Synthesizer Using 555




About: I'm Ben. I'm currently weaseling my way through undergrad at MIT where I'm majoring in physics and nuclear science and engineering. I made this account back in middle school (hence the cheesy name), and I re...

In this instructable, I will show you how to make a synthesizer with common components. It uses capacitors, though you could easily modify the circuit to use resistors instead. There are many things that you can do with the synthesizer, but for me, and probably you, this is more of an introduction to making these instruments. Once the project is finished you will have a working simple synthesizer that can produce a variety of tones and annoy siblings (it seems it can do this better than anything else).

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Step 1: Materials

- 8 pin IC socket (optional)
- NE555 (or any 555 chip)
- 10 k resistor
- 10 - 100k potentiometers
- 4.7 electrolytic capacitor
-  0.1 uf ceramic disk capacitor ( it will say 104 on it)
- 0.01 uf ceramic disk capacitor (will say 103 on it
 - (x3) .001 ceramic disk capacitors ( will say 102 on them)
- 3 push buttons
- one small speaker
- battery case for 4 AA bateries
- printed circuit board

soldering iron (plus solder (60/40 is recommended))

helping hands (optional but useful) 

other soldering tools

Step 2: Build the Circuit

Connect the IC socket or IC (if you are not using a socket) to the board. Connect pin 2 and 6, 4 and 8. connect pin 1 to ground, and pin 8 to power supply. connect pin 7 and 6 with a 10k resistor. connect the ground end of the 4.7 uf capacitor to pin 3.

Step 3: Connect the Buttons and Capacitors

solder the buttons and capacitors to the board. connect one lead of the capacitor to one lead of the button. connect the other end on the cap to ground. connect the other end to the button to pin 6 of the 555.

Step 4: Attach the Speaker and Potentiometer

connect one end of the speaker to the positive end of the 4.7 uf cap. attach the other end of the speaker to Vcc. connect the Wiper pin of the pot to Vcc, and one of the outside pins to pin 7. Don't do anything with the second outside pin on the pot.

Step 5: Play

Connect a 6 - 9v power supply, and press the buttons. pressing the different combinations produces different tones. moving the pot also changes the tones. Have fun!

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    13 Discussions


    I love the simplicity in this design. A lot of these synthesizers are complex and the sound quality is garbage, but this is very nice. Thanks for the Instructable. =]

    2 replies
    J-FiveHiggs Boson

    Reply 3 years ago

    On the 4.7 µF Electrolytic capacitor, I was wondering which side is the positive end go facing the chip or the towards the chip or to the speaker?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Can anyone help me out with this, I really want to make it but I'm still new at reading schematics and suck at figuring out where to place everything and the pictures stop helping since all the wiring looks really confusing.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Just built this out of components I had laying around and really enjoyed it! Thanks for posting. Helped me learn about the 555 timer chip.

    I'd love to see that. I tried to make a percussion synth, but it was not as cool as I thought it would be. I'm probably going to make more using the 555.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I think that you'd get a better-range with a "binary" set of capacitors on the switches.
    E.g. 20nf 40nf & 80nf. That gives you combinations of 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, & 140 (equally-spaced)


    1 reply