All posts by fiona keenan

prototyping at MLab

I spent a glorious month with the generous team at the Maker Lab, University of Victoria this past March thinking about how to apply prototyping to soundmaking in light of all the advice I’ve been gathering from historical sound effects designers. This culminated in what I hope is the first of many noisemaking workshops, and Miyoko Caudet at UVic’s CFUV radio kindly interviewed Teddie Brock from MLab (my co-organiser) and I for a podcast…


adventures in rotation #2

I updated my long suffering uluatore with a new metal bridge, which has given it a more powerful rasp, even with small movements of the crank.  Here are the new insides:

intona_insidesAnd here I am trying out some new moves in rehearsal:


fet testing/preamps

In between a lot of other things, I am back to making piezo preamps  based on  Alex Rice’s design. They impedance match piezo discs (notoriously tricky things), giving a much better response at low frequencies than when they are just plugged into a mixer/recorder.


The preamp requires a matched pair of JFETs. I used to do this by ear, testing pairs in the circuit through a mixer, but I finally got my head around the matching process a couple of years ago thanks to SmudgerD’s Stompville blog. In a fit of madness I even sat down at the time and built a (point-to-point soldered) fet matcher based on SmudgerD’s PCB overlay.


I’m so proud that this thing still works, given it looks more like a sculptural work than a proper circuit. I am, however, going to treat myself to a new tester to be more future proof.


noisy textured discs

Not long after I first armed myself with a soldering iron, I started playing with DC motors, and rigged up a turntable of sorts which read zip discs and cassette tape with a tape head.

This new turntable is an arduino and servo arrangement which lets me control its speed and direction (built with John McAreavey). In this video, I have a contact mic reading the texture scratched into a CD, which is then fed through a WMD Geiger Counter and analog delay pedal for added noise. The setup needs a bit of practice yet but it is nicely hands-on and expressive to play. The video below mixes the desk audio with a room mic, as the servo is a noisy thing in itself.