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I built a synth– thanks for sharing your knowledge!
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cbfishes



Joined: Mar 01, 2015
Posts: 24
Location: Alto, Michigan

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 2:05 pm    Post subject: I built a synth– thanks for sharing your knowledge! Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A few months ago I got it in my head to try building a an analog modular synth. I'm not sure what made me think I could even build an oscillator– I had no electronics experience, no math skills (still don't), and no idea what a capacitor or resistor was (I do now).

I spent days and days on these forums learning from all you and taking ferocious amounts of notes– and somehow I managed to succeed.

I built a synth!

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

My soldering skills are terrible, the wiring is certainly questionable, and I'm sure any hardened electronics engineering types would wonder why I'd build such simple circuits... But it works! It makes wonderful noises!

Many of the circuits came from these forums, some came from random google searches, others from data sheets. It's a totally imperfect, totally playable musical instrument.

I'm not done by any means, but as I just filled the last slot in my second 6U case I thought this would be a good time.

It's true I'm more proud of this creation than anything I can think of. That said, I want folks with zero experience to see this. People who want to build things that make noise but think they can't for any number of reasons.

YES YOU CAN!

I used plywood, wire taken from a broken TV I found in the woods, nuts and bolts, cut up speaker cable, a shotgun shell, sharpies, and any number of other found items. I probably spent about $100 on this, not counting all the other ICs and components I purchased along the way. I have absolutely no idea about any equations– heck, I can't even do times tables– and for the most part, I am clueless to how each of these circuits work. It's not that I'm proud of my ignorance; I just want to share that is absolutely possible to build something like this starting with no knowledge whatsoever. I'm sure eventually I'll learn how this stuff works, but for now, I'm just happy to hear what it does.

I spent a ton of time teaching myself to read schematics and understand just enough to get by– and my message is if you're thinking about doing it– do it!

Thanks to everybody in these amazing forums, especially PHOBoS for all the tips (like not running 10V through caps only rated for 6.3V)!

I wrote much more about it here:
http://cb.hopto.org/cbfishes/2015/05/04/a-tour-and-performance-of-my-diy-modular-synthesizer/

Here's a post from a couple days ago, this one has a bunch of audio clips (scroll to the bottom):
http://cb.hopto.org/cbfishes/2015/04/27/what-is-a-modular-synthesizer-and-why-build-one-plus-how-does-it-sound/

...and here's an impromptu video of me playing it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cug49UoP1qk/

And some more pics.. I love how it looks. It's DIY, lofi, and proud of it.

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

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Music/fishing/adventures blog CB Fishes



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Blue Hell
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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Great! Congrats Cool Nice that it has a ribbon controller too.

The pre-amp is for feeding it live signals .. like say guitar? Looks like a nice set of modules to me.

Edit: just listened to the youtube thing, sounds good Smile

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Last edited by Blue Hell on Tue May 05, 2015 2:21 am; edited 1 time in total
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cbfishes



Joined: Mar 01, 2015
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Location: Alto, Michigan

PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The amps are in there because when I finally got a 741 to work I went a little crazy and just made a bunch. But I do I plug my rhodes into the various preamps and it sounds awesome!

Plus, some of the modules seem to work better when there is an op amp in between them.. I think that's the whole buffering thing. I have a lot to learn!

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PHOBoS



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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

wow! looks awesome and sounds good too! well done.
Reminds me that I still need to make me one of those simple tunable keyboards someday.
And as I said before I really like the DIY look of it Very Happy
(too bad thoses vines don't seem to work for me)

a Sample & Hold might be a nice addition (and maybe a gate sequencer).

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sneakthief



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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

This is simply awesome.

To build all this in such a short period is a testament to the diy spirit.

Keep it up and be glad you were able to achieve so much so far. I'm certain you've already learned a tremendous amount so don't sweat the technical details. Those will come with time and experience.

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creekree



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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I love it!
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cbfishes



Joined: Mar 01, 2015
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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 4:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks all!!

Yes I have learned a lot... I don't look at traffic lights, car blinkers, radios, computers, etc in the same way anymore. I have a very tiny inkling of how they might work. It's an amazing feeling!

PHOBoS- totally! I keep a list of the modules I want to build, and they definitely include a gate sequencer and a S&H. For the gate sequencer I just need to order a bunch of switches (unless I can figure out some way to make them with paperclips or something). For S&H I haven't found many circuits that don't intimidate me. I did find a couple that use a 13700, which I purchased and am planning to breadboard.

I can't thank you all enough... It would be easy for you all to do your awesome DIY stuff and keep it to yourself, but instead, you share with all of us! It's generous and liberating.

There's no question I am totally infected with the DIY bug. I used to have a list of all the crazy devices I wanted to buy; now I have a list of all the crazy devices I want to build.

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 4:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
For S&H I haven't found many circuits that don't intimidate me. I did find a couple that use a 13700, which I purchased and am planning to breadboard.

http://electro-music.com/forum/post-394646.html#394646 Wink

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cbfishes



Joined: Mar 01, 2015
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Location: Alto, Michigan

PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Whoa– sweet! That isn't very intimidating. Thanks!

In that circuit... I'm guessing the 4066 is the switch, but I don't quite get what the 4093 is for. I've been doing research and found some simple S&H circuits that use 2 op amps with a switch in the middle (sort of looks like your circuit).

I've read that transistors can be used as switches.. Do you think it's possible to stick a transistor in there instead of the 4066?

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

going from left to right:
The transistor works as an input buffer which makes it possible to use a wider range of voltages but it also inverts.
The capacitor turns the gate signal into a very short pulse (sample time) and the NAND turns this into a very nice
square (schmitt trigger) and it also re-inverts it. The switch is than used to charge the capacitor to the input level
(in my case the output from a noise generator) which is buffered by a high impedance opamp to prevent
the capacitor from getting discharged by whatever you connect to the output.

A standard transistor wouldn't work but a Field Effect Transistor (FET) would and is usually used. But they
are slightly more difficult to control and apparently are getting obsolete. And since I needed 4 Sample & Holds
the 4066 was perfect. Keep in mind that my version only works with positive CV signals. Actually it could
work for both positive and negative signals but you'll need a dual supply and the maximum voltage for CMOS
is 18V so that would be +/- 9V max!

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cbfishes



Joined: Mar 01, 2015
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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 9:51 am    Post subject: More audio/video demos Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Dude... what a great explanation. I do actually have a dual supply- ±9V actually, I might just have to breadboard this up! Looks like I'll be adding some 4066 switches to my next Mouser order.

This morning I recorded some video of 11 different patches on the synth. You can get some cool sounds out of this! Things like theremin-like sounds, drones (of course), acid basslines, arpeggios (not actually arpeggiated, but sequenced), cowbell, etc. Here's the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=211&v=fezOU2SQVWQ

I'm so friggin excited!! I've already started to use this on tracks and it really adds a great analog flavor.

Also, after spending so much time with my synth, a Moog filter sounds sterile and clean!! Granted, the filter I built is sort of out of control, but oh man do I love it. Building stuff is fun.

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isak



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PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2015 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi there Smile

Grate job my friend.
Complex simplicity at its best, your modular rocks!

Cheers,
Isak E.

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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

wow! Looks great. Congrats. Bravo.

props wave wow!

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cbfishes



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PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2015 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks everybody!

It's still growing; I have a lot of modules in the works (VCAs, more EGs, S&H, some 40106 808-style noise, twin-t 4069 BD and other perc...) I just added another 6U 19" case and an "external input" module. I discovered that if I generate some clicks in Max for Live on my computer, I can send them into my modular through a pair of op amps and use that to sync everything.

Even cooler, I can plug in an iphone and grab triggers/gates from any audio. It's especially cool to modulate an oscillator with a track right off Pandora, then mix the original sound in with the oscillator. Sure you can do that in software too, but wow this is way more fun.

Here's a quick Vine of a "CV" generator iphone app running gate and sequencer:
https://vine.co/v/eKztqOiYTH7

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PostPosted: Sat May 16, 2015 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Congratulations! Let me just say that if you started out with parts from old TV sets, then you are in plenty good company.

Ian
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PostPosted: Sun May 17, 2015 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Wow, I'm extremely impressed! I've been at it for more like 6 months or so now and don't have anywhere near as much done. And I have some experience building circuits! The aesthetic is cool, too.

Oh also, the alligator clip / bolt setup is hilarious, I love it! Especially the ground wire clipped to your wedding ring Smile
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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

@cbfishes: Can you post some info and or schematics on the keyboard? I'm interested in trying something similar.
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cbfishes



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PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2015 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
Wow, I'm extremely impressed! I've been at it for more like 6 months or so now and don't have anywhere near as much done. And I have some experience building circuits! The aesthetic is cool, too.

Oh also, the alligator clip / bolt setup is hilarious, I love it! Especially the ground wire clipped to your wedding ring


Thanks! Yeah I tend to go with the first solution I think of. I'm not entirely sure if there are any long term effects of 9V flowing through my body while I play my synth, but it works! Maybe that's the definition of a "hack."

The alligator clip + bolt thing is totally stolen from PHOBoS! It's a brilliant idea, so simple, so cheap. I love it! I find myself very often clipping 4-5 clips to one bolt. Much simpler than dealing with stackable plugs or whatnot.

Quote:
@cbfishes: Can you post some info and or schematics on the keyboard? I'm interested in trying something similar.


I don't have any schematics (except the one I think I drew in my notebook)– I had an idea for a keyboard like this and found this:
http://www.cgs.synth.net/tube/controller.html

That circuit has some cool features like sample and hold, but I wanted to stay super-duper simple. I'll see if I can snap a pic of my schematic and post it here– it's basically that CSG schematic with no op amps. I don't remember how I did the "gate" output– I think I tapped the first pin on each of the potentiometers so when the "key" circuit completed, the full 9V flowed through that first pin.

I'll tell you what– it really works great for such a simple circuit! The only problem I have is using soda can metal for the keys. Boy it's hard to solder to that! What I really need to do is get some scrap metal and swap it out. But for now, this is a great way to play melodies without having to deal with exponential response.

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PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2015 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yeah, I'd like to see how you did gate. I ran into that circuit before but forgot about it. Aspects of it I understand. I don't exactly get the trigger part and I'd want to cut that out anyway. I wonder if I could eliminate the JFET & the op amp buffer in front of the trigger and still have it work... I might try to experiment with this and see.
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PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2015 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Here's a quick pic of my messy circuit–

Basically, an alligator clip connects directly to 9V. When the clip touches one of the "keys," it sends voltage to two places: a 1M pot and a "gate bus." I stuck diodes between the key and and "gate bus" because it didn't work without it (not sure why).

The voltage coming out of the 1M pot is variable (because it's a pot!) and that goes through a diode, which then gets summed together to the "CV output." If I clip the 9V to my wedding ring I can touch the keys (much less voltage goes through) to play notes or whatever. I think I put 1k resistors on the outputs.

Hope that makes sense!


16498_10103107171919482_2557363116834631295_n.jpg
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Arbitrary voltage stylophone-style keyboard
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16498_10103107171919482_2557363116834631295_n.jpg



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PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

cbfishes wrote:
The alligator clip + bolt thing is totally stolen from PHOBoS!
so that's why I'm missing all those alligator clips, can I have them back please ? Laughing
It's not my idea btw, I don't know where I first saw it probably, some circuit bend stuff, but yeah it works great.
And It's small, cheap and as you mentioned very easy to clip a couple of leads to one point.
You could add some to the keyboard aswell (parallel to the keys) so you can sequence it with some LFOs.

btw is that filter you used on the Acid bass sequence the vactrol one ? it sounds great! Razz

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cbfishes



Joined: Mar 01, 2015
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Location: Alto, Michigan

PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
so that's why I'm missing all those alligator clips, can I have them back please ? Laughing


Sorry PHOBoS, I've recently discovered that I can never have enough patch cables... I NEED THEM ALL! The best part about the alligator clip thing is I can buy them at my local grocery store in the "electronics" aisle for a similar price as Mouser!

Quote:
btw is that filter you used on the Acid bass sequence the vactrol one ? it sounds great! Razz


Thanks! It is indeed the vactrol one– thanks so much for the link/schematic. It is really a great circuit. Definitely a different sound than a Moog or MS20-style filter... MUCH wilder. Now when I hear "regular" filters they sound timid. It self oscillates with the pot at about 2 o'clock! Of course I can't modulate the filter at audio rates due to the vactrols, but all in all it's a wonderful filter.

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