Thursday, April 14, 2011

April update

I feel slightly guilty that I aren't writing about cigar box guitars seeing as this blog is about them. The reason being, that I haven't made any for a little while since I really got into electronics but let me explain where I'm coming from and how it all fits into the ethos of what this stuff is all about. I think it's right to say that most people are into CBGs because they look cool and different but also because there's a certain perverseness about it. Making a great playable instrument from an old cigar box and a stick. It's sort of sticking two fingers up at the big manufacturers who charge thousands for their guitars and saying "I can make something sound pretty damn good out of a heap of junk". So after I'd made a few guitars I naturally wanted a cool little amp to go with it, hence the re-interest in electronics. I found it just as enjoyable making an amp as I did making the guitars. That led me onto making a few other related things out of junk - tobacco tin mics using old telephone receivers, a simple two channel mixer (more of a combiner - no batteries required). Then I somehow discovered "circuit bending" - modifying electronic toys and other devices to make more interesting sounds. On the surface it seems a long way from making c.b. guitars but it's the same ethos behind it. Taking something that was intended for an entrirely different purpose, modifying it and adding your own creative stamp to it, to produce a cool, fun packed instrument. So first efforts were attempts at toys and I'm pretty pleased with one of them. You can see it on Youtube Then I discovered the wonderful book by Nic Collins "Handmade Electronic Music". He has made some amazingly weird stuff and you might want to look for him on Youtube also. What has got me fired up now are the circuit designs he decribes using logic chips to make oscillators. Again the CBG ethos holds good as he is using chips that were designed for computers and other digital devices and making them perform in a musical way,. By combining several oscillators together you can make some pretty cool synth and drone sounds. You can use them to make a simple tremolo box and panners and mixers for combining several devices together plus many other ideas. Nic shows you just how to do it in a fairly easy to understand way. So that's where I'm at at the moment. I will come back around to talking about CBGs but I have to explore this path a little further yet. I have a project part finished using the old electrical tester box I showed you a while ago. It's shaping up nicely and I hope to somehow combine the drone/synth type sounds from it with some CBG playing. No idea how that's going to come out but that's all part of the fun - musical adventures. If you decide to look for some of these noise boxes or circuit bent toys on Youtube, you might be forgiven for quickly getting bored and even irritated at the squeaks and squeals that come out of them. I figure the main reason is that most people who have posted vids of their creations, have little or no musical talent. They are mainly electronics geeks. So don't let that put you off having a go at making some if you are interested. If you have some musical knowledge/skills, it's fairly easy to apply the same principles of music making to these devices. Create a regular beat or rhythm with them and try to find sounds that harmonise with each other. If you look at the boring stuff you'll realise that that is what's missing. Most people are simply demonstrating what weird noises they can get out of them rather than trying to make something listenable. I'll try to demonstrate that for you. Visit my website here and scroll down the home page to the jukebox. Have a listen to "While Giants Sleep". The ticking clock and the snoring sounds were created on the circuit bent toy and looped on my Akai Headrush. I then added some melancholic cigar box guitar playing over it. Hope it might inpsire you to try something different yourelves.


Raindog951 said...

Hi David,
Good point about the musical ability playing a big part in showing off the circuit bent stuff.
One of the best tunes I ever heard was a guy with 24 old tape recorders who composed an intricate piece of music from recording and re-recording the same noise. Great skill, great tune. No instruments at all.
I keep forgetting to check out the toy section in my Charity shops though!


David said...

The tape recorder thing sounds interesting. I also heard an album where the guy had sampled various everyday sounds then changed the pitched, looped them etc and made some very listenable music. One was composed entirely of small chickens chirping in a big barn. Yes check out charity shops and even cheaper - car boot sales. Some of the toys are musical enough in their original state with a bit of imaginative repetition etc.