Brighton instrument repairs

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.

SaxophonesRupert 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

FX pedals / synths  – Roland Drummond – has repaired lots of fx pedals for me such as a Memory ManLittle Lanilei and 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

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

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

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.
  • Brighton Guitar Workshop – based in Hove very near to Rupert’s sax emporium. Guitar and amplifier repairs and sales. 07578 916 284 Website.
  • 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
  • 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 01273 720160

Volca Keys MIDI Out Mod – step by step

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.

See below for how to do the mod yourself.

What you need:

  • a 5 pin MIDI DIN socket (such as this one)
  • some wire
  • 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:


Mode selector 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
VCO DETUNE 42 / Pan (fine)
VCO PORTAMENTO 5 / Portamento time (coarse)
VCO EG INT 43 / Expression (fine)
VCF CUTOFF 44 / Effect control 1 (fine)
VCF EG INT 45 / Effect control 2 (fine)
LFO RATE 46 / Controller 46
LFO PITCH INT 47 / Controller 46
LFO CUTOFF INT 48 / General purpose 1 (fine)
EG ATTACK 49 / General purpose 2 (fine)
EG DECAY / RELEASE 50 / General purpose 3 (fine)
EG SUSTAIN 51 / General purpose 4 (fine)
DELAY TIME 52 / Controller 52
DELAY FEEDBACK 53 / Controller 53
TEMPO Doesn’t send a CC but changes MIDI CLOCK speed

External Signal Processing on the Korg MS-20 Mini

Before I got myself a Korg MS20 Mini, I really wanted to know more about the External Signal Processor (ESP) and how good it was at converting pitch from an instrument or voice into control voltage to power the synth. I was really pleased with how well it works and it required almost not tweaking to get there. Here’s a quick video showing how to do the simple patch:

– Guitar/mic/whatever else into the ESP ‘signal in’
– ESP CV Out into VCO 1+2 CV In
– ESP Trig Out into VCO 1+2 Trig In

and to get the guitar signal there as well:

– ESP Out (before or after the band pass filter) into EXT Signal In at the top

On this video I had the ESP Signal Level up full and the Threshold Level nearly full too.

Spending time tweaking the Low Cut and High Cut on the ESP would get this working even better.

Sorry for the bad camera angles!