Featured artist Rich Bernett shares his favorite DIY instrument, the Cassettone, the playable cassette tape recorder.
For Rich Bernett, creating his own instruments is almost as fun as using them to record music. Rich started working on DIY projects when he discovered circuit bending. From there, he started creating unique instruments involving electric motors, piezo mics, solenoids, and anything else that he found interesting. One of his favorite creations he calls the Cassettone. It is loosely based on the Mellotron, a commercially produced sampler that used reel-to-reel tapes to playback recordings of real-world instruments from its keyboard. The Cassettone functions in a similar way in that each of its five keys can "play" the cassette back at different speeds, thus producing different notes.
Rich has created a video tutorial for his YouTube channel which takes you step-by-step through the building process. The concept is to bypass the speed controller on the circuit board of the cassette player and connect switches and potentiometers to control the playback speed. If everything is wired up correctly, you can press a key and turn a knob to adjust the note for each of the five keys. You can record anything you want on the cassette and then play it back at five different pitches. This little instrument is full of potential! Anything you record on the tape can be turned into an instrument. This concept could also be expanded to a larger keyboard or two cassette players. Other builders have added jacks for CV / Gate connections to allow the Cassettone to be played with a step sequencer. Use your imagination and see what else you can come up with.
For anyone who has an interest in these kinds of gadgets, I would encourage you to visit Rich's YouTube channel and give this project a try. He lays out everything in an easy-to-follow format and even includes a wiring diagram that you can download. This project may be just what you need to open a whole new world of sonic possibilities in your musical journey.
To learn more about Rich and the Cassettone visit: