ArcAttack’s Musical Tools and Appliances

Music Technology
ArcAttack’s Musical Tools and Appliances
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Joe DiPrima of ArcAttack! sent us a link to this video of their MIDI-orchestrated tools and appliance jam. We asked Joe to provide some more details of the build. Here’s what he sent us. Thanks, Joe!

The completed 8-relay control board

The main controller is basically just a MIDI-controlled powerstrip. We originally built it with the intention of using it for some basic lighting control, but decided to try our hand at being house appliance musicians. Each device can either be turned on or off, via a relay, and we link the control board to our main sequencing computer, From there, we can compose tracks with a MIDI sequencer.

The underside of the control board

Close-up of the PIC30f3012 microcontroller chip and control circuit

The controller board was milled here in our shop and utilizes a PIC30f3012 microcontroller to interpret MIDI data input. The main MIDI port is a multimode fiber optic receiver, since we use fiber to transmit all our data signals. This device was made with intentions of being used in proximity of our Tesla coils.

Aside from that, it’s capable of controlling eight 110 outlets simultaneously. It only turns devices on or off, so any subtlety in the sound of each appliance was achieved by turning on the tool and then controlling how long it revs up. Or, in some cases, like the belt sander, it makes a clunk when you first apply power to it, and also makes some whirring sounds when it spins up.

The final appliance band lineup is: Belt Sander, Shaver 1, Shaver 2, Dremel tool, Blender, Hand Sander, Hand Mixer

ArcAttack! — Musical Tesla Coils

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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