10 Jan – The Joiners, Southamptontickets
11 Jan – Marine Theatre, Lyme Registickets
12 Jan – St Petroc’s Church, Bodmintickets
13 Jan – Brunel Goods Shed, Stroudtickets
14 Jan – Leaf, Liverpooltickets
16 Jan – Cyprus Avenue, Corktickets (No EG set)
17 Jan – Whelan’s, Dublintickets
18 Jan – Brudenell Social Club, Leedstickets
19 Jan – O2 ABC Glasgow, Glasgowtickets (No EG set)
20 Jan – Pleasance Theatre, Edinburghtickets
21 Jan – Lancaster Library, Lancastertickets
23 Jan – The Sage Gateshead, Hall 2, Gatesheadtickets
24 Jan – The Glee Club – Birmingham, Birminghamtickets
25 Jan – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Londontickets (No EG set)
26 Jan – J1, Cambridge Junction, Cambridgetickets
27 Jan – The Con Club, Lewes SOLD OUT
28 Jan – 02 Oxford Academy, Oxfordtickets
I repaired a few stompboxes for a friend and thought it worth writing down and linking to some of the replacement components, to hopefully speed up other people’s repairs as it took me hours to source the correct ones!
I have a couple of weeks off from playing synthesizers and brass with Bear’s Den. The timing worked out well so I’ve been able to do a tour playing electric bass and double bass with the incredible Sarah Blasko. The first show was in London last night and it was a real honour to share the stage with such fantastic musicians – Sarah Belkner (keys), Ben Fletcher (guitar/keys), Seb Sternberg (drums) and of course Sarah herself. Very much looking forward to the rest of the tour, full dates as follows:
People often ask me for tips on who to contact to get instruments, amplifiers or other gear repaired. I thought I’d collate a few contacts in one post to make it easier for people to find. A lot of them don’t have websites and rely on word of mouth. Their workshops are often wondrous places to visit.
Saxophones – Rupert Noble – Rupert Noble specialises in vintage and professional horn repairs, sales and purchases. His workshop in Hove is glorious. Expert renovation of Selmer, Conn, Buescher, Martin, King,Sml, Grafton etc and all modern horns. He also works on clarinets, flutes and other woodwind and has fixed my cornets and flugelhorns in the past. Based in Hove. 07799 398576 firstname.lastname@example.org
FX pedals / synths – Roland Drummond – has repaired lots of fx pedals for me such as a Memory Man, Little Lanileiand Walrus Audio Voyager, also installed this mod for my Fender Vibrolux and has repaired a drum machine. Always good work, reasonably priced and quick turnaround. Once he actually opened up a pedal in front of me, swapped out a fried component and gave it straight back. He also works with synthesizers, especially modular, and has an amazing looking home made system taking up a whole wall. Last time I was there he was building a modular video synth too. I think he also does pro audio gear and clones. Based by Preston Park. 07775 742495 email@example.com
Synthesizers / pro audio – Rob Hukin – has repaired and modded countless things for me including my first ever ‘proper’ synth, a Yamaha CS5, Godwin String Concert, midi retrofit and general tune up for a Juno 60, some modifications to a Korg MS20M and more. His place is always full of insane, rare and very valuable synths, once I saw four or five 808s. I believe he’s worked for a lot of big names including Talk Talk, Squarepusher and Vangelis! Also does pro audio and lots of work for Brighton based recording studios too. Based by Preston Circus. 07961 883949 firstname.lastname@example.org
Banjos / acoustic guitars / mandolins / accordions… – for folk or ‘world’ instruments I’d recommend heading to Hobgoblin Music on Queens Road. They have a workshop at the back and can set up or repair all sorts of acoustic instruments. If they can’t help in store then they will be able to recommend someone who can.108 Queens Road, BN1 3XF Location Map 01273 760022 email@example.com
There are a few other people I’ve used only once or twice, or not at all but have heard good things about them:
Woody’s Music – 12 Oxford Street, Brighton. Guitar and amplifier repairs and sales. 01273 272271 or 07757006447. Facebook page here.
Vincent Purcell – repairs and builds violins, violas, cellos and other string instruments. I’ve been to see him about double bass repair and he was very helpful and knowledgeable. Based in Hove. 01273 729081 firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Ratcliff – did an excellent repair to one of my double basses, used to mainly repair violins but now doesn’t do repairs any more as he focusses solely on dendrochronology – historical analysis of violins. If you need a dendrochronologist I’d recommend him! Facebook page email@example.com 01273 720160
The Casiotone MT-400V is a cool old keyboard, most notable for being the only Casio with an analogue filter. I believe it is the same as the Casio CT-410V, but smaller. I fixed up an old one and thought it’d be worth sharing some of my findings to speed up repairs for others in the future.
Like most Casio keyboards it’s not exactly a professional instrument, but the sounds on it are great so I thought it was worth repairing. I’ve used it a lot on recording projects (you can hear it on the tracks The Love We Stole and When You Break on the Bear’s Den album Islands for example). However, it’s a bit annoying for live use because after five minutes of not pressing a key it automatically turns itself off. This can result in a nice loud bang through the PA if you’ve forgotten to mute it with a tuner or volume pedal. You can disable this quite easily by connecting two pins with a diode. If that’s what you’re after you can skip to the bottom of this page.
Inside the Casiotone MT-400V – click to enlarge
If you take out a few screws and take the back off, this is what you’ll see. Two large green printed circuit boards. The one on the left is labelled M485-MA1M (D) and this contains the chip labelled NEC D930G. The pins on this chip control most of the functions, including disabling the APO. It’s an 80 pin chip, the bottom left corner has a dot on it and a number 1 printed on the board below. Pins 1-24 are along the bottom, 25-40 going up the right hand side, 41-64 going across from the top right corner to the top left corner and 65-80 going down from the top right corner back to the bottom left. I found it useful to draw a square with those eight numbers on when working on the keyboard so I could quickly check the number of the corner I was counting from when finding specific pins.
Click to enlarge
Across the top you can see two sets of wires which connect this PCB to the keyboard and to the front panel PCB. We need to connect certain pins on the main chip to activate certain functions, but because the pins are so tiny it’s much easier to connect these points to each other. These points are all connected to the pins we need.
The one on the left has 15 wires and has a number 15 on the first one on the left. So numbered from left to right, 15 down to 1, here is which pin on the chip each of those wires is connected to:
And the one on the right has 23 wires, I only found the pins I needed for the main functions, but the table below shows where those pins can be found on this one, again descending from left to right:
This table shows which pins to connect to which in order to achieve certain functions, some of which are ‘easter eggs’ that aren’t available unless you add modifications. It is adapted from the very useful TableHooters site. L followed by a number means the point on the left hand set of wires at the top of the large PCB, R followed by a number means the point on the right hand set of wires at the top of the large PCB:
in / out
C. memory mode
C. manual bass
C. arpeggio on
O. envelope 1
O. envelope 2
C. bass 2
C. bass 3
C. chord 2
C. chord 3
O. delayed vibrato
C. arpeggio 2
C. arpeggio 3
I’ve kept the TableHooters key –
= keyboard key
= function needs locking switch (i.e. stays active only so long the switch is closed)
= orchestra (main voice sound)
= easteregg (unconnected feature)
Some of the pins are inputs and some are outputs, so it’s important that you connect them using a diode. I used a 4148 diode. So to disable the APO we need to connect pin 53 to 45, which is out of L8 and into R4. The functions are activated on low, so he end of the diode with the black strip (the cathode) needs to be connected to pin 53 / point L8 and the other end (the anode) needs to be connected to pin 45 / point R4.
Because one of these points is on the left set of wires and the other is on the right they are quite far apart. I followed the traces and found points closer together that are connected to the same places. I checked for continuity with a multimeter. You can see the two points below – the connection disabling the APO is the top yellow wire. Ignore the five wires below, they are bridging a small break in the circuit board. And please ignore the poor soldering! I just wanted to get the thing working and then re-did it neatly later.
Click to enlarge
So basically if you found this page just looking for how to disable the automatic power off “feature” on the Casiotone MT-400V, zoom in on the image above to see the two points you need to connect via a diode. Make sure you have the diode the right way round – though if you don’t, don’t worry too much, you’ll just notice that when you play the second or third octave of the keyboard you get extra notes. Desolder, turn the diode around, resolder!
UPDATE: Benoit Lachaise got in touch with me and confirmed this mod also works on the Casiotone MT-100 which uses the same D930G chip. He sent these photos to show the points he connected. Thanks Benoit!
Adding MIDI OUT capability to the Volca Keys means an already great little (and cheap) instrument can also be a really hand tiny MIDI controller and sequencer, so you can use the Volca sequencing to control any sounds you like.
There is a bit of information about this easy modification online but not much that relates specifically to the Volca Keys rather than the Bass or Beats. The electronics involved are really simple, the more complicated bit is making a midi socket actually fit somewhere on this compact little case!
Here’s a video showing my modded Volca Keys controlling Logic’s EXS 24 Sampler Instrument – but you could use it to control any MIDI controllable hardware or software. In this case the sampler is playing samples of my vibraphone. You can see me use MIDI Monitor to show the incoming MIDI messages from the Volca Keys – this is a really useful free program.
a drill to make the holes in the front panel and preferably a step drill bit
two small nuts and bolts to hold the MIDI socket in place
a needle file, small screwdriver, soldering iron, solder…
some heatshrink tubing if you like
Remove the batteries and unscrew the three countersunk screws across the top, the three across the bottom and the one in the middle. They’re marked in this photo with yellow circles:
Now carefully open the Volca Keys as the four wires connecting the batteries and the speaker to the PCB are a bit fragile. Don’t worry if you do break them from the PCB though – I did this a couple of times and it’s easy to reflow the solder and stick the wires back in. It will look like this:
Now we can see the three points that we need to connect to a 5 pin MIDI DIN Socket – just underneath the brown and orange wires you can see points marked TX, VD and GND.
Use a flathead screw driver or something similar to tease the white plug all those brown wires are going into out of the white socket and unscrew all the screws on this PCB marked with a white circle.
Remove the mode and footage/octave selector knobs from the front panel and the PCB should come apart from the front now.
I want to put my MIDI out socket next to the MIDI in socket but there is limited room between the panel and the PCB to squeeze it in so I’ve made a spacer using an old plectrum, it’s about 1mm thick. I drilled three holes for the MIDI socket in it and trimmed the outer edge. It would be easier to just use a washer or spacer, I think 16mm would fit around the DIN socket, but I couldn’t find one lying around so knocked this up. You could use anything, you just need to raise the socket slightly up above the front panel.
Next I marked and drilled the large hole in the top panel for the MIDI socket. I used a step drill bit – these are REALLY handy for making holes like this, check them out here. I think the hole is about 16mm but with step drill bits you can just keep going until you get to the right size – very useful as it saves having loads of slightly different sized bits.
Next I filed down that raised plastic lip to make room for the two holes for the nuts and bolts that hold the midi socket in place, then drilled the two holes, fixed the socket in place and bent all the legs slightly – again just to make it fit between the front panel and the PCB once we put this thing back together.
Cut three lengths of wire to go from this socket to the points on the PCB we saw earlier. I used this 0.6mm solid core wire because you can bend it and it will stay in place, which makes soldering the connections easier. I also used heatshrink tubing over the connections, partly to make sure we don’t get any short circuits but mostly to appear professional in this blog post. The lengths of wire need to be about 15-20cm long I think – best to give a bit of extra length so things are easier if you want to open the Volca Keys up again in the future. I’ve labelled which wire will go to which connection on the PCB below:
Now slip this back into the front panel and put back all the screws in the holes marked with white circles. You need to remember which of the three wires is attached to which of the three legs on the MIDI socket. You could use different coloured wires or mark the loose ends of the wires.
Now solder the three wires to the three points we identified earlier and tuck the excess wires underneath so they don’t get in the way in between the keyboard and the battery compartment when we put this back together.
Put the whole thing back together and put those seven countersunk screws back in place. Put the two knobs back on the pots on the front – put batteries in or connect a power supply and test!
It sends MIDI clock based on the tempo, and all the pots send MIDI CCs except for PEAK, TEMPO and VOLUME. PLAY sends start and stop messages. Here’s a video with the pots assigned to controlling the settings of the sampler instrument:
And here’s a handy image and a reference table for what MIDI Control Changes the different knobs send with the decimal numbers and standard names:
40 / Balance (fine) / the six positions are 11, 33, 55, 77, 99 and 121
Footage / octave selector
41 / Controller 41 / again the six positions are 11, 33, 55, 77, 99 and 121