New sounds through malfunction. Open up an electronic device (such as kid's keyboard, cheapy drum machine, etc) and probe about making short circuits until the device starts garbling streams of new sounds. You can also add body contacts - metal bits (such as screws) that attach to points of the circuit and, when touched by fingers, create changes such as pitch bends and growls. If you really experiment you can also add extra electronic components such as resistors (especially variable and light dependent resistors), capacitors, etc.

There is a lot of info around on the internet (some links on the resources page), but the best way is just to get something and experiment (warnings: Only ever circuit bend battery powered devices and don't go trying an expensive bit of gear straight off because things can be broken).

Many of the techniques of circuit bending have filtered into the designs of BugBrand sound devices.

Jump to: Drum Machines, Texas Instruments (Speak & Spells etc)


Yamaha VSS30

The VSS30 is probably the best 'kiddie' sampling keyboard - it's features, even without circuit bending, provide a great instrument with 4 note sampling polyphony, looping (with loop length and reverse), ADSR envelope and various effects. All of these can be instantly assigned and modified.

These circuit bends only change the sampled voice, some permanently modifiying the sample (degrading it, chopping it, adding noise and distortion), while others are momentary effects.

All bends are achieved by attacking the sampling chip within the keyboard. This offers something like 100+ possible bends, so I selected the best ones and attached momentary buttons to them (you could use a patchbay instead). Because there isn't much panel space for mounting extra buttons, I chose to bolt an extra plastic case onto the side to house the buttons. I haven't done anything to make it look pretty yet..

Sound Example

Drum Machines:

Yamaha DD-6

Hyper-mods! When you start playing with the digital chips of drum machines there are SO many possible mods that you'd go mad trying to wire up switches for everything. So making a patchable instrument is the way. Where other people use phono or jack sockets, I prefer the quick&simple 4mm banana plugs (as used in my modular system) - they're really quick to use, cheap, colourful and it takes a fraction of the time to make the cables (no soldering and no ground connection).

This one has 27 connection points plus 4 momentary buttons for patching in. That makes for something like 13,745,882 possible configurations......

Yamaha TR505

Makes some good sounds but the really interesting/useful thing is that it has MIDI in/out so it can sync to other devices.

I wasn't all that methodical about choosing the bends - just attack the insides and messy/noisy sounds will result.!. The 6 switches are double-pole centre-off, so each one offers two different bends.

Realistic SessionMate

A cheesy drum machine with a variety of onboard backing tracks. With only two momentary buttons and a switch this machine has been transformed into something that spits out instant greatness ranging from Max Tundra style musics to minimal electronics and destructionary noises.

Sound Example 1, Sound Example 2

Yamaha DD-7 Super Session Player

My first drum machine, my first bending project, and still one of the finest (..dirtiest..) sounding machines I have modified. The internal sounds are a bit lame, but with the 6 switches and 3 momentary buttons, it is transformed into an evil and raw ripping machine.

Sound Example 1, Sound Example 2, Sound Example 3

Texas Instruments:

TI Speak Family

Speak & Spell, Super Speak & Spell, Speak & Maths and Speak & Read.
Each with a variety of bends including glitching, looping, pitching, plus reset and 1/4" jack output.

These were all modified, one by one over about a year, for Lars Westin.

TI Speak & Spell

Probably the commonest device for circuit bending, I've done a variety of these with mods such as pitch up & down, looping, glitches, body contacts, light dependents. There are always loads of possibilities within...

Sound Example 1, Sound Example 2, Sound Example 3

TI Speak & Maths

I've done a couple of these too and it seems to give better results than the S&S. Wonderful changeable rhythmic beats.

Sound Example 1, Sound Example 2, Sound Example 3

TI Touch & Tell

A much bigger device with interchangeable activity cards giving various ranges of words. Glitch and loop buttons mess the internals.

Sound Example 1, Sound Example 2, Sound Example 3
T&T All Black Edition - Sound Example 1, Sound Example 2