Handmade Electronic Music : The Art of Hardware Hacking book cover
3rd Edition

Handmade Electronic Music
The Art of Hardware Hacking

ISBN 9780367210106
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
452 Pages

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USD $44.95

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Book Description

Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking provides a long-needed, practical, and engaging introduction to the craft of making—as well as creatively cannibalizing—electronic circuits for artistic purposes. With a sense of adventure and no prior knowledge, the reader can subvert the intentions designed into devices such as radios and toys to discover a new sonic world. You will also learn how to make contact microphones, pickups for electromagnetic fields, oscillators, distortion boxes, mixers, and unusual signal processors cheaply and quickly. At a time when computers dominate music production, this book offers a rare glimpse into the core technology of early live electronic music, as well as more recent developments at the hands of emerging artists.

This revised and expanded third edition has been updated throughout to reflect recent developments in technology and DIY approaches. New to this edition are chapters contributed by a diverse group of practitioners, addressing the latest developments in technology and creative trends, as well as an extensive companion website that provides media examples, tutorials, and further reading. This edition features:

  • Over 50 new hands-on projects.
  • New chapters and features on topics including soft circuitry, video hacking, neural networks, radio transmitters, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, data hacking, printing your own circuit boards, and the international DIY community
  • A new companion website at www.HandmadeElectronicMusic.com, containing video tutorials, video clips, audio tracks, resource files, and additional chapters with deeper dives into technical concepts and hardware hacking scenes around the world

With a hands-on, experimental spirit, Nicolas Collins demystifies the process of crafting your own instruments and enables musicians, composers, artists, and anyone interested in music technology to draw on the creative potential of hardware hacking.

Table of Contents

Foreword to First Edition (David Behrman)




1. Getting Started: Tools and Material Needed

2. The Seven Basic Rules of Hacking: General Advice



3. The Victorian Synthesizer: Twitching Loudspeakers

4. In/Out: Speaker as Microphone, Microphone as Speaker, the Symmetry of it All

5. How to Solder: an Essential Skill

6. Circuit Sniffing: Eavesdropping on Hidden Magnetic Music

7. How to Make a Contact Mike: Using Piezo Disks to Pick up Tiny Sounds

8. Turn Your Wall into a Speaker: Resonating Objects with Transducers, Motors and More

9. Paper Speakers (Jess Rowland)

10. Tape Heads: Play Your Credit

11. Electret Microphones: Binaural on a Budget

12. Laying of Hands: transforming a Radio into a Synthesizer by Making Your Skin Part of the Circuit



13. My First Oscillator™: Six Oscillators on a Chip, Guaranteed to Work

14. Solder Up! From Breadboard to Circuit Board

15. Getting Messy: Modulation, Feedback, Instability and Crickets

16. Soft Circuitry: An Introduction to E-Textile Interfaces (Lara and Sarah Grant)

17. On/Off (More Fun With Photo Resistors): Gating, Tremolo, Panning and More

18. Mixers and Matrices: Very Simple, Very Cheap, Very Clean Ways of Configuring Lots of Circuits

19. Boost and Distort: A Simple Circuit that Goes from Clean Preamp to Total Distortion

20. Analog to Digital Conversion, Sort of: Modulating Other Audio with Your Circuits, Pitch Tracking, and a Sequencer

21. Beyond Bending: Triggering, Sequencing and Modulating Circuit Bent Toys (Alex Inglizian)

22. Video Hacking (LoVid (Tali Hinkis, Kyle Lapidus) and Jon Satrom)

23. An Introduction to Op Amps

24. A Little Hacker’s Amp

25. The Mumma-Tudor Ring Modulator (Michael Johnsen and You Nakai)

26. Paper Circuits (Peter Blasser)

27. Rule the Airwaves: Build a Radio Transmitter (Brett Balogh)

28. A Grab Bag of Samples: A Voltage Controlled Radio Receiver (Holger Heckeroth)

29. A Lo-Fi Sampler and Looper (Holger Heckeroth)

30. The Bissell Function Block: A Lag Processor (Peter Speer)

31. Sounds from Neural Networks (Wolfgang Spahn)



32. Sharing Traces: Designing and Fabricating Your Own Printed Circuit Boards with Fritzing (Eduardo Rosario)

33. Microcontroller Sound (Joseph Kramer)

34. Small Sound: Pure Data on the Raspberry Pi (Robb Drinkwater)

35. Data Hacking: The Foundations of Glitch Art (Nick Briz)



36. Handmade Sound Communities (Lisa Kori and David Novak)

37. Hello World!



1. Project Support

Sharing Traces -- Designing and Fabricating Your Own Printed Circuit Boards (Eduardo Rosario)

Microcontroller Sound (Joseph Kramer): Data files and additional projects for chapter 33

Paper Circuits (Peter Blasser): Circuit board artwork for Rungling circuit in chapter 26

Sounds from Neural Networks (Wolfgang Spahn): Circuit board artwork for Confetti Neuron circuit in chapter 31

2. Technical Bootcamp

Ohm’s Law for Dummies: How to Understand Resistors

Switches: How to Understand Different Switches, and Make Your Own

Jack, Batt and Pack: Powering and Packaging Your Circuits

Power Supplies: Carbon Footprints from AA to EEE

3. Circuit Bending

Tickle the Clock: Finding the Clock Circuit in Toys

Hack the Clock: Changing the Clock Speed for Cool New Noises

Video Music/Music Video: Translating Video Signals into Sound, Hacking Cameras, and Extracting Sounds from Remote Controls

Beyond the Pot: Photoresistors, Pressure Pads and Other Ways to Play Your Toy

LCD Art: Making Animated Modern Daguerreotypes and Alternate Video Projectors

4. Culture and History

Do It With Others: Hardware Hacking in South America (Florencia Curci, Alma Laprida and Sebastián Rey)

Hacer con Otrxs: Hardware Hacking en Sudamérica (Florencia Curci, Alma Laprida and Sebastián Rey) (Original Spanish version of Do It With Others)

Bleep Listening (Ezra Teboul)

A History of Japanese Hacking and DIY Music (ADACHI Tomomi)

日本のハッキング・DIY音楽史 (足立智美)(Original Japanese version of A History of Japanese Hacking and DIY Music) (ADACHI Tomomi)

Livening Things Up: Australian Hand-Built Electronic Instruments (Caleb Kelly and Pia van Gelder)

Gambioluthiery: Hacking and DIY in Brazil (Giuliano Obici)

A Brief Personal History of dorkbot-nyc (Douglas Repetto)

The Contact Microphone: A Cultural Object (Daniela Fantechi)

David Tudor (You Nakai and Michael Johnsen)

Pixel Artists (LoVid and Jon Satrom)

Circuit Board as Design (Eduardo Rosario)

Circuit Bending (Nicolas Collins)

Visual Music (Nicolas Collins)

The Future Was Then (Nicolas Collins)

5. Tutorials

6. Gallery of Artist's Work

View More



Nicolas Collins, an active composer and performer, has worked with John Cage, Alvin Lucier, David Tudor, and many other masters of modern music. Dr. Collins is a professor in the Department of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Research Fellow at the Orpheus Institute in Ghent, Belgium. He has led hacking workshops around the world. He has been Visiting Artistic Director of STEIM (Amsterdam), a DAAD composer-in-residence in Berlin, and a long-time Editor-in-Chief of Leonardo Music Journal.


Praise for the Second Edition

"Nicolas Collins wants to tear apart your CD player."

WIRED magazine

"Nic Collins’ book passes the torch of home-brew electronics to the next generation of musical experimentalists. Providing practical and fun recipes for sonic adventures, it simultaneously introduces the reader to the past and present field of electronic sound art."

Chris Brown, Mills College Center for Contemporary Music

"This is a terrific, unique, and much needed book; I wish I had it fifteen years ago."

Dan Trueman, Princeton Laptop Orchestra, Princeton University

"The most radical music book I’ve read so far this year. This jargon-free text offers a fresh alternative to the usual instruments prized by the music business."

Christopher Delaurenti, The Stranger, Seattle

"With wit, wisdom and enviable clarity, Nicolas Collins guides the would-be hardwarehacker through the possibilities and pitfalls of playing with electricity. Those who follow his guidance assiduously will not only be able to make noise that is both personal andinstilled with the virtue of self-discovery; they will also gain an education and mostimportant of all, stay alive."

David Toop

"Nic Collins has provided an informative and gently structured doorway through which anyone can enter the limitless world of possibilities to be discovered in a raw, hands-on approach to sculpting original, electronic arts hardware. Even starting with little experience, a motivated reader can emerge with invaluable circuit building, hacking and bending skills, while also gaining an enhanced understanding of what goes on inside the boxes and behind the panels of artist-invented, electronic music devices."

David Rosenboom, Composer-Performer, Richard Seaver Distinguished Chair in Music and Dean, The Herb Alpert School of Music, California Institute of the Arts

"A friendly portal into the seemingly arcane art form of circuit bending and building, rich with insights into the history and spirit of experimental electronic music. Chockfull of projects, ideas, and inspirations . . . enough to keep your neighborhood circuitbender out of trouble for years to come."

Mark Trayle

Praise for the First Edition

"Here we have, at last, an electronics book that caters to people who have ideas first, and electronics second. Collins offers a splendidly integrative look into the history of‘sound art,’ basic electronics, and junk revisioning."

Meara O’Reilly, MAKE magazine and makezine.com

"There are times in the history of any art form when its true visionaries set down in words, the blueprint behind an entire generation of genius. Collins has done just that with Handmade Electronic Music, an essential manifesto of know-how, trade secrets, andaesthetic accomplishment leaping off from Cage and Tudor and landing in today’sclassroom."

Thom Holmes, author of Electronic and Experimental Music