I managed to get out thriftin’ this weekend and scored an old Casio SK-1 Sampling Keyboard for $7, which is something of a Holy Grail among Circuit Bending enthusiasts for the sheer number of mods that can be done to wildly affect the sounds this little toy keyboard makes.
For those who missed the 80’s, a Casio SK-1 was pretty much the first Digital Sampling keyboard that was available at the price range of your typical 1985 teenager. The one I bought back in the day was the later model – the SK-5 – which could hold a whopping 4 samples, but was otherwise similar to the SK-1. If you were at a party sampling fart noises and turning them into songs in the late 1980’s, it was probably a Casio SK that was your delightfully compact and fun instrument of bad taste.
For those who missed the 90’s, Circuit Bending is the hobby (or religious experience, depending on how you view it) of altering the electrical and logic pathways of the simple electronic circuitry of a battery-powered toy musical instrument to make it do things and make sounds that it was never designed to make or do. In most mods, one usually even provides contact points for introducing the electrical skin resistance of the musician into the circuits for even more control options.
Although there are schematics for many popular projects like “Speak-n-(Spell/Math/Etc)” units and many, many documented mods for the SK-1, the real fun of bendin’ is the experimentation involved in bending virgin – or altering an instrument that you have no map for, one that might never have been bent by anyone before. My last bending project in the early oughts was one such.
Monster Zero started off as some odd white plastic toy guitar synth about a foot and a half long, covered in brightly colored buttons. The neck buttons are notes, the body buttons are voices. Made probably in the early 80’s, it had a very simple circuit board with widely-spaced components and prominent solder points. Very easy to probe and find ways to alter the sounds, adding in my own circuitry when I discovered interesting results.
But I’m thinking of taking mine in the direction of merging it with one of those old Rat Shack “150-In-One” Electronics kits. The possibilities for mashups are super-tasty! Exciting project, and now I have to dig up all my alligator clips. :D