Introduction: How to Build an Arduino Synth

This is a super simple and easily customizable little synthesizer. This is my first time using the Arduino and also with acrylic, both I found very fun to work with though.  This is also my first Instructables so hopefully I have explained this well enough.

Step 1: Part and Tools

For the innards:

Arduino Uno
power source(I used a 9v with an adapter)
4- 5k linear potentiometers
200mm linear SoftPot(you can go smaller than this I just used this length because its what I had)
output jack
optional: Arduino holster(I had this made using a MakerBot) for easily removing the Arduino if you want to use it for something else.
all of this I was able to get off except the SoftPot which i found at

For the box:

Acrylic pane(found mine at Lowe's)
Weld-On 4(found on Amazon)

Soldering iron
table saw
router table
drill press
butane torch
Weld-on applicator bottle

Step 2: Wire It Up

This is extremely easy to make. 10-15 minutes of soldering and you are ready to go.

First just line up the five pots with the SoftPot. Then wire the first pole of each post together and solder it. The do the same with third pole. Then solder a wire to each of the center poles. The SoftPot center pole needs to connect to the A4 pin, the second pot's center goes to A3, the third pot's center goes to A2, the fourth pot's center goes to A1, and the final pot's center goes to A0. Then on the fifth pot solder another wire to the left and right poles, with the left pole connecting to the 5v pin and the right pole connecting to the GND right next to it.  The only thing left is to connect an audio output jack with the hot going to ~3 and ground to GND.

Step 3: Code

You will need a way to get the code onto the Arduino so if you don't have it go download the Arduino program and their website:

I got the code from here:

Now load the code onto the Arduino, hook it up to a speaker and check that it works. If not then just go back and check the diagram I made and make sure that you got all of the pots wired correctly and that you got the wires in the right pins. 

Now I know nothing about coding but after looking at the sketch for a while I was able to sort of see how it worked. I was able to make some changes to the decays and the second pitch to get the sounds I was wanting, so I would say go ahead and mess around with it until you get the sounds you like even if you are like me and know nothing about coding.  Just make small changes at a time and then test it, if you do mess it up too much then you can always just reload the original sketch and start again.

Step 4: Make the Box

First step figure out the dimensions you want your box to be. I used 9.5in x 4in x  2.75in for my dimensions. You will want to make sure that the width of the box is long enough to accommodate the SoftPot's length, and if you mount your Arduino like i did that the height is enough as well. I did not make a bottom for my box just because I wanted it to be easily accessible if I needed to replace a battery or remove my Arduino.

Next make a rough cut using a table saw, give yourself some room to work with because you will want to clean the edges up on the router table. With the router you want to make sure the bit is just barely past the guard so that you are only take a small amount off of the edges at a time. Just do this until you reach the the right dimensions. To get the clear edges on your acrylic you will then want to take a torch and run it along the edges, keep it moving or you will burn it which will result in bubbling. This will melt it just enough so that you are left with wonderful smooth and clear edges.

Now its time to fill your applicator bottle with the Weld-On 4. Then one side at a time, press the edges together and place the needle of the applicator in the corner and gently squeeze it as you slowly slide it down the seem. You should be able to see the liquid run through the seem, you will then need to apply pressure to it for a few minutes until the bond has set. Continue this process on each side. 

Now its time to figure out where you want the knobs and audio out to go and drill the holes. Acrylic will grip, a lot, so you have to drill very slowly or chunks might go missing, or worse, you end up with a big cracked mess. and you get to start again. Once I drilled the holes I cleaned the edges up with my knife to get the melted bits of and the torch them to gloss them up. 

Step 5: Assemble Then Play

I started with inserting my Arduino first, and since I had a little holster for it I simply placed it on the side, grabbed my Weld-On and squirted some between it and the acrylic and let it bond. I did the same with the 9v adapter. This worked wonderfully and kept everything perfectly in place. Next just put your potentiometers in the holes and tighten them. For the SoftPot I just made a long slit in the box that it could slide through and then mine had an adhesive backing(most that I have seen do) so i pulled it off and stuck it to the box. Then I used the Weld-on to attach the connector to the inside of the box.  Last thing is to connect all of your wires to the correct pins on the Arduino.

Now plug in the power and hook it up to a speaker and have some fun. I have ran this through a delay and chorus pedal and you can really get some fun sounds out of it. 


MrMo made it!(author)2017-02-25

had really fun doing it with my son ! Metal enclosure was given by a friend.

ColinM74 made it!(author)2016-08-25

which of the codes must I download for this to work? :) ty

pyromaniac123456789 made it!(author)2014-01-20

which holes does the speaker go into

TobaTobias made it!(author)2012-12-17

I made an instructable on this synth too. This is the Auduino based on Peter Knights sketch. Theres a small video on my instructable if someone wants to listen to it.

Sanjay+Limbore made it!(author)2012-12-16

you haven't given all parts list. also couldn't find how to play this?

hankenstien made it!(author)2012-12-16

TO ME THIS LOOKS SIMILAR TO THE "SIMIPLE GRAIN SYNTH", JUST FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR REFERENCE VIDEO / SOUND, EXCEPT FOR THE SOFT POT, WITCH, IN THE OTHER EXAMPLES WOULD BE ANOTHER POT, (sorry for the caps) did not notice, i am curious how the soft pot sounds myself, so some of your video would be nice to see as well! nice job on the acrylic's

danger+thompson made it!(author)2012-12-15

DDo you have any links to any video or sound samples it would be interesting to hear it

yoyology made it!(author)2012-12-15

Can you explain how it is played? I assume the round pots are used to change the sound, but do you use the softpot to play notes, like a theremin?

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