Where to start?

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illway
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Where to start?

Post by illway » Sun Dec 19, 2010 5:08 am

Hey guys, I'm a second year electrical engineering student. I've always had an interest in electronic music and synthesizers but I've never known how to go about learning more. Some of my courses have/will relate to the topic at hand but I'd like to get my hands dirty with electronics and try to make or do something.

What would you recommend I start with? Any books, kits?

Honestly I just want to make a sound. Anything. I'm not looking to produce any specific form of music at this point. I'd like to build something relatively simple, hear something, turn some nobs, and hear something different.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sun Dec 19, 2010 6:13 am

Check out the Weird Sound Generator by Music From Outer Space. It's a DIY kit thing that makes, well, I'll let you figure it out. I've found that I learnt a lot more from making stuff and doing things than from reading about it in books, but you might be different. Also making stuff is more fun generally. If you want something a bit more complex then maybe check out the MFOS Sound lab ultimate.

If you think you might end up wanting a bigger system you might want to check out the Blacet DIY modules as well, they make some pretty incredible stuff in kit form.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by Hybrid88 » Sun Dec 19, 2010 6:24 am

Also look into the x0xb0x, a fair bit more complicated than the WSG but a really good kit 303 clone :)

http://www.ladyada.net/make/x0xb0x/

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Re: Where to start?

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sun Dec 19, 2010 7:49 am

As much as I like my x0xb0x, it's about as far from:
illway wrote:Honestly I just want to make a sound. Anything. I'm not looking to produce any specific form of music at this point. I'd like to build something relatively simple, hear something, turn some nobs, and hear something different.
as I can imagine. All it can do is sound like a 303.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by tekkentool » Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:06 am

Check out yusynth.org for a bunch of good and free modular synthesizer module plans.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by Hybrid88 » Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:38 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:As much as I like my x0xb0x, it's about as far from:
illway wrote:Honestly I just want to make a sound. Anything...
as I can imagine. All it can do is sound like a 303.
Really Stab, that's not applicable? :?

To the OP, MFOS is a great place to start, the x0xb0x is limited soundwise, but I only offered it as an alternative to the usual modular DIY offerings.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by rschnier » Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:28 pm

illway wrote:Some of my courses have/will relate to the topic at hand but I'd like to get my hands dirty with electronics and try to make or do something.
Hey, welcome to the forum!

First, I want to highly commend you on your plans to get into actually building some stuff. It's a trait that unfortunately seems to be rare in EE students (or at least it was when I was an EE major some years ago -- out of a class of over 500, there were maybe 3-5 of us who built projects as a hobby outside what was required in one of the course labs...). The effort you invest in this will pay you back many times over, besides being fun.

Anyway, google "vco circuit" and you'll get a lot of useful hits -- there's tons of stuff available on the internet. I came across this site that looked pretty good (look under "waveform generating circuits"). Use a prototype breadboard to try out various circuits without having to solder and unsolder. For power, you can use batteries, or purchase a small variable-output power supply (or build one).

To hear what you're producing, use a resistive voltage divider on the output to get the voltage down to about 1 volt peak-to-peak, and run that through a 1uF capacitor into the AUX input on your stereo (if you have one) or the input of your computer multimedia speakers. (Turn the volume all the way down at first!)

Have fun!
-- R.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by nathanscribe » Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:59 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:Check out the Weird Sound Generator by Music From Outer Space.
Yep, looks like a good one, and I was going to suggest something similar as CMOS can be pretty handy. I'd also say try some 555 oscillator circuits. You can make plenty of things with just a couple of op-amps; I started with some circuits out of (probably OOP) books published by Bernard Babani but I'm sure there are similar volumes still around in various parts of the world.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by rschnier » Sun Dec 19, 2010 10:25 pm

Hey, that MFOS website in general looks pretty interesting. Good stuff!
-- R.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by Shreddie » Mon Dec 20, 2010 1:10 am

Paia may also be worth a look.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by rschnier » Mon Dec 20, 2010 3:54 am

Yes indeed, Paia is a good source to check out also. My first synth back in 1977 was a P4700-J kit. Looks like the company is still doing well...John Simonton, RIP.
-- R.

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Re: Where to start?

Post by Hybrid88 » Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:11 am

This is another good site for synth DIY;

http://www.cgs.synth.net/

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Re: Where to start?

Post by Cerebral Infect » Wed Dec 22, 2010 6:07 am

If you can get your hands on an old commodore 64, I would recommend the midibox SID project. This is the project I had the most fun to build. It will also gets you on the digital control aspect of the synth (as the SID chip is a synth on a chip)

The x0xb0x is nice too, but sourcing the part is actually the hardest part of the project. The rest is soldering as per the instructions.

The Paia Fatman was the first synth project I started to assemble. And at that time, it was a failure because I didn't had the knowledge do identify what was causing a bleedthrough of the digital signal into the analog circuit.

If you want to really understand synth circuit, I would go for the Paia Modular Synth. It is modular, so the sub-section of the synth are pretty much Isolated from one other, therefore, easier to learn.

The Shruthi-1 is next on my list of things to build. It even offers a special board where you can try to do you own filter curcuit.

Looking at DIY guitar stompbox can also help you in circuit design.
Minimoog Voyager, Pulse 2, MS-20 Mini, Bass Station 2, Virus TI,DSI Mek, DSI Prophet 08, Nord Modular G2, x0xb0x, MB-6582, Sammich FM, Shruthi XT, Juno 106, S90ES, TX81Z, DM10X e-drums, Rocktron Banshee, Dr-110 and too many VSTs.

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