Circuit bending

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Probing for "bends" using a jeweler's screwdriver and alligator clips Bending.jpg
Probing for "bends" using a jeweler's screwdriver and alligator clips

Circuit bending is the creative, chance-based customization of the circuits within electronic devices such as low-voltage, battery-powered guitar effects, children's toys and 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.

Experimental process

A circuit-bent walkman Circuit-1.png
A circuit-bent walkman
A 1989 Kawasaki toy guitar used in a circuit bending project 1989 Kawasaki Electronic Digital Guitar by Remco circuit bend 2.jpg
A 1989 Kawasaki toy guitar used in a circuit bending project

The process of circuit bending involves experimenting with inexpensive second-hand electronics that produce sounds, such as keyboards, drum machines, and electronic learning products. According to Electronic Musician on 30 June 2014, innovators should only experiment with battery-powered devices, because there is a danger of fire or death from experimenting with mains-powered devices. [1]

A Yamaha PSR-6 used in a circuit bending project. Yamaha PSR-6 circuit bended @ Dorkbot Helsinki 2007.jpg
A Yamaha PSR-6 used in a circuit bending project.

The simplest input, and the one most identified with circuit bending, is the body contact, [2] where the performer's touch causes the circuit to change the sound. Often metal knobs, plates, screws or studs are wired to these circuit points to give easier access to these points from the outside the case of the device.

Since creative experimentation [3] is a key element to the practice of circuit bending, there is always a possibility that short circuiting may yield undesirable results, including component failure. In particular, connecting the power supply or a capacitor directly to a computer chip lead can destroy the chip and make the device inoperable. Before beginning to do circuit bending, a person should learn the basic risk factors about working with electrical and electronic products, including how to identify capacitors (which can give a person a serious shock due to the electrical charge that they store), and how to avoid risks with AC power. For safety reasons, a circuit bender should have a few basic electronics tools, such as a multimeter (an electronic testing device which measures voltage, resistance and other factors).


Although similar methods were previously used by other musicians and engineers, this method of music creation is believed to have been 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. [4] While Ghazala says that he was not the first circuit bender, he coined the term Circuit Bending in 1992. [5]

Serge Tcherepnin, designer of the Serge modular synthesizers, discussed [6] 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.

Since 1984, Swiss duo Voice Crack created music by manipulating common electronic devices in a practice they termed "cracked everyday electronics". [7]

See also

Kraakdoos. Kraakdoos (Cracklebox).jpg

Related Research Articles

Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments or circuitry-based music technology. A distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means and that produced using electronics only. Electromechanical instruments have mechanical elements, such as strings, hammers and electric elements, such as magnetic pickups, power amplifiers and loudspeakers. Examples of electromechanical sound producing devices include the telharmonium, Hammond organ, electric piano and the electric guitar, which are typically made loud enough for performers and audiences to hear with an instrument amplifier and speaker cabinet. Pure electronic instruments do not have vibrating strings, hammers or other sound-producing mechanisms. Devices such as the theremin, synthesizer and computer can produce electronic sounds.

Electronics Technical field

Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. It uses active devices to control electron flow by amplification and rectification, which distinguishes it from classical electrical engineering which uses passive effects such as resistance, capacitance and inductance to control current flow.

Electronic oscillator

An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a periodic, oscillating electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave. Oscillators convert direct current (DC) from a power supply to an alternating current (AC) signal. They are widely used in many electronic devices ranging from simplest clock generators to digital instruments and complex computers and peripherals etc. Common examples of signals generated by oscillators include signals broadcast by radio and television transmitters, clock signals that regulate computers and quartz clocks, and the sounds produced by electronic beepers and video games.

Amplifier Electronic device

An amplifier, electronic amplifier or (informally) amp is an electronic device that can increase the power of a signal. It is a two-port electronic circuit that uses electric power from a power supply to increase the amplitude of a signal applied to its input terminals, producing a proportionally greater amplitude signal at its output. The amount of amplification provided by an amplifier is measured by its gain: the ratio of output voltage, current, or power to input. An amplifier is a circuit that has a power gain greater than one.

Electronic musical instrument Musical instrument that uses electronic circuits to generate sound

An electronic musical instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound using electronic circuitry. Such an instrument sounds by outputting an electrical, electronic or digital audio signal that ultimately is plugged into a power amplifier which drives a loudspeaker, creating the sound heard by the performer and listener.


An electrometer is an electrical instrument for measuring electric charge or electrical potential difference. There are many different types, ranging from historical handmade mechanical instruments to high-precision electronic devices. Modern electrometers based on vacuum tube or solid-state technology can be used to make voltage and charge measurements with very low leakage currents, down to 1 femtoampere. A simpler but related instrument, the electroscope, works on similar principles but only indicates the relative magnitudes of voltages or charges.

Audio power amplifier

An audio power amplifier is an electronic amplifier that amplifies low-power electronic audio signals such as the signal from radio receiver or electric guitar pickup to a level that is high enough for driving loudspeakers or headphones. Audio power amplifiers are found in all manner of sound systems including sound reinforcement, public address and home audio systems and musical instrument amplifiers like guitar amplifiers. It is the final electronic stage in a typical audio playback chain before the signal is sent to the loudspeakers.

Analog synthesizer

An analogsynthesizer is a synthesizer that uses analog circuits and analog signals to generate sound electronically.

Modular synthesizers are synthesizers composed of separate modules of different functions. The modules can be connected together with patch cords, a matrix patching system, or switches by the user to create a patch. The output (voltages) from the modules may function as (audio) signals, control voltages, or logic/timing conditions. Typical modules are oscillators, filters (spectrum), amplifiers/gates (amplitude) and Envelope generators.


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Sample and hold

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DIY audio

DIY Audio means "do it yourself" audio. Rather than buying a piece of possibly expensive audio equipment, such as a high-end audio amplifier or speaker, the person practicing DIY Audio will make it him/herself. Alternatively, a DIYer may take an existing manufactured item of vintage era and update or modify it. The benefits of doing so include the satisfaction of creating something enjoyable, the possibility that the equipment made or updated is of higher quality than commercially available products and the pleasure of creating a custom-made device for which no exact equivalent is marketed. Other motivations for DIY audio can include getting audio components at a lower cost, the entertainment of using the item, and being able to ensure quality of workmanship.

Moog synthesizer Electronic musical instrument

The Moog synthesizer is a modular synthesizer developed by the American engineer Robert Moog. Moog debuted it in 1964, and Moog's company R. A. Moog Co. produced numerous models from 1965 to 1980. It was the first commercial synthesizer, and is credited with creating the analog synthesizer as it is known today.

Electronic component

An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields. Electronic components are mostly industrial products, available in a singular form and are not to be confused with electrical elements, which are conceptual abstractions representing idealized electronic components.

Qubais Reed Ghazala, an American author, photographer, composer, musician and experimental instrument builder, is recognized as the "father of circuit bending," having discovered the technique in 1966, pioneered it, named it, and taught it ever since.

Synthesizer Electronic musical instrument

A synthesizer is an electronic musical instrument that generates audio signals. Synthesizers generate audio through methods including subtractive synthesis, additive synthesis, and frequency modulation synthesis. These sounds may be shaped and modulated by components such as filters, envelopes, and low-frequency oscillators. Synthesizers are typically played with keyboards or controlled by sequencers, software, or other instruments, often via MIDI.

Harald Bode

Harald Bode was a German engineer and pioneer in the development of electronic music instruments.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to electronics:

Most of the terms listed in Wikipedia glossaries are already defined and explained within Wikipedia itself. However, glossaries like this one are useful for looking up, comparing and reviewing large numbers of terms together. You can help enhance this page by adding new terms or writing definitions for existing ones.

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The metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET, MOS-FET, or MOS FET), also known as the metal–oxide–silicon transistor (MOS transistor, or MOS), is a type of insulated-gate field-effect transistor (IGFET) that is fabricated by the controlled oxidation of a semiconductor, typically silicon. The voltage of the covered gate determines the electrical conductivity of the device; this ability to change conductivity with the amount of applied voltage can be used for amplifying or switching electronic signals. The MOSFET was invented by Egyptian engineer Mohamed M. Atalla and Korean engineer Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959. It is the basic building block of modern electronics, and the most frequently manufactured device in history, with an estimated total of 13 sextillion (1.3 × 1022) MOSFETs manufactured between 1960 and 2018.


Alexandre Marino Fernandez, Fernando Iazzetta, Circuit-Bending and DIY Culture

  1. Joker Nies (30 June 2014). "Circuit-Bend Electronic Toys Into Sonic Monsters!". Electronic Musician. Bath: Future Publishing. Archived from the original on 28 June 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  2. Reed Ghazala:
  3. "circuit-bending" . Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  4. Reed Ghazala: Circuit-Bending, Build Your Own Alien Instruments, Extreme Tech, 2006
  5. Deahl, Dani (14 September 2018). "Hacking a Furby in the name of music". The Verge. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  6. Vail, Mark: Vintage Synthesizers: Pioneering Designers, Groundbreaking Instruments, Collecting Tips, Mutants of Technology, Backbeat Books; 2.00 edition (15 March 2000)
  7. "YULE 2008" . Retrieved 3 June 2015.