Make: Holiday Gift Guide 2009: Music Machines

Make: Holiday Gift Guide 2009: Music Machines

There’s been a bunch of great music-related kits released recently, just in time for gift-giving season. Add those to an already strong list of tried and true faves, and you’ve got yourself a lot of options for the sonic experimenter this year. Read on for the rundown

Drum Kit Kit for Arduino ($18.95)
The Drum Kit Kit lets you turn your Arduino into a drum kit. Imagine the fun you could have building a drum kit and then rocking the house! The kit contains the electronic parts required to make a drum kit, including the circuit board, resistors, diodes, and pins. You supply the Arduino and the material to make the actual drum pads. Below you’ll find easy instructions on how to make traditional-looking drum pads, but you could also stick the piezos (the part that senses the hits on the drum) to many different surfaces. Imagine playing your desk, lamp, and telephone, and rocking the cubicle!
The Drum Kit Kit requires an Arduino Microcontroller
Arduino Duemilanove ($34.99)

Doomsday Sound Kit ($24.95)
A noise generator that operates entirely on body resistance. The main circuit board is a leftover from a Doomsday Novelty Device which beeps for five seconds when a button is pressed. At the heart of a circuit is a Motorola MC14001 U Quad Gate, basically a four oscillator circuit to tweak. Various spots on the board have been found to cause nice variations in the resulting sound that the circuit was originally intended to produce. The kit can fit into a very small housing, such as a VHS case, or a kid’s lunchbox. The included touch contacts create a rugged interface with the board for interesting and expressive sound generation. The project’s intent is to be very open ended and easy to personalize while at the same time being quick and reliable to assemble. The instructions include body contact solder points that will modify the sound expressively, however not all the possibilities have been explored; if you want to circuit-bend this device further, it will provide ample opportunities. Remember the themes are Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, so find an old plastic or wooden case and put it to good use!

Autonomous Bassline Generator ($18.95)
Basic demo of the features of the Autonomous Bassline Generator, a low-cost, hackable, deterministic sequencer + digital VCO + photo-sensitive analogue filter + PWM controlled LED. It also features IR connectivity, as seen in the last part of the video where two ABG’s are beat sync’ed!

Drone Lab ($200)
The Drone Lab is a four voice analog drone synth, rhythm generator, and FX processor. It is capable of generating rich, textured soundscapes, hypnotic drones, and complex rhythmic sequences. It features a series of filter and distortions circuits as well as an audio input jack. This allows it to be used as an effects processor for external audio signals.

Andromeda MK-1, MK-2 ($55)
This was designed as an experiment of making the most minimal drum machine possible using analog circuitry.  Beyond that goal, the design also includes a new feature, IR Sync, which allows a group of these units to all synchronize together and play at the same tempo automatically.  Although the sound of one Andromeda MK machine alone is simple, a group of them together can play more complex rhythms.  The complexity of the patterns is multiplied with each additional unit that is added to the network.  A maximum of 12 units can be connected in a chain.
The Andromeda MK-1 analog drum machine has a minimal sequencer with sixteen preset patterns, selectable by the red switch block.  The push-button restarts the patterns.  This feature allows you to shift the timing of the rhythm when synchronized with other Andromeda Space Rockers instruments.


Box Amplifier Kit ($29.95)
A great-sounding, loud amplifier kit designed to easily fit in almost any box (cardboard or otherwise). It goes from solder station to stage in under 60µF!! Solder it up, cut out holes for the speaker and controls, and plug in your instrument!

Wsg Kit

MFOS WSG Component Kit (w/PCB) ($90)
Ray Wilson of has a definite talent for designing analog synthesizer projects, and a great sense of humor. His “Weird Sound Generator kit” is a great place to start for those looking to get started in the world of analog synth DIY.

Sx150 2-Up

SX-150 Analog Synthesizer Kit ($54.95)
Analog synthesizer sound quality in a uniquely affordable kit form – This cool little synth kit is easy to put together, requires no soldering, and is easy to hack (see links below). There are no English instructions included (book and kit are in Japanese, but beautifully done) but the detailed illustrations are more than enough to easily put this kit together. Check out our blog links below to see our review and hacks. Imported from Japan in partnership with Gakken. 4 AA batteries (not included)

  • Size: 4.5 x 6 inches
  • Controls for LFO, pitch envelope, frequency cutoff, resonance and attack/decay
  • Slide controller (pen type electrode)
  • Output and external input 1/8″ Jacks
  • Small built-in speaker

Gakken Premium Theremin ($140)
Invented in 1920, in Russia, the Theremin is the original electronic instrument and has been used on albums by artists from the Beach Boys to the Flaming Lips to add a unique sound to their tracks. It’s easy to handle, but difficult to master, as you use your hands proximity to the volume and pitch antennas to create music. The new Gakken Premium Theremin is a compact version that produces quality sound at a reasonable price. Use your right hand to adjust the tone, and your left to change the volume, but no need to touch! The small speaker will provide ample sound, but you can also connect the Theremin to external speakers, or even mix it with other instruments such as Gakken’s Analog Synthesizer! This kit is easy to build and play! Instructions are in Japanese but feature highly-detailed assembly pictures (sorry, no English translation at this time). MAKE is proud to be the exclusive distributor in North America for these brilliant kits from Gakken.

App Main1

Arduino Pocket Piano Synth Kit ($44.95)
This is a board for making the Arduino into a portable stand-alone music synthesizer. It plugs directly into the Arduino board and provides 25 multiplexed keys (two full octaves), four pots, status LED, reset switch, digital to analog converter IC, and a RCA audio jack. The Arduino board with its powerful AVR processor is more than adequate for a wide range of sound synthesis techniques. We have experimented with simple additive/wave-table synthesis, frequency modulation, ring modulation, sampling, polyphony, various arpeggiators. The whole thing can be powered over the Arduino’s USB port – a great way to add new sound programs you can download from the web or write yourself!
The Pocket Piano requires an Arduino Microcontroller
Arduino Duemilanove ($34.99)

Waveshield Kit ($21.95)
Adding quality audio to an electronic project is surprisingly difficult. Here is a shield for Arduino that solves this problem. It can play up to 22KHz, 12bit uncompressed audio files of any length. Its low cost, available as an easy-to-make kit. It has an onboard DAC, filter and op-amp for high quality output. Audio files are read off of an SD/MMC card, which are available at nearly any store. Volume can be controlled with the onboard thumbwheel potentiometer.
The Waveshield requires an Arduino Microcontroller
Arduino Duemilanove ($34.99)

Thingamakit ($69.95)
This kit version of the popular Thingamagoop light and sound generator not only makes some great triangle and square waves – it’s a fun customizable character. Use the flashing LED tentacle (“LEDacle”) to control the bleep-tone output!

Voice of Saturn Synthesizer kits ($74.99 – $144.99)
The VOS series of analog synthesizer modules come complete with very sweet retro-chic console enclosures. Available in sequencer, VCO, and Modulator varieties that each complement each other in functionality. The modulator can also be used to add tremolo effects to audio signals.

If there’s some sweet music-making machine I’ve left out, be sure to let me know in the comments!

In the Maker Shed:


Want more? Stop by the Maker Shed. We’ve got all sorts of great holiday gift ideas, Arduino & Arduino accessories, electronic kits, science kits, smart stuff for kids, back issues of MAKE & CRAFT, box sets, books, robots, kits from Japan and more.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines in December:

04 (Fri) – Deadline for microscope shipping
11 (Fri) – postal shipping deadline
14 (Mon) – ground shipping deadline
18 (Fri) – FedEx 3-day shipping deadline
21 (Mon) – FedEx 2-day shipping deadline
22 (Tue) – FedEx overnight shipping deadline

*Customers experiences on orders with these ship methods placed after these dates may vary, the dates listed are what we call “safe dates”

USPS (Any Method):
Due to the high volume of mail that the postal service deals with around the holidays, order by Dec. 10th, however, many packages are lost or delayed in transit and we do not replace or refund any orders lost using this ship method, we strongly encourage you to not use this method in Decemb

12 thoughts on “Make: Holiday Gift Guide 2009: Music Machines

  1. Adam Wolf says:

    A few months ago, my buddy and I released an open source hardware tactile metronome and beat looper kit.

    They’re available at

    1. Adam Wolf says:

      Could an admin fix the link above to without the period?


  2. Pete says:

    Why are there six channels on the shield but only 4 piezo elements in the kit?

  3. Will says:

    Maybe I just missed it, but I don’t think this post is listed in the Gift Guide section with the rest of them. I was looking for it, and got sad when I thought that I had just imagined it…

    1. Collin Cunningham says:

      yup – it’s up there in the “More guides:” text list

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