This Project is Mini Synthesizer, using a PICaxe. It was designed by Brian McNamara. If you're looking for a mini drum machine, you should check out his other project, The GrooveAxe. His other project is the MemAxe

You can get the kit from Gadget Gangster & grab the schematic. here. The kit comes pre-programmed. But, if you'd like to gather the parts yourself, you'll need the following.

Parts list

  • Resistors, 1 each of : 1k, 3.3k, 330, 560, 100k, 2.2k, 220k
  • 4 x 10k Resistors
  • Gadget Gangster project board (half board)
  • 10 uF Cap
  • 8 Pin Dip Socket
  • 3xAA battery holder (and batteries)
  • 10k Photoresistor
  • Micro Speaker
  • 22Ga Hookup wire
  • And a programmed PICaxe 08M. You can get the Source Code off Gadget Gangster
You'll also need a soldering iron, solder, and wire cutters.

Here's a little video demonstration

How to Play It

The NoiseAxe will play 8 different notes, each note is played by touching one of the 8 resistor legs at the bottom right of the PCB with the stylus wire. You can change the level of modulation by varying the light that enters the photoresistor, creating a vibrato effect. This is done by putting your finger over, or shining a small LED torch onto, the photoresistor.

How it Works

The NoiseAxe is based around the Picaxe 08M micro-controller. The 8 different notes that it will play are controlled via a stylus that you use to touch each of the 8 resistors legs at the bottom right of the PCB. Each resistor makes a voltage divider that produces a different voltage when that resistor is touched. The voltage is sensed by the ADC (analog to digital converter) on the Picaxe and converted into one of 8 values in the program. The 8 note output corresponds to one octave on a keyboard. The sound command is then used to output the correct note to the speaker. The photoresistor is also used in a voltage divider circuit connected to one of the inputs the micro-controllers ADC. A digital value is read within the program and added or subtracted from the frequency sent to the sound command.

Step 1: IC Socket

Place the 8pin IC Socket on the top side of the PCB, with pin 1 on G4 of the PCB and pin 8 on J4 of the PCB. Solder into place.


Please do not laugh, I am a quilt artist. I am working with conductive threads to eluminate specific section of my quilts. However there is a very big problem <br>I need a continuious sourse of power when the quilt is being exhibited. I am not an electronic person. I need help. <br>I would like to have a sourse of power that is very light and it can be sewn on the back of the quilt and be a power source to eluminate the conductive threads. With an on and off switch. If these power sources could be light enough so that more then one can be incorporate , because the quilts are very large. If you have any ideas I would be gratefull. <br>Thank you for your time and energy. Maria E. Cosimano-Kohl
<p>I do not know that much about e-textiles, but i think your best bet may be button cell batteries like <a href="http://www.amazon.com/CR2032-Lithium-Button-3-volt-Batteries/dp/B000WQSX4W/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1403700031&sr=8-13&keywords=button+cell+batteries" rel="nofollow">these</a>, and maybe a sewable holder like <a href="http://www.adafruit.com/products/653" rel="nofollow">this</a>.</p><p>Hope this helps!</p><p>Jack</p>
Check out Tic Tac Tunes, another picaxe powered mini music maker
this is weird. did any one notice how much this <strong>noise</strong> axe is like Make zine's <strong>pic</strong> axe?<br/>
I would suspect it would pretty similar as they were both designed by <a rel="nofollow" href="http://makezine.com/pub/au/Brian_McNamara">Brian McNamara</a>. He also did the <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.instructables.com/id/GrooveAxe_Mini_Drum_Machine/">GrooveAxe</a>, another PICaxe 8-bit mini synth. <br/>
I don't see a schematic...!
Check the word doc on the project page in the resources section.
Many appreciation(s)!
neat project. you just need a feedback loop and some pots to make a square wave synth though
Thanks, that was cute, but needs recogizeable tones and volume before it could be considered a proper musical instrument. Nice start, though.
I disagree. It can't play Beethoven's 5th but neither can a snare drum. Both instruments are musical as heck, though. :)
All right. I concede. I suppose if you want compact size, you have make some concessions. I discovered a long time ago that there are tones you just can't get out of a harmonica.
You might find Brian's other project, <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.instructables.com/id/GrooveAxe_Mini_Drum_Machine/">The GrooveAxe</a>, a little more up your alley. <br/>
It's a teeny Stylophone!
That's sweet! I don't if it was this, or a similar project that was featured in Make: recently, but I like it.
Great step by step instructions! For many, PCBs can be hard to master and providing the details really helps everyone out!

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