Circuitbending: What is it??

January 9, 2009


Don’t throw away anything! Any of those old toys, keyboards and electronic gizmo’s can be turned into completely unique, un predictable noise making machines.

If you want something different, something original something imsane. ..Welcome to Circuit Bending!



Circuit bending is the creative, short-circuiting of electronic devices such as low voltage, battery-powered guitar effects, children’s toys and small digital synthesizers to create new musical or visual instruments and sound generators. Emphasizing spontaneity and randomness, the techniques of circuit bending have been commonly associated with noise music, though many more conventional contemporary musicians and musical groups have been known to experiment with “bent” instruments. Circuit bending usually involves dismantling the machine and adding components such as switches and potentiometers that alter the circuit.
The circuit bending process has been developed largely by individuals experimenting with second-hand electronics in a DIY fashion, either with inexpensive keyboards or drum machines, or with electronic children’s toys not associated with musical production. Aesthetic value, immediate usability and highly randomized results are often factors in the process of successfully bending electronics. Although the history of electronic music is often associated with unconventional sonic results, such innovators as Robert Moog, Lev Sergeivitch Theremin, etc. were electrical engineers and concerned with the consistency and sound design of their instruments. Circuit bending is typified by inconsistencies in the instruments built in an unscientific manner. While many pre-fitted circuit bent machines are on offer for sale at auction sites such as eBay, this somewhat contravenes the intention of most practitioners.

Although similar methods were previously used by other musicians and engineers, this method of music creation is believed to be pioneered by Reed Ghazala in the 1960s. Ghazala’s experience with circuit-bending began in 1966 when a toy transistor amplifier, by chance, shorted-out against a metal object in his desk drawer, resulting in a stream of unusual sounds.While Ghazala explicitly makes no claims as to be the first circuit bender, he coined the term Circuit Bending  and whole-heartedly promoted the proliferation of the concept and practice through his writings and internet site, earning him the title “Father of Circuit Bending”.

Serge Tcherepnin, designer of the Serge modular synthesizers, discussed his early experiments in the 1950s with the transistor radio, in which he found sensitive circuit points in those simple electronic devices and brought them out to “body contacts” on the plastic chassis. Prior to Mark’s and Reed’s experiments other pioneers also explored the body-contact idea, one of the earliest being Thaddeus Cahill (1897) whose Telharmonium, it is reported, was also touch-sensitive.

From the 1970s, Swiss duo Voice Crack created music by manipulating common electronic devices in a practice they termed “cracked everyday electronics.”



A bendable machine
Soldering iron
Some wire
A selection of switches / pots

In order to get started that’s all you really need although as you progress we would advise getting hold of:

A multi meter: to check voltages at certain points in the circuit.

A small guitar practice amp: Not immediately obvious but they are built to take some punishment and you don’t want to be risking your expensive mixer or stereo amp by accidentally running high voltages into it when testing the output of a bent machine.

Tools: Hacksaws, wire cutters, drills, socket sets and files come in very handy. Dremel type multipurpose hobby drills are a lifesaver.

Components: A wide range of potentiometers (1K, 100K, 470K and 1M are all handy), preset resistors (100K is usable for most jobs), LED’s (blue and UV for preference!), different coloured wire, knobs, switches (usually SPST but SPDT and ‘centre off’ switches also come in handy), push to make and push to break buttons, jack & phono sockets and just about anything else you can solder in to create an effect.

Oscilloscope: This is only for the hardcore bender (theres a phrase you don’t hear everyday) If you don’t know how they work you probably don’t actually need one!



1. Open up your machine. If you have chosen a Texas Instruments machine this might be your first stumbling point as the bastards at TI kindly chose to use bizarre star headed screws on a lot of their machines.

2. Repeatedly curse the name of Texas Instruments and add a socket set to the shopping list 🙂

3. While the machine is making a noise lick your finger tip and touch various parts of the circuit (do not try this on a high voltage circuit unless you want to die). If the pitch of the sound rises or drops or there is another interesting effect when you touch a certain solder point, narrow down exactly which solder joint it is by using a metal screwdriver and mark it or note it down. You’ve now found a body contact point or a potential pitch knob connection.

4. While the machine is making a noise take your bit of wire and short circuit one solder point on the circuit to another point. At this point there are four options as to what might happen. If nothing happens then try another connection. If you get a massively loud distortion sound or a thumping hum then remove the connection quickly. If the machine crashes  then start it up and try again. Best of all, if the machine produces a weird and unexpected sound then note down the connection and try it again. If the ‘bend’ you have found is reliable and repeatable then proceed to step 5.

5. When you have found a selection of decent connections you should solder switches or buttons across these points. You can also try soldering a potentiometer across the points to see if the effect is variable. At this point you might also want to consider where you are going to mount the controls on the casing.

If any of our readers have any interesting bent pieces please do get in touch.

For much much more information on this phenomenon visit.

Thanks to: http://www.circuitbenders.co.uk


  1. […] For more on Circuit bending see our article here […]

  2. […] backgrounder to circuit bending here Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Circuit Bending is both an art form and science […]

  3. I interest it.

  4. Very interesting, great idea I like it.

  5. WoW Ha ha *.8

  6. Thanks for the information I like.

  7. Circuitbending. oh

  8. Thank for your post.

  9. i like to buy children toys that are educational too, in this way, your kids can learn by playing `,:

  10. Great article, I enjoy your website and all the information it provides.

  11. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.
    It’s always exciting to read content from other authors and practice something from their web sites.

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