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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software » Les Hall's Projects including eChucK
How to Build "The Brick" Music Synthesizer
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Inventor
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Joined: Oct 13, 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 1:12 am    Post subject: How to Build "The Brick" Music Synthesizer
Subject description: Discussion and instructions
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Some folks have expressed interest in owning a "Brick" music synthesizer just like the one I have. One person even said he's going to build a Brick for himself and inquired about buying some KS boards for it. So I figured it would be a good idea to start a thread on the topic and see if it draws involvement.

The Brick is a good little music synthesizer project because it runs on batteries and makes good quality interesting sound with only two circuit boards and a breadboard. I'm selling my Brick for $300, but you can build yours for $150 or lower by following and participating in this thread.

Another thing you can do with The Brick is customize it to meet your needs. You can use any number of BS and KS circuits in combination, mix and pan them, or run off of AC power if you like. The Brick is stackable on standoffs so you can expand it according to your needs.

So let's get started with the next post and have some fun making Bricks!

Les


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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
Posts: 5978
Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The Brick's architecture is very simple. A pair of 9V batteries supply power through an on/off switch, a Boolean Sequencer generates the sequence of notes, and two Karplus Strong boards form and resonate the sound.

Now as far as the physical geometry goes, you can do it with just two KS boards but that leads to a wire-filled tangle that can be as neat as possible and still be undesirable, so your best alternative is to use three KS boards. The third one stacks under the other two via standoffs and holds the battery, switch, optional power supply, and Boolean Sequencer breadboard.

Also you may want to think ahead and do an enclosure to protect the electronics. As a circuit designer who is mechanically declined, i just build stuff bare without enclosures though. I've given some thought of coating the boards with tool handle goop to protect them, but have never done so.

I'll post more design details later.

Les

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hendrixworkshop



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:27 am    Post subject: Thanks for the THREAD! Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks for starting this thread Les. I can't help but think you read my mind. I'd like to buy your finished product, and still might - but I love to build, and your brick is very intriguing and seems doable at my skill level (you might get quite a few questions now that you started this thread). I also love building or improvising enclosures, which is easier to design by building everything from scratch.

I appreciate your open learning platform approach. I wanna get a couple more boards from you now. I ordered parts enough for 5 KS boards.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:50 am    Post subject: Re: Thanks for the THREAD! Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

hendrixworkshop wrote:
Thanks for starting this thread Les. I can't help but think you read my mind. I'd like to buy your finished product, and still might - but I love to build, and your brick is very intriguing and seems doable at my skill level (you might get quite a few questions now that you started this thread). I also love building or improvising enclosures, which is easier to design by building everything from scratch.

I appreciate your open learning platform approach. I wanna get a couple more boards from you now. I ordered parts enough for 5 KS boards.


hendrix, with five cards you can use one for the supply and BS, then do to KS in series plus two channels of KS by itself. That would be one rockin' brick for sure. Remember to get standoffs that are stackable in some reasonable height such as 3/4" or so.

Start to think through the project at this stage, visualizing based on your current understanding, each of the building blocks of the circuit and their interactions. Sketch on paper or draw block diagrams or something like that, or just imagine it. Try to think ahead of what else you need to order to complete the build if anything.

You can also plan your first action while waiting for supplies, such as organizing the parts as they arrive into bins according to category and deciding what to solder first, etc.

I'll get the boards in the mail soon for ya, thanks a bunch.

Les

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hendrixworkshop



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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 5:04 am    Post subject: PCBs arrived yesterday Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Got the boards yesterday, all safe and sound. Thanks Les.

Should have all populated and ready to talk more in a couple of weeks.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

OK Hendrix, we'll continue when you are ready.

Les

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hendrixworkshop



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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:46 pm    Post subject:  Some questions... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Les,

I have some questions about the KS11. I have 4 boards (3 completely populated - except for R19, which I can't find / 1 populated, except for a 470pF & R34 Potwheel). It took me a little while to gather all the parts. As I waited, I was thinking about building the Brick.

The KS11 board looks real deep, as far as what it can probably do. I'm thinking that to get my head around the board, I want to build a proto KS11 Breakout box. I scored some Hammond enclosures real cheap - I think they are 4.5W x 4.5D x 4H. I turned it upside down and am using the bottom cover as the front panel. I'm floating the board by mounting the the pots through the panel.

As I look at the whole thread, I notice that Kevin (as far as I can tell) is one of the only persons to enclose the KSboard. I'm kind of lost, though, when looking through his list of pots and jacks.

kkissinger wrote:

"Thus far, my front panel will have:

Coarse VCO frequency pot
Fine VCO frequency pot
VCO FM attenuator pot
VCF frequency pot
VCF FM attenuator pot
Feedback pot
STIM attenuator pot (possible, not sure about this)

3 VCO FM jacks (one attenuated)
3 VCF FM jacks (one attenuated)
1 Stim input jack
1 Output jack

I will simply sum the additional CV inputs via 100K resistors."

I can see that the board mounted pots are the Coarse VCO frequency pot, VCF frequency pot, and the Feedback pot. I don't understand right off how to go about choosing pots for/wiring the Fine VCO frequency pot, VCO FM attenuator pot and the VCF FM attenuator pot. That also goes for the VCO FM jacks, VCF FM jacks and Stim input jack.

I'd like to have banana jacks for the breakouts so I can use this device in conjunction with the MFOS Mini-synth I'm building. I also have other devices that I broke out with banana jacks. Ultimately, I'd like to build two more of these boxes so I can link them all together as tabletop modules with the option to separate them for other purposes.

- I attached a marked up board layout...here are some questions:

-- WHere is R19? I could never find it.

-- What are the pads that have a rectangle drawn around it (in front of U3)?

-- I can't figure out what some of the single hole pad abbreviations mean. These are circled on the marked up board layout


Sorry for so many questions at once. I'm anxious to understand and implement this device in some musical pursuits.

Thanks in advance,

Andy


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2010 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Andy,

OK, here goes and sorry i haven't been too available, i'll try to be in the future. Um, well the coarse/fine is not necessary. It's a technique for hooking up two pots so that one acts as coarse and the other as fine. I would not complicate the build with this detail.

the square part is a decoupling capacitor, 0.1uF. The circled parts are test points that need no parts in them. You touch your probe to that point to make a measurement.

I like the idea of putting your ks boards in boxes with banana jacks and then jacking them together very much. I think that's an excellent way to build a mini synth.

Please continue with your adventure! Oh, and R!9 i don't have the docs with me to check right now, but you can ask in the main thread.

Les

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