Playing Stitch Synth is easy. Snap together different modules, and plug it into a speaker. Touch, pull, and press and press different sensors to make sounds.
Stitch Synth doesn’t have a speaker built in - you’ll need to plug in an external speark, or a set of headphones, into the audio jack on the amplifier module.
Stitch Synth can be played by snapping modules together and connecting it to a speaker. The snap connectors on each module aren’t just for connecting the modules together - they’re part of the circuits and allow electricity to flow from module to module. So it’s important that they’re connected properly. But the modules have been designed so that it’s hard to connect them the wrong way.
You can’t get an electric shock from Stitch Synth (as the battery isn’t powerful enough), but you can:
- Short-circuit the battery by connecting the + (red) and - (black) terminals directly together, which can make the battery heat up and set fire.
- Fry the logic chips that are the brains of the synth, by connecting the battery the wrong way around. If this happens the chips can overheat, which can cause mild burns.
- Cause short circuits if you place Stitch Synth on a metal (or otherwise conductive) surface, as the electrical connections are not insulated.
So maybe try to avoid doing these things ◔ᴗ◔
Stitch Synth modules have a sort of colour code:
Colour modules are ones that you can interact with by touching / pressing / pulling them
Black modules aren’t interactive - they do stuff, but you don’t need to touch them to get them to do their job. In fact, touching these modules while the battery is connected can create short-circuits and cause unexpected sounds (or no sound!). Sometimes this can create interesting new sounds, but there’s always the chance that something will go wrong and cause the synth not to work. So, do this at your own risk :)
In the sections below you can see different ways to snap the modules together to make different sounds
Every configuration of Stitch Synth needs the power module! The synth is powered by a 9V battery, sewn into a module which allows it to be snapped onto other modules. It has three male snaps on one side, that connect to the output of other modules. Three female snaps on the other side connect to the input of other modules.
The 9V battery can be unclipped to turn the synth off, and can be removed and replaced when empty. Replacing the battery is also the first thing you should try if you’ve connected the modules correctly but aren’t hearing any sound.
Amplification and volume#
The volume module is a very rough and simple way of adjusting the volume of the signal coming out of the synth. It has three settings - low, medium, and high:
The amplifier module takes the output from the sound-making circuits and runs it through another circuit to turn it into a signal that is suitable for a speaker. With homemade electronic instruments, there’s always the chance that if you wire something incorrectly, you can break external speakers or devices that you’re plugging them into. This little amplifier module reduces that chance that that’s going to happen :)
One side of the amplifier has three snaps to connect to +, -, and the output of another module. The other side has a jack socket so that it can be plugged into an external speaker.
The Wendy module is one of the two hearts* of Stitch Synth. It’s an oscillator, which means it takes electric current from the battery and turns it into an ‘oscillating’ (aka changing) signal that makes sound when passed to a speaker. The Wendy has several different modules that connect to it.
Named after Wendy Carlos, synth legend and composer of the soundtracks for The Shining, Tron, and more. Switched on Bach. Read more about her here and here
Play by touching both of the black columns at the same time! Pressing harder increases the pitch.
Named after Ada Lovelace, mathematician and co-designer of the Analytical Engine, a theoretical model for the first computer. the Analytical Engine used a punch-card system based on that used by Jacquard Looms (which you can read about here)
To play, touch the pattern with one hand, while the other hand touches the metal snap on the other side of the module. Pressure, as well as the number of fingers you use to press the sensor, will affect the pitch.
Named after Fields Medal winning mathematician Maryam Marzakhani
Play by pulling pleats closed - the tighter the pleats, the higher the pitch!
Named after electronic music inventor, and BBC Radiophonic Workshop co-founder, Daphne Oram. Read about her Oramics machine - a method for drawing sound - here
Connect the Ada / Maryam and the Daphne at the same time, and create new sounds! As luck would have it, as soon as I started to film this, the amplifier module started experiencing some technical difficulties (probably two threads touching where they shouldn’t, creating a short-circuit). I haven’t yet had time (as of March 26th) to fix this, but it will be fixed!
video coming soon
The Delia oscillator can create more predictable ‘musical’ pitches. It can only take one input at a time, unlike the Wendy.
Named after electronic music pioneer, and Doctor Who soundtrack composer (among other things) Delia Derbyshire.
The Anni module is a kind of keyboard. Connect it to the input of the Delia module, and then press the places where the yarn crosses over, to play different notes.
Named after Anni Albers, weaving expert and textile artist
The Hedy module is a filter - it knocks off some of the frequencies of the sounds being generated, and makes them sound a bit smoother. Connect the Hedy to the output of either oscillator, and the other side to the input of the volume module. But note that this module also makes the sound a bit quieter, so you may need to turn up the volume!
Named after engineer and actress Hedy Lamarr, who invented a frequency-hopping technology that was a precursor to WiFi, Bluetooth, and more.
A sequencer kind of does what it sounds like - it allows you to play a sequence of notes, one after another, and control the pitche of the notes.
A module for mixing the sounds from the Wendy and the Delia, and playing them together, would be nice.
With the same components, it’s possible to make cymbals and drum sounds.
*Yes, it’s a Time Lord