my diy instruments

dual microphone from an old telephone

phone mic front

I made a mic from a telephone, again. Not a new concept, I know, but I used both parts (actually I replaced the broken mic with an in-ear earphone speaker). I was inspired to do this because in Korea, where I live, vintage phones cost $60+ because cafes and coffee shops like to display vintage things, so when I found this randomly in a trash pile while walking the streets of Woodstock, Cape Town, I just had to do it, and add volume control. 20 years ago I made a more basic one, but that was because I was in a punk band and I could not afford a mic. there is a small sample of it at the end of the video.


noise box closeup

this is a thing that works on the same principles as guitars. the box resonates just like an acoustic guitar would. a piezo mic (most commonly used as pickups for acoustic guitars) picks up the vibrations of the box as the attachments make it vibrate. vibration is sound. the attachments can be anything. you are limited only by your imagination. i used steel wire of two different thicknesses, and coiled some up in different sizes to have different tones. a heatsink can provide many different sound textures. some are similar to the sound of scratching. and the wires sticking out on the side looks like it might be a kalimba, but each one has a very different tone and pitch. every noisebox is different. the sound depends on the size, the type of wood, and the endless option of attachments.

electric bass canjo

a canjo is a 1-string instrument that is similar to many traditional instruments. instead of a conventional bridge, a canjo has a can that resonates. a pickup can be added, but it isn’t necessary. it is important to use only electric guitar strings when adding a pickup. if no pickup, fishing line, cotton twine, whatever you have on hand. for mine i added a bass string, and a diy pickup.

my own homemade pickups

the first pickup i made is fitted on the bass canjo. it is basically just 10 meters of 0.9mm copper wire coiled around a steel bolt, between two plastic sheets, and a magnet on top of the bolt. i use 0.9mm wire because it has a bit more of a lo-fi sound, but more importantly, the conventional copper wire used for pickups break too easily as it is very thin and fragile. i have also made an even bigger pickup that will hopefully pick up the vibrations from further away. the coil of the first one is about 13mm in diameter while the 2nd is more like 25mm. 

circuit bent toy phone

it’s a regular toy cellphone with the most basic circuit board i have ever seen. all the number buttons press directly on the resistor, a single very long resistor. there are no switches, and no resistors to replace. this means no pitch bending or anything that makes circuit bending fun. however, shorting the resistor does create some glitchy sounds. i run it through reverb, delay, and distortion pedals. 

obscene extreme noisebox

this device includes a bunch of homemade springs of different gauges and lengths, a heatsink, and a detuned saw blade kalimba. inside the somewhat traditional Korean ornamental box are three piezo pickups with one being right in the middle of the lid. i wanted to add some strings on the side but I have not yet been able to find suitable parts. the rust patina was done by running 81 volts through the steel while submerged in baking soda water. the decal is just a sticker of an extreme metal festival in South Korea.

i made this noisebox for a friend, but of course i had to test it first.

spider is happy with it, too.

mute bomb (momentary mute/momentary activator) DIY

this device allows me to momentarily mute a signal, or with the toggle, turn off the signal and momentarily turn the signal on. it has a 2-way non-latching switch, and a toggle to choose the channel. no electrical components. one of my synthesizers has no volume control and it can get quite harsh and overwhelming for the kind of stuff I currently make, so i had to come up with something.

percussion noisebox

i wanted something for dark percussion, so i took a large plastic container, and attached some things to it. the mousepad on the side dampens the sound a little bit. the mousepad and foam dampens the sound a lot but also makes it heavier. there is a lid from a steel cookie container bent and bolted to the top to function as the hats- different position with the sticks provide different sounds.  the piezo picks up the vibrations and that signal is then processed with several guitar pedals.

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