It’s possible to recreate the pleasant analogue fuzz of Moog era synthesizers without breaking the bank. At Shoogle studios in Glasgow, Makery built a synth for ten pounds.
Glasgow, special envoy (text and photos)
Cult popularity of analogue synthesizers means that stocks are decreasing even as the prices go up. An internet community of DIY synth-makers (SDiY), took the matter in hand and uploaded the diagrams and instructions for the construction of home made devices, ranging from the simple to the highly complex.
In Glasgow, this community have gone AFK (Away From Keyboard) and joined the group Glasgow Make Some Noise, founded by Rob Spencer, an ex military electronics enthusiast. Each week, these SDiYers converge at Shoogle Studios, a school for electronic music producers, and construct music machines accompanied by a soundtrack of strange background music.
Last Saturday, Makery joined the party and tackled constructing their ‘Synth A’, a basic modular synth with a VCO (variable control oscillator to emit frequencies), a VCF (voltage controlled filter to tone them down) and a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) controlled by a simple AR envelope generator. If that doesn’t mean anything to you: don’t panic. It’s really easy to build and you can easily twiddle with knobs till you start getting some nice sounds.
Prior knowledge in electronic (or music) not required. For ten quid Rob Spencer will furnish you with the components, the circuit and the instructions. It all works like a ‘colouring by numbers’ where each number corresponds to a component.
Maths and Resistors
For the most part the project calls for, besides a bit of soldering, some straightforward maths. Each band corresponds to a colour code, each resistor has a value and a designated place within the circuit.
To calculate this value, you place the largest band to the right (often brown), the first three bands are the significant digits, the fourth is the multiplier (power of ten to which you have to multiply the significant digits).
For example, see below the bands are orange (colour code 3), black (code 0), black (0), and orange again. 300×1000= 300,000. So we will place the resistor of 300K on the spot marked R12 of the circuit. (You can find apps online to check your calculations, like this one.)
A Lot of Soldering
Beyond that, it’s pretty simple. You put the components where the instructions tell you and you solder them in place. Everything in its right place, the positive with the positive and the DIP the right way.
So plug in your 9v battery (not included) and distort without moderation!
We try out our new synth: