Synth DIY by fonik

close up
flickr photo be fonik2000

My electronics workstation in the garage has been closed for the winter due to extreme cold.  Not that I’ve had the time, anyways.  However, the temperature is on the rise, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.  The big goal I’ve set for myself is to make some of my very own eurorack modular synth units.

And perhaps by cosmic coincidence, a modular synth enthusiast, who goes by the name of fonik, commented on one of my flickr photos a couple of days ago.  This led me to his photos, which led me to  On his site, he shares in detail his custom modules and schematics.  Having a DIY guide to follow is exactly what I need.

“Rather a musician than an electronics engineer I was always looking for new sounds. This finally(?) let me to modular synth. Once I purchased some Dopefer modules for a modular guitar effect the plan rose to build my own modular synth… this was about 2 years ago and I never held an soldering iron in my hands before.”  – fonik

This is the position I’m in today.  The fact that he has been able to accomplish so much with in such a short period of time gives me hope that I, too, will be able to succeed in my modular synth building endeavors.

Build Your Own Alien Instruments

Build Your Own Alien Instruments

“We send probes into deep space to listen to alien worlds. But alien world’s aren’t always that far away.” – Reed Ghazala

I recently finished reading Circuit-Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments. This is probably the easiest, and quickest way to get you up to speed in the field of Circuit-Bending. Reed Ghazala, the internationally recognized “Father of Circuit-Bending,” provides a concise compendium of most issues that will arise during your alien spelunking adventures.

Is this book for you?

Depends. For myself, the book was absolutely worth it. My background is mostly digital. The text introduced me to very rudimentary skills required to build these instruments. Skills such as: soldering, quasi-electronics, drilling, painting, etc… If you can already do these things, even on a basic level, you might not get much from these chapters.

Where this book truly excels is Ghazala’s personal insight and experience. His writing is candid, humorous at times, and allows the reader to get a glimpse of how his thought process works. In many ways, this book is more than just a DIY guide. It is also about composing through the process of electronic experimentation.

In other words, good stuff.

Part of Get Bent.

My First Victim

first victim

The scene of the crime

I bent my first circuit this Saturday, with limited success.

The victim was a cheap-o $5 keyboard from walmart. Opening it up was as easy as removing the screws. What I found inside was very little in terms of electronic components. There were two long narrow boards that acted as the controllers for the buttons and keys. And then there was this tiny little square where all the “stuff” happened.

Connecting the limited set of dots I had to work with, I found three distinct circuit bending functions: The sound stopped, a popping sound came out of the speaker (which is bad), and the rate at which the samples played back increased by ten-fold. So I soldered a toggle to the only pair of interesting dots on the board. The end. Being useless, I’ll go back and reclaim my toggle.

What did I learn? Uninteresting toys can make for uninteresting bent instruments. Newer toys are probably much more efficient in design, thus having fewer circuits to bend. Don’t touch the hot part of a soldering iron.

Part of Get Bent

Hands on with a Soldering Iron


My first solder

Earlier this week, I stopped by my local Radio Shack and picked up a soldering iron, wire, and a stripper. Yesterday, I finally had a chance to use it when I pulled out an old PC modem card (for practice) and went to town.

I managed to solder six wire ends to random spots on the board. The reason I didn’t do more is because the room I was in clearly wasn’t ventilated properly (got a little dizzy.) The first thing I learned was that the gauge of wire I’m using is a little too thick, though still workable. Second thing was that it was easier to put some solder on the tip of the wire first, then place the tip on the spot I wanted it connected to, and then heat the wire, causing the solder to precisely melt into place. In the end, all my wires were attached well enough that I could lift the board. And none of my solder leaked into an adjacent point of electronic interest.

This weekend, I plan on setting up a space in the garage, so that I don’t have to kill as many brain cells next time. And so that I can finally take apart a toy instrument and play connect-the-dots.

Part of Get Bent.

Thumbuki Presents: Get Bent

Circuit Board

From what I’ve read, bending capacitors of this magnitude might blow your fingers off. Or at minimum, learn you real quick never do that again.

Love noise? Love toys? Perhaps circuit bending is for you./

To celebrate Thumbuki’s soft launch, we’re kicking off our our first original series: Get Bent

And by original series, I mean I’m personally going to be doing research on “circuit bending” over the next few weeks, and sharing my findings with you. I will post here the top relevant links, video, tutorials, historical accounts, etc, as I find them.

What is circuit bending? 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. “

Also check out this video example of circuit bending by James Anderson.

As for me, I have zero hands-on experience with electronics. Though I do have some familiarity with everything from modular synthesizers to Csound. So I plan on getting very used to the idea of holding a soldering iron in the near future. I will be reporting back to you all of my successes and all of my failures as I turn children toys into little electronic frankensteins. For art’s sake.