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Circuit-Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments (ExtremeTech) 1st Edition

24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0764588877
ISBN-10: 0764588877
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"We send probes into deep space to listen to alien worlds. But alien worlds aren't always that far away."
—Reed Ghazala

Alien music could be inside that old Speak & Spell at your neighbor's yard sale. Circuit-bending sets it free. Start turning throw-away audio electronics into magical music engines and discover a freedom of expression that comes straight from your dreams. All you need to know about electronics is how to solder—an how to read these instructions from the guy who accidentally started it all. Limitations? Only your imagination.

Inside you'll find detailed instructions for turning ANY circuit you find into an alien music engine overnight, along with never before revealed secrets to bent instruments including:

  1. Incantor
  2. Cool Keys
  3. Casio SK-1
  4. Casio SA-2
  5. Harmonic Window
  6. Phone Toys
  7. Casio SK-60
  8. Realistic MT140
  9. Casio SA-5
  10. The Electronic Womb
  11. Casio Sax
  12. Particle Bays
  13. Write with Light
  14. Rap Rhythm
  15. Mall Madness

About the Author

Reed Ghazala developed the technique of circuit-bending in 1967, following the chance encounter of a transistorized amplifier with an unidentified object in his desk drawer. He can often be found writing music, sculpting, taking photos, hunting mushrooms, building things that fly, or indulging in other creative pursuits as befits a true Renaissance man.


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Product Details

  • Series: ExtremeTech (Book 15)
  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764588877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764588877
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Cody Ranaldo on October 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is a great beginning introduction to circuit bending. When I recieved it I was immediately ready to read it cover to cover. However, while the information regarding what parts to get, as detailed info on completing specific projects is great, I couldn't help being distracted by a good amount of slef indulgence from the author. I'm really interested in the technical aspects of bending, and how to be able to strike it out on my own once I learn a thing or two. This book enables you to do this. It reads as preachy at times, and I find the personal asides (long pasages about camping trips and windstorms blowing charred embers into a tent, talk of the hippie 60's, etc.) to be annoying. I was able to overlook them until about page 100, but they certainly get old quickly. From a more utilitarian standpoint, it is simply harder to find what you are looking for when wading through a sea of wacky quips.

Hippies and aliens aside, I would seriously reccomend this book to anyone who has no experience whatsoever in electronics. Ghazala teaches good soldering technique, and moves through explanations of electronic components at a slow pace. However, If you are interested in circuit bending and other DIY electronic music forms in a broader sense I would recommend the book "Handmade Electronic Music" by Nicolas Collins over this one, simply because it presents things more seroiusly, more concisely, and has useful historical asides (talk of John Cage, Nam June Paik) that are more interesting than Ghazala's personal tales.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Count Spankulus on December 5, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was a novice with no bending experience but plenty of interest. I purchased this book because it was about the only reference I could find on the subject. I had ascertained from poking around on the internet that Reed really was the Godfather of bending. It turns out that he is also an exceptional teacher/writer. This book starts at the very beginning: The history of bending, necessary tools, soldering techniques, etc. Someone with no electronics experience whatsoever will be able to follow every step. I never felt like any steps were missing from the process. Reed explains every detail clearly, concisely and often humorously without insulting the reader's intelligence. The book goes on to discuss bending about 15 specific instruments. This is a great way to get a start and prepare you for the real fun: bending your own instruments. The only complaint I have is that it would have been nice to have all important tools and parts specified with part numbers (Many are). This would allow the reader to more easily obtain the necessary parts. However, this info is available online if you search a little. Word of warning: The costs of the necessary tools to bend are not negligible. You will need a soldering station, a Dremel hobby drill and various switches and components. The costs add up. However, these are mostly fixed startup costs that become trivial over the course of a bending career.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kelsey Cain on August 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
I just started looking into circuit-bending about a month ago. I googled the term and thankfully found Reed's site. It was both inspiring and informative. This book reads the same way. Without speaking over the head of the reader, this book holds much information on the subject. It is full of tips, pictures and diagrams that will have you on your way to creating your own interesting instruments. Though circuit-bending deals with electronics in so many ways, he still covers the aspects of instrument design. This book has it all, so check it out.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By calvinnme HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is great for aspiring electronics hobbyists who know nothing about building their own electronic devices but would like to learn and have something more interesting to show for their efforts than some boring counter device with a seven segment LED display. There is plenty of instruction on selecting components and assembling circuits, but there is not much in the way of theory as to why you get the sound you do. In other words, if you are looking for the math or musical theory behind any of this, it is missing. I really wouldn't have been that bothered by all of the narrative side trips that the author took that other reviewers have already mentioned if only at the end of the day he had delivered the goods in relation to the theory. If you are a fan of the Evil Genius series of books, you will probably like this book too. The instructions are clear and correct, and you will have something that works if you follow directions. What is missing is the why. What would be nice would be a book that combines the how of this electronics book with the why of more theoretical books on the subject that are usually totally impractical. I am yet to find one. The most accessible books I've found on the mathematics behind music are the two volumes of Musimathics that came out just recently.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Scott Muir on May 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
Being a collector of synthisisers, and any strange homemade instrument that I could get ahold of to add to the strange sounds I enjoy crafting, circuit bending was the next frontier that I wanted to conquer. This book really showed me how to get into this fun and exciting hobby. It starts off with a breif history and theory of strange and experimental sound as music that I found interesting and informative. After that, you learn about the tools and components of the hobby, followed by a nice, easy to follow tutorial on soldering. Then we get into the nitty gritty of the hobby, Taking an old electronic battery powered device and turning it into an alien sound machine.

This book was VERY easy to read and there are a lot of nice pictures to demonstrate varous items and techniques. It made even me, a total newbie to this hobby feel confident to tear open a circuit board and solder it into unrecognisability and as a matter of fact, I probably would never have know anything of what to do without reading this book.

Add to the fine pictoral examples and tutorials the Eighteen projects that include plans for bending Speak & Spells, and the famed Casio SK1 keyboard, and you have a real value here.

This book was fun and easy to read and I still use it as a reference when I'm tearing apart an electronic gadget for the purpose of creating wierd sounds.

I've read other books that deal with similar material, but for someone starting out in the hobby, this book is all you need and it's definitely where I would reccomend starting out if you're interested in getting into this fun hobby.
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