A hair drier, what for? Makery prefers weird instruments by far. In less than three hours, we turned our old Babyliss into an Atari Punk Console with sinusoidal sounds. We have wet hair but what fun we are having!
That evening we were the lucky ones: 12 people gathered around a table on the ground floor of the public reading library at the Pompidou center (Paris), where more than 500 people had promised their attendance on Facebook. Obviously, destroying one’s hair drier to turn in into a home made music instrument is generating lots of enthusiasm.
The master of ceremony is Bitcrusher (an aka borrowed from the name of the digital effect by which one distorts sound to reduce its audio fidelity), from the Dataglitch collective and label (the glitch or electronic failure) that gathers pros of electronic malfunction.
Bitcrusher, Sylvain Buffet’s pen name, is rather an adept of circuit bending generating sounds by creating short circuits. He fiddles with Speak N’Spell, old telephones and even short circuits fully operational instruments such as the Roland TR505 rhythm composer. The objective: get a unique sound. If you are an adept of the Montreuil electronic Merguez you might have seen him dabbling with a barbecue.
This time, it’s “DIY workshop, bizarre music instruments”. We drop short circuits to in fact create a circuit. The circuit of the Atari Punk Console, this synthesizer of simple sounds is perfect for beginners in electronics, who came in numbers that evening, where one could count more musicians than DIY adepts. An instrument that more or less reproduces the sound of the cult games console of the 1970s, the Atari, that will be incorporated inside an old household appliance.
1 – The equipment
And a household appliance of reasonable size.
2 – The art of soldering
With a printed circuit board, it’s easy. Everything has its place (and most importantly you have a roadmap where the place of each component is explained). Watch out for the right way up of the printed circuit board thanks to its notch, for the size of resistors (we were giving a math class on resistors here) and for the size of the capacitor legs (the positive leg is the longest).
You solder the lot—cleanly please! You heat the ring, that in turn heats the tin that melts into a pretty shiny ball. You cut off the protruding legs.
3 – Dissect your household appliance
Before building you need to destroy. Beware: this act is non-reversible. So make sure you are ready to sacrifice your appliance on the DIY altar (and that you didn’t choose for example your travel hair drier, very ugly but nevertheless very useful). Once you have made the decision, take it to pieces and get rid of the motor and other components henceforth obsolete. You can however keep the switch that can be linked to the circuit to power up your instrument.
4 – Strip, solder
Be patient, you will need to free the wires. Then connect them to the potentiometer terminals (beware, you need to respect the fitting orientation) before soldering. Make sure the length of the wires is sufficient to fit the potentiometers where you want on your device. The technique here consists of folding the terminals of the potentiometer and form a hook with the wires. It will then be easier to keep your elements in place during the soldering. Repeat with the three potentiometers, the LED, the jack plug, the mini battery and the 9-volt battery clip.
5 – Reuse the elements of your appliance
Even though most of the circuit is independent from the appliance, you can link certain elements. Such as the switch or in this case the power cable to keep a Babyliss look and especially have easy access to the battery (rather than hiding it in the hair drier). Very easy: Take the wires of your power cable and connect them in place of the wires of the 9V clip. If your wires are enormous (like ours) you can solder your power cable to the new wires. Twist the wires together, cover with tin, then with sticky tape to insulate properly. Beware of the the color codes of the wires.
6 – Pimp up
You have carried out tests: the LED lights up and your console makes a deliciously regressive sound. Well done, it’s a success. All you need to do now is make the case for your new instrument with a drill. You choose the same diameter as the screws of the knobs, and you drill holes. You unscrew, and screw again. The hair drier is dead, long live the Atari Punk!
Next DIY workshop at the Pompidou center on the photogram, on the 5th, 12th and 19th of November at 6.30pm
Consult our map of labs to find the lab close to you that will have the equipment to help you make your musical hair drier