Musical Electronics Library

Auckland, New Zealand


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How to Solder

Nicolas Collins shows you how to solder:

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Handmade Electronic Music

The book that inspired the Musical Electronics Library: “Handmade Electronic Music” by Nicolas Collins.

This book is SO GREAT. It assumes no technical knowledge whatsoever. It starts out with a lot of fun projects that don’t even require soldering, such as playing the insides of a transistor radio with your fingers. There are so many good ideas here, like the Matrix Mixer, which doesn’t require power, and is perfect for turning a pile of innocuous guitar pedals into a complex, chaotic feedback oscillator. Most of the things in the book are analogue sound generators, but there are also ideas for computer controllers, eg. using hacked joysticks, and some video circuits. The emphasis is on adventurous, bold hacking and circuit bending, with a generous helping of from-scratch DIY electronics as well. The tone is always encouraging, which makes it a pleasure to read. There is a minimum of theory.

The second edition includes a DVD, which has video tutorials:

audio examples, and, best of all, a long series of 1-minute video clips submitted by hardware hackers around the world, showing off their amazing creations:

Nicolas Collins has generously shared the pdf file of his original workshop manual Hardware Hacking, upon which Handmade Electronic Music is based.


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MEL prehistory 1

I am Pat Kraus. I’ve been doing electronics for about 8 or 9 years. I taught myself how to solder in about 2005, and since then i’ve built a bunch of guitar pedals, battery-powered synth boxes, and, most recently, a Serge modular synthesizer. The idea for the Musical Electronics Library came to me in March 2013 when I was reading Nicolas Collins’ excellent book “Handmade Electronic Music”. There are a lot of cool ideas in that book, and I wanted to try them out, but I was faced with a problem that had bothered me for a long time: deciding what to build. There are so many nice electronics projects I’d like to make — there are a million on the internet — but of course I’ve only got limited time and money. And it’s common to encounter something that’s electronically or sonically very interesting, but which I wouldn’t actually use that much myself. So I never get around to making it.

One solution is to build stuff for sale. Then you get to make things you might not use yourself, but that someone else will. I have done this in the past, but I found it stressful, and I’m not very motivated to make money, so I never really got into it that much. Besides, there’s not a lot of demand for more esoteric, unusual gear. When I was reading Nic Collins’ book I realised that a better solution for me would be to make a lot of stuff and then lend it out, like a library. That way I could build whatever took my fancy, and someone would be bound to find a use for it. This seemed like a good way to combine my interest in electronics and music with a desire to serve my community.