Synth DIY books

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Advanced Projects for the Electric Guitar, J. Chatwin

Bernard Babani, 1996, ISBN 0859343804, 'BP380', 87 pages.

Typical Babani pocket-book. Whilst primarily aimed at the guitarist (wah wah, distortion, tremelo etc.), there are comprehensive treatments of two delay cicuits in here: an analogue BBD one (MN3102/MN3207); and a digital one (HT8955).

An Analog Synthesizer for the 21st Century, Thomas Henry

Magic Smoke Electronics, 2006, v+32 pages

Another small booklet by Thomas Henry. This is a collection of schematics to build a complete simple synthesizer, containing two VCOs, a VCF and VCA, LFO etc. Be warned however it is literally the schematics and parts lists - there are no descriptions of the circuits, nor how to set them up etc., and hence should be considered only suitable for the seasoned synth DIYer, and so is clearly NOT aimed at beginners!

Build a Better Music Synthesizer, Thomas Henry

Tab Books, 1987, ISBN 0830602550, vii+167 pages

A proper hardbound book by Thomas Henry. Perhaps understandably there is some commonality with the information in this book and many other of Thomas Henry's smaller booklets. The book explains how to put together a complete snythesizer, including things like the PSU and the case. It contains circuits for most usual synth components, VCO, VCA, VCF etc., but unfortunately is a little dated in that many of them are based around hard-to-get chips, like the CEM3330, CEM3340, SSM2056, SN76477 etc. There is also an introductory chapter on what a synthesizer is and what the major components of one are.

Electronic Drum Cookbook, Thomas Henry

Originally Midwest Analog Products, 2002, v+50 pages; now available from Magic Smoke Electronics

This booklet from Thomas Henry is about twice the size of the smaller ones. It contains a lot of basic information about how to synthesize drums, and as well as several filters/tone generation circuits, it also includes a simple VCA, PSU, white noise generator, percussive-type envelope generator, and even how to build a simple drum pad using conductive foam.

Electronic Music and Creative Tape Recording, M.K. Berry

Bernard Babani, 1978, ISBN 0900162724, 'BP51', 87 pages.

Typical Babani pocket-book. About half this book is about recording on tape, and splicing etc. to manipulate the sound, but there are also lots of very simple circuits of a VCO, VCA (MC3340), and other effects like fuzz etc. One of the more complicated circuits seems quite out of place, a diode ladder filter - this book is the source of the circuit found in several places on the net: Modulus newsletter and The Free Information Society

Electronic Music Circuits, Barry Klein

Originally published by Howard Sams, 1982, 302 pages. Now available direct from the author, Electronic Music Circuits in a comb-bound form, updated in 1996.

This is probably one of the better books explaining synthesizer circuits in some detail, covering not only oscillators, filters, envelope generators, voltage-controlled amplifiers etc., but also things like the PSU and keyboard controllers. Though some of the circuits are based around now-obsolete CEM and SSM synthesizer chips, there is much to be learned from this book. It also contains quite a lot of circuits taken from Electronotes, q.v. (And if you intend to get serious about all this stuff and are contemplating buying a copy of this book, getting a copy of the Electronic Music IC Databook at the same time is thoroughly recommended!)

Electronic Music Circuits: The Reprints Vol 1, Thomas Henry

Midwest Analog Products, 2002, 162 pages.

This is a larger comb-bound book from Thomas Henry, and consists of reprints of 38 articles from old newsletters of the 70s and 80s, such as Electronotes, Polyphony and Electronic Musician. It has circuits of many components familiar in synths, e.g. VCOs, VCAs, VCFs, envelope generators, and also less usual ones like BBD delays, drum circuits etc. (It is not believed that a 'Volume 2' has ever been produced.)

Electronic Music IC Databook, Barry Klein

Published by the author, Barry Klein, along with Electronic Music Circuits (if you are serious about this stuff and are buying that book, buy this one too!).

This is a large (more than 300 pages) compendium of datasheets of old (generally) synthesizer-dedicated ICs. Some of the information is available online, most notably Synthesis Technology's CEM chip page, but for many of the chips, this is likely to be the only place you will find the data.

Chips covered are: CEM: 3310, 3312, 3320, 3328, 3330/3335, 3340/3345, 3350, 3360, 3371, 3372, 3374, 3378/3379, 3387, 3389, 3391, 3394, 3396, PA381/382 (CEM3381/2), PD508, SAM8905. SSM: 2000, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024, 2030, 2033, 2038, 2040, 2044, 2045, 2047, 2050, 2055, 2056, 2100, 2110, 2120/22, 2125, 2134, 2200, 2210, 2220, 2300, 2402/12

Electronic Music Learning Projects, R. Bebbington

Bernard Babani, 1993, ISBN 0859343294, 'BP329', 114 pages.

Typical Babani pocket-book. The circuits in here are at a very introductory (e.g. schoolboy) level. They include several oscillator circuits (including a very Stylophone-like one), and others like a metronome etc. It is clearly not intended as a book of serious synthesizer circuits, though doubtless one or two could be adapted for such.

Electronic Music Projects, R.A. Penfold

Bernard Babani, 1980, ISBN 0900162945, 'BP74', 106 pages

Typical Babani pocket-book. The circuits in this book are mostly fairly simple, and many are aimed at the guitarist: wah wah, fuzz, sustain etc.; there is actually a circuit for a spring reverb unit (though there doesn't appear to be anything like a specification for the spring tank itself); a Stylophone-like 'Stylus Organ'; the most synth-like circuit is a 555-based oscillator, but it isn't voltage-controlled.

Electronic Synthesiser Projects, M.K. Berry

Bernard Babani, 1981, ISBN 0859340562, 'BP81', 81 pages.

Typical Babani pocket-book (note the non-conventional spelling in the title). It contains details for a basic synth, but again uses some now hard-to-get chips, namely the SN76477 'single chip synth' and a TDA1022 BBD delay. other circuits include a 4017-based sequencer, 8038 and 555 VCOs, and a logic-based ADSR.

Electronotes, ed. Bernie Hutchins

Electronotes is a newsletter-like publication produced by Bernie Hutchins, covering technical details of music synthesis and sound processing: back-issues up to the very first issue in 1972 are available, and the complete set is a rich repository of circuits, techniques and ideas. The 'everything' package is a huge amount of information - it comb-binds into about 30 useful-sized volumes, and occupies over 18 inches of shelf space! For those not wanting to go to the expense of getting everything, the Musical Engineer's Handbook and the Builder's Guide and Preferred Circuits Collection is a good compromise. There is a fairly simple index of Electronotes here, which may give an indication of the totality of subjects covered. (The index covers up to August 2003.)

Making Music with the 3080 OTA, Thomas Henry

Originally Midwest Analog Products, 2003, vi+26 pages; now available from Magic Smoke Electronics

Another small booklet by Thomas Henry. This one contains an easily-digestable introduction to the CA3080 Operational Transconductance Amplifier, including circuits for a simple VCA, VCO and a ring modulator.

Making Music with the 566, Thomas Henry

Originally Midwest Analog Products, 2003, vi+26 pages; now available from Magic Smoke Electronics

Another small booklet by Thomas Henry. This one has lots of circuits and detail around the 566, a 'function generator'-type chip (which unfortunately was made obsolete ages ago I suspect). The booklet shows how to hook one up as a VCO which gives all the major waveforms, sine, tri, ramp, square etc., and also others like a noise circuit.

Making Music with the NE570 Compander, Thomas Henry

Originally Midwest Analog Products, 1998, viii+19 pages; now available from Magic Smoke Electronics

Another small booklet by Thomas Henry. This one shows how to use the NE570 chip not only as a compressor/expander, but includes other circuits such as an envelope follower and a VCA.

Musical Applications of Microprocessors, Hal Chamberlin

Hayden, 1985 ISBN 0810457687, 802 pages (2nd edn)

Although primarily concerned with microprocessors and their use within sound and music synthesis, early chapters have introductory material on synthesis in general, including methods using tape, voltage control etc. There is also a nice chapter giving typical examples of basic analogue circuits such as VCOs, VCFs, VCAs etc., with good explanations of how they work.

Noise Generator Cookbook, Thomas Henry

Original probably Midwest Analog Products, 2003; now available from Magic Smoke Electronics, 2009, vi+27 pages

Another small booklet by Thomas Henry. This one contains circuits for most of the basic ways to generate and filter noise, including : reverse-biased p-n junction; pseudo-random shift register sequence; multi-oscillator bank, pink noise filter, etc.

Op-Amp Cookbook, Walter G. Jung

1st edition good too..

Small Signal Audio Design, Douglas Self

VCO Chip Cookbook

SMS Electronics, 2007, vi+118 pages. According to this thread (pay attention to the dates!), it looks as though Magic Smoke/Lulu will make this book available again at sometime in the future.

A larger-than-usual offering from Thomas Henry. It includes detail on how to use three VCO chips: the 566, 8038 and XR-2206. Some of the information is taken from Making Music with the 566 (q.v.), but there is much more here besides, including exponential conversion, triangle-to-sine waveshaping etc.


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