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Old 10th December 2004, 08:44 AM   #1
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Default Looking for ideas on this project

Hey everybody,
I'm new to this board, and glancing around it you guys know a helluva lot more about electronics than I do. My background is fixing/building guitars and other string instruments. I'm good enough with electronics to wire them up pretty well.
I want to modify one of my instruments. It's a double neck homemade electric lap steel made out of a large oak board. I put it on a 4' stand and it looks like a Dr. Seuss instrument. It's wired up for regular double-neck switching, as well as with another input and another switch, so I can run my electric guitar through it and then run either instrument out to my amp.
Originally I wanted to install a theremin into this thing. I still have a good 4" x 18" of unused space in the wood, into which I could recess some electronics, add an antenna or two, and make it look even crazier (as well as capable of making wild sounds). Someone at thereminworld.com told me I wouldn't be able to do that, as the metal strings would interact with the antenna's field. If anyone knows whether he's right or not, I'd appreciate any advice. But the main reason why I came here follows:
Someone else on that board suggested I try to install a ribbon controller instead of a theremin. I think that would be awesome. I don't really know much about how they work, though. Even assuming I could build one myself, wouldn't I need to get a MIDI box or something to control with it?
My onstage setup is already quite complex and there are wires all over the place. Is there a simple way I could wire up the controller so it produces a sound (just one dumb old sound is enough for me) without adding a ridiculous amount of gear to my setup, or go over my budget (I don't wanna spend more than $300 on this)?

I'm also open to other ideas on what to install into my steel. I'm in a funky redneck rock band and there's ample opportunity to use a wacky sound in lots of our tunes. Thanks a lot for your help guys, I'm really eager to get started on this so ANY advice is appreciated.

Max
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Old 13th December 2004, 01:17 PM   #2
Giaime is offline Giaime  Italy
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In fact there is a simple theremin-like circuit that costs nothing and makes a simple square-wave sound. It is listed in a strange site... maybe I'll search....

http://www.geocities.com/tpe123/folk...ynthstick.html

I found it! Here it is....

It looks easy to build, no MIDI or strange things, costs nothing, sounds (quasi) acceptable. It can be built on perfboard, if you have some basic layout and soldering tips (but you have it if you can wire a double-neck strange sort of thing).

Hell, you can even use it in combination with steel strings ('cause it's only sensible to touch), maybe on the fretboard of one of the necks of your lap steel....

Also if you don't like the sound you can always mod it to trigger a midi module... but that's another story....
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Old 13th December 2004, 07:25 PM   #3
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wow, that sounds great. Exactly what I was looking for. no chance that you've actually built this yourself, is there?

I'm gonna try it out as soon as I can and I'll keep this thread updated once I make some progress. Thanks a bunch.
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Old 13th December 2004, 07:33 PM   #4
Giaime is offline Giaime  Italy
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No, I haven't built it yet, I'm a guitarist and that will be of little use. But a friend of mine was planning on building one of these, but I don't know. He is working on one of those strange flutes on that site...
If you need help, you're welcome. The Musical Instruments forum looks a bit unvisited....
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Old 16th December 2004, 07:21 PM   #5
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giame-

I've been trying to get in touch with the author of that page but no luck so far. I'm wondering what the range of this thing is. In his sound file, he plays such a simple two note techno beat, I can't tell whether it's incapable of anything else, or if the guy who made it just isn't all that creative with his sound files...

Say hi to Venezia and your beautiful country for me, I was there about three years ago for part of my year abroad (which I spent mostly a Firenze).

Max
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Old 17th December 2004, 11:39 AM   #6
Giaime is offline Giaime  Italy
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Hello MaxGuitar! Thanks for the place where I live.

Yes, the author of that site is uncontactable (is this the correct term?). The range of that thing can be varied by:

- differend lenght, width and material of the video tape;
- a simple fixed resistor in series with that or in parallel;
- maybe changing that capacitor indicated in the schematics;

It will be more useful (IMHO) if someone able could design a sine-wave type of oscillator, that would be connected to our stompboxes to distort it in every way we like. With square waves you can't do much, at least when (like in this case) you have no control over the armonics, the pulse width, ecc...

Maybe running two of these, one exactly one octave higher than the other, or some other strange interval...

Sorry, but I'm not so experienced in synths, I know only about treating our guitar's signal (in every POSSIBLE ways )!
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Old 17th December 2004, 11:41 AM   #7
Giaime is offline Giaime  Italy
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And of course, I forgot to mention, If you are a wiring fanatic and valve-addicted you could also make the oscillator out of a tube...
Think about tremolo oscillators in old Fender amps... Increasing the frequency would be easy, and we can control it with a resistor (exactly what the videotape does)....
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Old 17th December 2004, 04:36 PM   #8
tomi is offline tomi  Wales
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Hi there guys.
This sounds fascinating; I love the idea of using videotape for making ribon controllers (why don't I have good ideas like that?). Presumably the right kind of audio tape would work as well. Also, I can't help thinking that a second piece of magnetic tape could be used im place of the silvered Mylar - at the cost of doubling the resistance, of course. However, I guess that Mylar would be harder wearing and longer lasting, if you can get hold of it.

As requards the electronics, the Schmitt-trigger inverter oscillator is one I've used many times, mostly as a clock for logic circuits. It's nice and simple and capable of a decint frequency range. If you want other waveforms, if I where you I'd look at some of the function generator ICs that are available - typically giving sine, square, triangle and maybe sawtooth, controlled in frequency by a R/C cobmination, just like this circuit. Building sine wave oscillators is, I have heard, rather tricky (plus they sound pretty dull). I suspect that using valves would also be making life hard for yourself, plus using far more space/power than ICs.

Pretty much anything could be controlled from these videotape ribbon controllers, I wonder if filter(s) might be of interest - either for the output of the guitar or the oscillator? Once more, chips are available which contain most of the bits you need to make a fully-paramatric (cuttoff, boot/cut and Q) filter.
Also, depending upon what you want to controll and how complicated you want to make it, you could include a sample-and-hold circuit so that the ribon comtroler holds its value when you take your finger off?

Anyway, keep us up to date with this fascinating and mildly crazy project!
TOMi.
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Old 25th December 2004, 03:25 AM   #9
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Hey guys, thought they posted my last one but I guess it got lost.

I really want to start on this project and I wanted to ask you where the best place to buy the parts is. I see a bunch on the internet but don't know if there's any one best to go for. They're all so cheap that the decision feels too easy.

Tomi- you're saying that I can just substitute a function generator IC for the Schmitt trigger IC and the stick will give me a different tone? Could you be more specific as to which one I need, as I am totally stupid in the electronics realm and will probably buy the function generator IC for a vacuum cleaner by accident (go ahead and laugh).

I'm gonna order these parts as soon as I can get it together, and buy enough that I can experiment a bit. thanks for all the help dudes.

Max
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Old 30th December 2004, 03:52 AM   #10
Enzo is offline Enzo  United States
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What parts you want to buy? Mouser is always good. Jameco sometimes bails me out. Digikey, MCM, Parts Express, Allied - those are placecs I shop often. And certainly go to www.tubesandmore.com and order their catalog. If you are a guitar guy you already know Stew-Mac.
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