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Liza celeb

invention

Human Synth

by lizabits

Published on April 21, 2015

Compose and choreograph at the same time! Using conductive fabric, conductive thread, the synth kit and the Makey Makey bit, this wearable instrument will turn you into the music making cyborg you've always wanted to be. 

To create this digital sound interface, I made switches out of conductive fabric (you can totally use aluminum foil as well) and placed them on different parts of the hoodie. One side of the switch is ground and the other is a Makey Makey (MM) input. When you touch both at the same time, it closes the switch and triggers a sound from the synth bits attached to the MM input.


Credits: Many thanks to the gracious Alex Goldmark for let me "augment" his hoodie.

How To Make It

STEP 1

Find an old hoodie or rad pleather jacket to adorn. Whatever rockstar archetype you're feeling, be sure that the material is fairly sturdy - no t-shirts here, folks.

STEP 2

Play with the amazing Makey Makey bit! It only has three outputs, so we'll focus on creating three pads that emit a different sound when you play them.

STEP 3

Choose the type of sounds you want. Play around with the synth bits to determine what configuration you like best. Since there are only three outputs, you can get really creative with the connector bits, the mix bit, and speaker bit if you have extra - we're talking super fun sound textures here.

STEP 4

Sketch out your design and determine where you want to put your switches. Think about what actions feel natural (or unnatural depending on what you're going for :) - tapping your shoulder, put your hand on your waist, etc. Where will the circuit go? I found it was easiest to put it straight down the front, but there are lots of other configurations.

STEP 5

Build the circuit that will go on the garment. This was the biggest (and most fun) challenge. LittleBits are great for remixing, but don't always want to stay together. And if we're going to put them on the body, we need to make sure they are going to disconnect during a performance. After lots of brainstorming and prototyping (some even involved binder clips), the best solution I found was a long line of gaffers tape along the back side of each and a piece of tape securing individual connections on the front. Well worth the extra work. I color coded each line of bits so I would have an easy visual cue if I wanted to adjust something.

STEP 6

TEST IT. Once I finished building, I put it on the dress form to admire my...errr...progress, until I realized it wouldn't fit the curves of the body. So, I marked where the chest starts to curve and inserted a connector bit to allow for more movement.

STEP 7

Mock it up. Take your finished circuit and adhere it to the hoodie using more gaffers tape. This will help you get a better idea of where your switches can and should go.I used dressmakers chalk to sketch it out right on the garment.

STEP 8

Design your switches. This is the part where you can as creative as you want! I just had one design constraint: a hand should be able to touch both sides of the switch at once.

STEP 9

Make the switches. Grab your conductive fabric and some fusible interfacing. Once one side of the interfacing is attached, trace your switches on and cut them out.

STEP 10

Revisit your layout. You'll want to place your switches strategically based on the MM outputs. On the right side, I had both ground sides on the right and output sides on the left. Same for the left side - otherwise I would have risked the conductive thread crossing over so the sound would always be on.

STEP 11

Iron on your switches. Label them if you can - it is *really* helpful later on when you are trying to remember which switch is which. Also, I added pads above each input and by ground for ease.

STEP 12

Start sewing! If you've never sewn with conductive thread, here's a helpful tutorial: https://learn.adafruit.com/conductive-thread/overview. And a few tips:
Tip 1: Make sure your connections are strong.
Tip 2: Try to be as tidy as possible. Don't sew lines too close together and always trim your excess. I like using clear nail polish to finish off my knots.
Tip 3: When you sew up the ground side, you only have to sew one line from the MM to the first switch, then can sew another line to connect it down to the second switch underneath.

STEP 13

Once you're done sewing, refasten your circuit using gaffers tape.

STEP 14

Sew the circuit into the garment using embroidery thread. I went around each module break or component three times for added leverage against gravity.

STEP 15

Connect the Makey Makey using conductive thread. This is the trickiest part. Since the circuit is already attached, it's a tad unwieldy. Sew into the pad first to make your connection, then sew around the MM input holes three times. Knot it and clear nail polish it. Repeat for all inputs and ground.

STEP 16

Put tape on the back of the power bit. Attach and turn the circuit on.

STEP 17

Try it on and rock out.

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