trade, an industrial maintenance mechanic and non-degreed mechanical engineer. I design, draft, weld, machine, fabricate, wire, bash and bend just about anything I can lay my hands on. I do some electronics work but I’m more inclined towards the mechanical than the electronics/programming side of things. About a year I joined Pumping Station: 1, a hacker/maker space located in here in Chicago. PS:1 introduced me to DIY music and homemade musical instruments. It has since become a passion…in one year I have built over eight musical instruments of my own design and divination.

In future columns, which I hope to post weekly or biweekly, based on the life, laziness and volume of material available, we’ll discuss things DIY musical I have found on the net, ideas floating around in my warped little mind, products I’m currently using, sources of things and stuff and questions that are on my list of wonderment. Occasionally I might post a project build for you to view. Circuit bending is cool but, in my book, it can’t beat a lathe and a milling machine!

We will start this week’s column with one of my favorite videos on the internet:

A few simple cans, some contact mics, a guitar effects pedal or 3 and off we go!

Question: What other common household items could be used to generate sound? Has anyone yet tried to contact mic an in-use toilet plunger using a waterproofed pickup?

Speaking of effects pedals I have become completely enamored with my Behringer FX600 Digital Multi-FX stereo effects pedal. At around $29 from Amazon and eBay you can do the following functions all in one box: FX flanger, chorus, phaser, delay (my personal favorite), tremolo and pitch shifter. It has two parameter pots and a level control. It’s nice having a stereo in/out capability in that you can jack into input “A”, take the signal from the output “A” and bring it back around to input “B” and finally take the signal away through output “B”. With the right parameter settings this can have the effect of doubling the depth of the effect with only one physical pedal. That being said I wanted more control and the ability to layer selected effect settings so I bought two more FX600’s. In a future column I’ll post a video demo to show you the FX600’s versatility.

On a related note I am a really big fan of Behringer and use their audio gear almost exclusively so you’ll be hearing quite a bit about them. (Full disclosure: I have no financial interest in Behringer nor am I sponsored by them.) Behringer gear is at an ideal price point for the DIY musician with a wide range of capabilities and features and quite decent sound. But enough product placement!

Discovery #1: Recently I had some 37 mm piezo disks that had to somehow fit into a 25 mm wide channel. Being that the local convenience store was surprisingly fresh out of piezo disks of an appropriate diameter I remembered something in an old e-mail exchange with GetLoFi and Tim Kaiser ( about how Tim accidentally cut a piezo in half with a table saw. I wondered if it would be possible to cut a piezo to the correct width and still have it function? My first attempt used a cutoff wheel chucked in a Dremmel rotary tool. The ceramic coating essentially shattered off. Getting rather desperate I took another disk and, using heavy-duty very sharp scissors, trimmed the disk to the size I needed. It worked! The secret is to think of the scissors as a pair of cutting edges with one edge, the bottom blade, as a stationary edge and the upper blade as the moving edge. If you lay the portion of the piezo disc that you want to eventually use flat onto the bottom stationary edge of the scissors and DO NOT LIFT OR MOVE THE DISC WHILE YOU CUT IT! That way the disc will not curl as it is cut and the ceramic coating will not chip off! I then immediately run a thin bead of crazy glue along the cut edges as a sealant to prevent the ceramic from any further chipping.

Discovery #2: I am sure you circuit benders are all familiar with the megaphone shaped voice changer toys that are available from various sources. I’ve seen them range in price from $10 to around $20. The other day I was in a ‘Spirit’ brand Halloween store, the kind of stores that pop up five weeks before Halloween in some vacant retail storefront, and saw that they had a voice changer box with a microphone on a wire lead for $9.99. Looking at the back of the package there was a logic table for the position of the switches in relation to the various voices they would create. Hmmm… identical to the logic on the megaphone shaped toys! Here we get our raw material in a nice black box with a built-in belt clip, no quirky megaphone shape. An on/off switch instead of an utterly useless trigger and a microphone prewired onto a cable! What more could a bender ask for? The speaker inside, which is conveniently 8?, sounds like crap but then the first thing we all do to it is put an output jack on the case. Here’s what they look like packaged:

And it’s guts:

Item last… What do you get when you combine the sounds of two distinctly different instruments and have them played, by the same person, at the same time? You get awesome!

Regards and make a thunderous racket!

Hank The Curmudgeon

Hank welcomes questions, comments and ideas at hkrishman at g mail and the google DIY Music group at