Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Johnny Marr in "The Story of the Guitar"

Alan Yentob's 3 hour series The Story of The Guitar has been simultaneously fascinating and irritating. Fascinating because there are plenty of great stories and interviews along the way, and irritating because it's the same old Great Men of Rock as ever: music history as written by Q Magazine.

Monday, October 27, 2008

7 things I learned building my first DIY stompbox

I just finished this very crude and not entirely DIY analog delay pedal. I didn't do any of the difficult circuit-building bits, I just re-housed a MODboard analog delay circuit in a big 1790NS box with some modifications. Here's what I learned along the way:

1. If you don't have the knack, soldering is a nightmare. Once you have the knack, it's really easy. 'The knack' for me was nothing to do with technique - it was just making sure they tip of the soldering iron was clean. I used Multicore Tip Tinner, a little tub of evil-looking grey stuff from Maplin. Grind the hot iron tip into it, and it comes out all shiny and silver and healthy looking. Then keep cleaning the tip with a damp sponge.

2. Drilling big holes in aluminium boxes is easy and fun if you have a step drill. I bought this scary looking Irwin Unibit 4mm-12mm, which made neat, quick, easy holes for everything I wanted - an LED, switch, footswitches, pots, 1/4" sockets. I just used a normal cordless drill.

3. Even with negligible understanding of electronics, it's easy to modify circuits to be more fun. I added the two momentary switches and the on/off LED just by poking wires into the circuit to see what happened.

4. The only difficult bit is planning. I didn't think to leave space for the pots and the jack sockets around the back. There's plenty of room, but I was fired up to drill some holes so I didn't work out where everything would go. It's fine now with a bit of fiddling and clipping spare plastic off the sockets, but probably doubled the time the project took (to about 3 hours, excluding shopping).

5. There's a lot to buy: now I have a soldering iron, a step drill, a glue gun, a multimeter... my next project will be much cheaper.

6. It's not cheap if you buy everything individually from Maplin: There are £12 worth of foot switches in this box.

7. It's very gratifying to slay a few demons (like soldering and drilling big holes in metal) and then end up with a solid, cool-looking thing that works, doesn't rattle, is unique and makes stupid noises. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SH Stompin' Bass: a real wooden stompbox

Tom writes to let me know about the Shadow Electronics SH Stompin' Bass, a miked up bit of wood for those times when tapping your foot isn't loud enough. It has active electronics and needs a 9v battery to work. Tom is sceptical, saying: "Cheap mic and a bit of wood perhaps? total cost...about a tenner", but Shadow reckon "Made out of chosen rosewood which is often used for high class bass guitars the Stompin’Bass works as a fantastic bass or bass drum accompaniment to your acoustic band." Acoustic?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gijs Gieskes beautiful spinning photoelectronic acid machine

The first few minutes of this great clip are a bit warble-warble blah-blah, but about 2 minutes in it kicks off into crazy acid noise. Full details of the box are on Gijs' site, including a PHP tool to design and print spinning disks according to the frequencies you've chosen. Love the highres pics of the box, complete with a hand-drawn, hand-etched circuit board...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sasha Frere-Jones on Timbaland

Great line from Sasha Frere-Jones in last week's New Yorker: "When you hear a rhythm that is being played by an instrument you can’t identify but wish you owned... you are hearing Timbaland"

Monday, October 6, 2008

Music Thing readers buy the coolest things

I've been running eBay affiliate links on Music Thing for a few years now, but only recently got into the eBay developer API enough to see what people actually buy after clicking on MT links. As I was fiddling with the system, it produced a very boring list of items - just random... stuff. It was a bit disappointing, because I'd hoped that Music Thing readers had better taste. THEN, I fixed the code and the real list appeared, together with a huge smile.
Here's a fairly random selection of MT purchases from the last few months (the links will die out if you're reading this in the future):

1. Moog Liberation keytar, complete with rainbow strap

2. 360 cannisters of nitrous oxide, for an enthusiastic chef, obviously

3. Maestro 'Rhythm Jester' vintage drum machine

4. Metal guitar pick made from an old Tanzanian coin

5. A dollar bill with Hank Williams' face on it

6. A musique concrete LP recorded by members of Paul Revere and the Raiders

7. A Suzuki Omnichord in brown, of course

8. Steampunk goggles with cracked lenses

9. A sealed tin of tobacco from the early '70s, made in Britain

10. A 150 year-old ring, a Victorian memento mori with a skeleton on it

The list goes on, endlessly cool, through 3D lenticular postcards and a vintage Steinberger guitar and a CNC router and afrobeat twelves and Eames furniture and a Tablebeast SK1 and Korean soft porn and 1920s sheet music and Cuban maracas and MegaDrive games and Doepfer modules and Black Sabbath t-shirts and on and on. In fact, in the whole list of 100+ items, the only real embarrassment is one Jamie Cullum CD. You know who you are...
ps: I know this post is a slightly strange invasion of your privacy. If I've linked to something you bought and you'd rather I didn't, just let me know and I'll take it down.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Behold the mighty Phantastron tube synth kit

I'm indebted to Deviant Synth for news of the Phantastmatron tube synth kit. It's a relatively simple $195 build-it-yourself kit to build a complex playable tube oscillator, based on WWII era Navy radar circuitry. The kit illustrated by a series of increasingly awesome videos: Building the circuit board, playing with a ribbon controller, and - seen on the right - processing voice.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The bearded music gear bloggers are talking on Twitter

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It's like we're really here... Dynamic picture via Saytweet.com, image via Seven Woods Audio.

TV On The Radio's awesome vectorscope video

Nick writes: "TV on the Radio has a great video posted to their MySpace page. It sounds like a song composed of one synth track and looks to be run through an oscilloscope. I could be wrong about that. I can't tell what the hardware is. Anyhow, beautiful video. While I was watching I thought to myself, "I wonder why I'm not watching this on MusicThing"? I think it's a vectorscope - one commenter suggests from an SSL 9000. Anyone know more? Anyone willing to buy TVOTR a decent video camera?
UPDATE: It looks a lot like a DK MSD200. Thanks, Kåre.