I love, love, love(!!!) seeing and hearing the projects my readers build, and sharing them with folks thinking about how they want to tackle these same projects. First up is Jason Jaknunas’s take on the Bleepbox 8-Step Analog Sequencer (Project 16 in Junkyard Jam Band)—which is easily the best version of this I’ve ever seen (it totally leaves mine in the dust, and I designed the damn thing!)
Everything is just so sweet and just-right here: the knobs, the brushed aluminum label, the wood cheeks, the grommets padding out the LEDs, the labels—but also the little things, the visual balance among the elements, the use of different sizes of knob on different functions. Give it a look, then give it a listen. So rad!
Once again it’s that very special time of year when I remind you that it’s hella easy to make your own booze, appropriate for gift-giving or general drunkification. (That link goes to my time-tested E-Z DIY Limoncello recipe; make it now, give it during Xmas/Xanukah week, get super-popular in the Dark Days of the Unconquered Son/Sun)
Spent the holiday weekend chilling with friends, and we built a few Jitterbugs (tiny, super-simple, super-cheap robots that run away from light, cockroach-style). I’d totally forgotten how much fun these are. Here’s a video of my 4-year-old sitting in the closet with flashlights and competing at “reverse sumo” (first person out of the ring wins):
Here’s a set of Jitterbugs built by Stephen Trouvere and his boys, with the addition of LED eyes:
I love how those lil guys turned out! For the curious, all we’ve done is built the standard jitterbug, then taken a pair of regular ol’ red LEDs, wired them in parallel, buffered the positive lead with a 100Ω resistor (brown-black-brown stripes), and soldered the free resistor lead to the positive battery terminal, and the negative LED legs to the negative terminal (it’s the same way we wire up the LEDs in the “Switchbox” project in that same book).
I’m interested in artistic formulea of all stripes, so my ears perked up when I stumbled across this blog post exploring why it is that every pop song I hear as of late seems to feel the same, even when they sound totally different.The key: A little earwormy melodic alternation embedded into the hook.Here’s the article’s kick-out—although the whole thing (which is rife with video examples) is well worth your time:
[T]he Millennial Whoop evokes a kind of primordial sense that everything will be alright. You know these notes. You’ve heard this before. There’s nothing out of the ordinary or scary here. You don’t need to learn the words or know a particular language or think deeply about meaning. You’re safe. In the age of climate change and economic injustice and racial violence, you can take a few moments to forget everything and shout with exuberance at the top of your lungs. Just dance and feel how awesome it is to be alive right now. Wa-oh-wa-oh.
Having read this, I wondered how persuasive such a simply piece of patterning might be. So, in five minutes I sketched out this little tune and, whaddya know, it sounds like the outro of basically anything I’ve stumbled across while tuning across the dial during the last several long summer car trips:
For the curious, there’s literally nothing going on in this song: The left hand is just a straight C Major chord alternating with whatever you call that lazy F Major where, instead of actually moving your hand up, you just skooch your thumb and index fingers up one white key each, so that you pick up F Major’s F and B while keeping C anchored as the bottom note (maybe that’s an “inversion” of F Major?)The right hand, as per the “Millennial Whoop” formula, is alternating between the G and E two octaves up—i.e., the V and III in a progression where C is the root (i.e., I).The lyrics (which, depending on your speakers, might be hard to hear without headphones; I’m shit at mastering) are just whatever popped into my head, and the whole thing was recorded using my cellphone.The only “studio magic” (done in Garageband, and largely without any digital pixie dust) is “doubling the vocals” (see below—which is an excerpt form my book Junkyard Jam Band )—especially important in this instancebecause 1) I can’t sing for shit (which double-tracking tends to obscure) and 2) the mic on my cellphone didn’t pick up my voice particularly clearly, on account it was sitting on top of my keyboard’s speaker.Even if it had caught my singing, I likely would have doubled the vocals anyway (which are actually quadrupled by the end—listen with headphones, and you’ll hear two extra voices, slathered in “chorus” effect, that come in on the second round of Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ohs), since that sorta lush studio overkill is baked into this running-’til-the-break-of-dawn! summer-hit genre.
So what’s going here? Some of it is standard steampunk greebles (e.g., that faux wind-up key, the old vacuum tube being lit with a modern LED mounted behind it, some obtuse knob and mounting hardware choices), but the guts are a combination of totally legit early prototype circuits from my book (e.g., a four-step version of the Bleepbox Sequencer, of which only three of the steps can be pitch-controlled) and simple versions of a few others I hacked together on the spot (the voice is a stripped-down Single Chip Space Invader Synth driving a simplified Dirty-Cheap Amp).
Why did I do this? ’cause Emmy Jackson asked me to. Emmy is a really swell guy, and did me huge solids at both Motor City Steam and Penguicon (where he both handled book sales for me and the other authors on hand, and offered a safe space for my son if he should lose track of himself or get freaked out). He showed up at Motor City Steam with four rejected violin bodies, on the condition that I rework at least one to fit in with his Dieselpunk aesthetic. I gladly gave it my damndest (another instrument from this same weekend, the Diddley Fiddle, is still in development—as is, it’s a fine lil diddley bow, but damned if I don’t want it to be at least a tad more electromechanically rad-as-hell).
Here’s some video of me presenting the Non-Violins Synth to EmmyJ at Motor City Steam Con:
I love watching Rob Scallon rock out on a shovel guitar.FYI, this is a totally doable afternoon DIY project for any of you (yes, even you!) or the bored teen in your life.You can build something just like this (or a hockey-stick bass, an electric broomstick banjo, an axe ax—you get the gag) using the methods laid out in the “$10 Electric Guitar” project in my first book (click here now to get a FREE copy of that project—and, if you’re near Metro Detroit in July, you can come to Motor City Steam Con where I’ll be running a workshop on electric-guitarifying stuff).
Hey nifty! MAKE is featuring a project from my latest book. Click thru and Turn an Old Walkman into a Musical Scratchbox. Get wiggy and whack right now! Full build instructions at the link. Wanna hear it before you build it? Check out KipKay’s video demo:
Limoncello is a sweet, potent, ultra-citrusy liqueur popular in Southern Italy; think “lemon-drop schnapps.” If you can get 100 proof vodka (or, even better, 151 proof grain alcohol) and organic lemons, you can make it at home with minimal effort and disproportionate results. Folks *love* a little limoncello on a dark cold night, and are absolutely *delighted* to receive a bottle as a gift.
This 5-minute video and my no-frills recipe will tell you everything you need to know. BONUS: At the link you’ll also find my homebrew lemonade recipe–great served warm (maybe with a shot of whiskey or two?) on these cold nights[*].