Category Archives: musical hacks

You Can’t Build A Roland TR-808 Because You Don’t Have Faulty Transistors

That headline sounds suspect, but it is the most succinct way to explain why the Roland TR-808 drum machine has a very distinct, and difficult to replicate noise circuit. The drum machine was borne of a hack. As the Secret Life of Synthesizers explains, it was a rejected part picked up and characterized by Roland which delivers this unique auditory thumbprint.

Pictured above is the 2SC828-R, and you can still get this part. But it won’t function the same as the parts found in the original 808. The little dab of paint on the top of the transistor indicates that …read more

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Posted in 2SC828, 808, drum machine, Ikutar Kakehashi, musical hacks, noise, noise circuit, roland, Roland TR-808, TR-808, transistor | Leave a comment

The Boldport Cordwood And Cuttlefish, Together As A Guitar Tuner

As regular readers will know, here at Hackaday we are great enthusiasts for the PCB as an art form. On a special level of their own in that arena are the Boldport kits from [Saar Drimer], superlative objets d’art that are beautifully presented and a joy to build.

The trouble some people find with some of their Boldport kits though is that they are just too good. What can you do with them, when getting too busy with hacking them would despoil their beauty? [Paul Gallagher] has the answer in one case, he’s used not one kit but two of …read more

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Posted in boldport, cordwood, cuttlefish, guitar, guitar tuner, musical hacks | Leave a comment

Let the Musical Instrument Challenge Begin!

Today is the start of the Musical Instrument Challenge. This newest part of the 2018 Hackaday Prize asks you to go far beyond what we’re used to seeing from modern musical instrumentation. Twenty entries will be awarded $1,000 each and go on to compete in the final round of the Hackaday Prize.

Imagine music without the electric guitar amp, violin, two turntables and a microphone, the electric drum pad, or in the absence of autotune. Maybe that last one made you groan, but autotune is a clever use of audio manipulation and when used to augment the music (rather than …read more

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Posted in 2018 Hackaday Prize, Hackaday Columns, musical hacks, The Hackaday Prize | Leave a comment

MIDI Association Releases Spec For TRS Jacks

The MIDI spec was released in 1983, and for more than thirty years every synthesizer, drum machine, and piece of computer hardware with MIDI has sported an enormous DIN-5 jack on the back. Why did they choose such a large connector? Well, MiniDIN connectors hadn’t even been invented yet, and today even MiniDIN connectors are rarely-seen, obsolete connectors.

In the last decade, MIDI has found its way into some very small machines. Those Pocket Operators have MIDI sync, you can control a Game Boy with MIDI using the right hardware, and the cute little Korg synths also have MIDI tucked …read more

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Posted in connector, midi, MIDI Spec, musical hacks, TRS | Leave a comment

Don’t Forget Your Mints When Using This Synthesizer

While synthesizers in the music world are incredibly common, they’re not all keyboard-based instruments as you might be imagining. Especially if you’re trying to get a specific feel or sound from a synthesizer in order to mimic a real instrument, there might be a better style synth that you can use. One of these types is the breath controller, a synthesizer specifically built to mimic the sound of wind instruments using the actual breath from a physical person. Available breath controllers can be pricey, though, so [Andrey] built his own.

To build the synthesizer, [Andrey] used a melodica hose and …read more

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Posted in arduino, breath, controller, instrument, mega, musical hacks, otamatone, pressure, sensor, shield, snythesizer, synth, wind | Leave a comment

OpenDeck Makes Spinning Your Own MIDI Controller Easy

These days, MIDI controllers are just plain cool. There are a million of them out there, and they’re all dressed to the nines in flashing LEDs and sporting swag like USB MIDI interfaces and sliders that just feel right. With our italics budget running out, I should get to the point – you can make your own, and the OpenDeck platform makes it easy.

In its most refined form, the OpenDeck is a board covered in pin headers. To these, you may connect an absolute truckload of buttons, encoders, sliders, and LEDs. The OpenDeck handles all of the inputs and …read more

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Posted in midi, midi controller, musical hacks, opendeck | Leave a comment

A MIDI Sequencer To Be Proud Of

MIDI sequencers are surprisingly expensive, making them an excellent target for [RH Electronics] who has created a sixteen-step device. It supports up to eight playable parts per step, which can be either MIDI or drum triggers.

The case and front panel are built to a very high standard, and on a piece of stripboard within lies an ATmega644 which does all the MIDI work, an ATmega328 that runs the many LEDs, and an ATtiny85 that reads the front panel buttons. The whole is kept in sync by a timer on the 644 set to produce the required MIDI clock. There …read more

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Posted in midi, midi sequencer, musical hacks | Leave a comment

DIY Talkbox Gives You More Bounce to the Ounce

Back in the 70s, you couldn’t swing a macrame plant hanger around a record store without knocking over numerous displays of albums featuring talkboxes. They were all over 70s music, kind of like how almost every 80s song has a sax solo and/or Michael McDonald on backing vocals. Not sure you’ve heard one being used? Trust us, you definitely have and just don’t realize it.

Talkboxes are essentially an amplifier and a speaker contained in a box. The speaker is the acoustic diaphragm type used in bullhorns and civil defense sirens. You run your guitar, keyboard, or electrified hurdy gurdy …read more

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Posted in high pass filter, musical hacks, robot voice, talkbox | Leave a comment

Cigar Box Synth is a Fun Time

It’s fair to say that the groovebox market has exploded. Store shelves are overflowing with the umpteenth releases from KORG’s Volca line and the latest Pocket Operators. These devices often feature a wide array of tones in an enticingly compact and attractive package, but is it possible to build something similar at home? As [lonesoulsurfer] relates, it certainly is.

The Cigar Box Synth is, well… a synth, built in a cigar box. Based upon a 555 & 556 timer, and a 4017 decade counter, it provides a wealth of beepy goodness all crammed into a neat wooden package. We dig …read more

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Posted in logic, musical hacks, syhthesizer, synth | Leave a comment

Monotron Gets All the Mods

[Harry Axten] turned the diminutive Korn Monotron into a playable analog synthesizer, complete with a full-sized keyboard spanning two octaves and a MIDI interface.

Korg Introduced the Monotron analog mini-synthesizer back in 2010. They also dropped the schematics for the synth. Hackers wasted no time modifying and improving the Monotron. [Harry] incorporated several of these changes into his build. The Low-Frequency Oscillator (LFO) has been changed over to an envelope generator. The ribbon controller is gone, replaced with a CV/gate interface to sound notes.

The CV/gate interface, in turn, is connected to an ATMega328P which converts it to MIDI. MIDI …read more

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Posted in korg, midi, monotron, musical hacks | Leave a comment