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Circuit Bending


Circuit Bending

Share your circuit bending projects, plans, videos, photos, information etc. What electronic items have you modified to make new musical instruments

Members: 43
Latest Activity: Jun 18, 2020

Wikipedia: Circuit Bending

Circuit bending is the creative customization of the circuits within 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.


Experimental process

The circuit bending process has been developed largely by individuals with next to no formalised training in electronic theory and circuit design, 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. Haphazard shorting out of electronic items will almost inevitably at some time lead to the destruction of the circuit being prodded about. Worse still, it could present risk of fire, burning or electrocution.

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 and Léon Theremin were electrical engineers, and more 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. Machines bent to a repeated configuration are more analogous to the well known practice of "mods", such as the Devilfish mod for the Roland TB-303, or various Analogman or Pedaldoc guitar pedal circuit modifications.

Circuit bending an audio device typically involves removing the rear panel of the device and connecting any two circuit locations with a "jumper" wire, sending current from one part of the circuit into another. Results are monitored through either the device's internal speaker or by connecting an amplifier to the speaker output. If an interesting effect is achieved, this connection would be marked for future reference or kept active by either soldering a new connection or bridging it with crocodile clips. Often other components are inserted at these points such as pushbuttons or switches, to turn the effect on or off; or components such as resistors orcapacitors, to change the quality of the audio output. This is repeated in a trial and error basis. Other components added into the circuit can give the performer more expressiveness, such as potentiometers,photoresistors (for reaction to light) and pressure sensors. The simplest input, and the one most identified with circuit bending, is the body contact,[1] 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 an easier access to these points from the outside the case of the device.

Since creative experimentation is 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). It is advised that beginner circuit benders should never"bend" any device that gets its power from mains electricity (household AC power), as this would carry a serious risk of electrocution.


While often viewed as simply a method of creating sounds not intended by the manufacturers, some see circuit bending as a more spiritual process. In the popular video "What is Circuit Bending?" artists describe circuit bending as "parallel worlds within a circuit that aren't supposed to exist, but they're there," "it's more control over our chaos. Which is what it's about," "an explosive psychedelic surreal world of sound." These insights suggest that there are hidden sounds within a circuit, hidden potential, and the purpose of circuit bending is to explore this unseen world and unlock the potential of a device by experimentation.[2]


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.[3] While Ghazala explicitly makes no claims as to be the first circuit bender, he coined the term Circuit Bending [4] 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[5] 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) whosetelharmonium, 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." [6]

In 2009, circuit bending rock band CMKT 4 began touring America teaching workshops on circuit bending and DIY electronics. [7]


Artists who created and used circuit bent instruments were featured on a compilation CD entitled "Noise and Toys Volume 1," which was officially released in 2006 on We Are Records. Many varied musical intentions are apparent in this collection, but there is an almost physical tie binding these compositions. Tiger Claw Records (Madison, Wisconsin), specializing in circuit bending artists released many compilations, EPs and albums in 2006 - 2009. Absurdity.Biz has been making video documentation of Circuit Bending since 2003. Currently they have released six DVDs of Bent Festival 2004 - 2009. A full fledged documentary continues to be in the works.

See also


  1. ^ Reed Ghazalahttp://www.anti-theory.com/soundart/circuitbend/cb14.html
  2. ^ DrRek: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Pbyg_kcEk
  3. ^ Reed GhazalaCircuit-Bending, Build Your Own Alien InstrumentsExtreme Tech, 2006
  4. ^ Reed Ghazala: "Circuit-Bending and Living Instruments," EMI Volume VIII #1, 1992
  5. ^ Vail, Mark: Vintage Synthesizers: Pioneering Designers, Groundbreaking Instruments, Collecting Tips, Mutants of Technology, Backbeat Books; 2.00 edition (March 15, 2000)
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]

External links

Discussion Forum

Simple PreAmp

Started by BrianQ.. Last reply by Ted Crocker Apr 23, 2020. 1 Reply

Here is a very simple PreAmp. Which anyone can build. You can use any N-channel JFET, even a MOSFET if you’re looking to experiment. It has a small footprint, so you can put it into just about any…Continue

New to Bending - Any Advice?

Started by Red Hot Sep 9, 2019. 0 Replies

Love the concept of circuit bending, but have never done it. Any advice for a novice? How did YOU start?Continue

Simple Overdrive

Started by BrianQ.. Last reply by BrianQ. Dec 2, 2018. 2 Replies

This is similar to the Distortion +/ DOD 250 minus Gain control &…Continue

Bad news on Beavis

Started by Mark C. Last reply by Mark C Mar 22, 2012. 1 Reply

Looks like the Beavis Audio website has closed down :(I just went to check something and got a page saying the domain registration expired on 9 March. I don't think it had been updated for quite a…Continue

Tags: Audio, Beavis

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Circuit Bending to add comments!

Comment by colin mcgrath on February 12, 2011 at 6:08pm
thanks for the invite. I love the work of Reed Ghazala. And would love to see a hybrid guitar instrument with the aspects of some of his instruments.
Comment by Jess on February 12, 2011 at 4:27pm
Whoa!  This is so cool!  I now know how to effectively drive my wife, grandkids, and the hound completely birdshit . . . all in the name of discovering new things about our electronically adicted society.  Thanks, Ted, you da man!
Comment by Gary Watts on February 12, 2011 at 1:37pm
I saw some other people making bridges from rod piezos and exotic woods. I've only built o e CBG so far (Thx TC for the help) but the rod does not put out hardly any signal at all. It's mounted in an ebony bridge w brass rod to the wires. The other peizo is a disk. It rocks. Any thoughts? I know the rod was supposed to be "softer" but not almost dead, right? Thx.
Comment by smojo on February 12, 2011 at 7:37am

Here's a vid of my first "bend"



Comment by smojo on February 12, 2011 at 5:48am
Just completed my first proper "bent" toy. Hoping to take a short vid to show you soon.
Comment by smojo on January 31, 2011 at 4:02am
Welcome guys, so I'm not the only electronics pervert around here, that's good to know. OK here's a little easy no-electronics-knowledge-needed experiment I got out of the book. You need an old fashioned transistor radio that has an AM band (not FM or digital) and it needs be one with a dial or knob to adjust the stations. Turn it on and tune it to a quiet area where there's no radio station (usually at the ends of the scale. Now go around your house and put it next to other electrical items that are running - like fridge, tv, hifi, microwave oven clocks, low energy light bulbs, motors etc. Digital clocks and controls on equipment work well - some seem to have a pulse or beat from an internal clock running.  falt screen tvs give some excellent results, move the radio around the differenent areas of the tv especially across the front of the screen. You'll notice several different sounds coming off it. Some will change pitch as the picture changes on the screen. What you'll discover is how much radio interference is generated all around us. They make some pretty cool sci-fi sounds. By varying the tuning dial slightly you can often alter the pitch of the sounds. Try "zooming" up to and across the source when you've found it to get swooping sounds. I'm thinking some of these could be recorded on a portable device and used to create loops and drones as backgrounds to something else you might wanna play over the top. Have fun.
Comment by smojo on January 30, 2011 at 2:14pm

If you've no idea what circuit bending is all about or whether you want to have a go at it I'll explain. I only just got into this stuff myself.  Basically it's about hack wiring electronic equipment that was meant for other purposes to make weird and often cool sounds. Kinda avant garde in style but I'm hoping to combine it with CBG music somehow. Anyway it's fun to play with even if the results sometimes sound like crap.


Most popular itmes to circuit bend are chuldrens electronic toys. Speak N Spell seems to be the Holy Grail but the Vtech alphabet toys are popular too. Common "bends" used will speed or slow down the internal clock to raise or lower the pitch of the sounds and voices used. You can also modify portable CD players, boom boxes, walkie talkies, remote control handsets etc, virtually anything that makes a sound or emits a signal can be modified to create something interesting.


Techniques can be very hit and miss and random resutling in burnt out circuits so don't experiment on anything expensive. Have a look around charity shops, car boot sales (in the UK) garage sales etc and you can find lots of cheap items. One thing though - only try it out on battery operated equipment - never on anything that's plugged into the wall.


I don't have anything to show yet that I've made but just have a search around on Youtube for "circuit bending" to get an idea of what's possible. A really excellent book is Handmade Electronic Music by Nicolas Collins. He takes you from really simple experiments with batteries and loudspeakers up to building your own simple oscillators and mixers. Lots of stuff in there that folks on this site will find useful and fascinating even if you don't go the whole hog. Like how to make simple contact mics with piezos. Reed Ghazala is the godfather of circuit bending so check him out on Google and Youtube too. If you like what you see and get inspired, come back and join this group and share your experiences. I'll post my attempts and achievements when I get some!


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