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Page history last edited by Noah Vawter 8 years, 5 months ago


Electric Eel Instrument Design initiated by Noah Vawter 


Watch Noah performing Christmas Carols on Electric Eels



Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)








Lounge Area

How-To Make One









The Instrument Family


Music Scores






Advanced Projects









This musical instrument, the Blue Electric Eel, plays synthesized sounds

when the player slides the generator left and right.  It makes PWM waves, triangles

waves, sine waves, string simulations, noise, etc.  Hear it played or learn to build one!

Electric Eel Architecture

Performance, San Diego, California, Feb. 24-25, 2011


Pictures Posted from Recent Workshop October 16-17th, 2010


- Machine Project Workshop December 11th - December 17th, 2010 -

Electric Eels - Electronic music instruments in traditional acoustic forms.


Electric power for every note comes from the player.

Oscillators and filters are done electronically.

Instruments Built by Participants of the TEI Workshop in the MIT Media Lab


These two instruments, constructed in an afternoon by workshop participants, one the reference designs for Electric Eels, which are hybrid electronic-acoustic instruments using built-in electrical generators.  They synthesize instrument music, driving built-in speakers as hard as the bowing motion between the two Lego wheels will allow.

Famous Hardrock Bassline


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This video shows Noah Vawter and Kelly Snook breathing life into a classic Finnish folksong, while Ryan O'Toole does a leekspin.  More videos are at our youtube page.


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Bass Electric Eel Unveiled on Beach in Cape Cod:


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This new instrument, on the left, is called the Bass Eel.  It is produces the loudest bass

of all Exertion Instruments so far.  In this video, Rob Gwin (formerly of The May Fire, currently of

Ettie St. Project and Planet Booty) plays the bass part to "Tequila" as recorded by

The Champs in 1957, while Noah plays chords on the Red Eel.

Sounds of Several Different Synthesizer Algorithms


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A demo of some of the synthesizer algorithms possible on the Electric Eel, including brief technical discussion.

How to change the software in your Electric Eel



Exertion Guitar #2 - An Electric Eel Built Into the General Form of a Guitar. 


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To play, press a chord button, and backdrive the motor in the printer carriage.

It generates enough power to run a synthesizer and amplify the sound. The harder you pump, the louder the sound.  I'm in the process of developing the synthesizer algorithm now.  It's going to be played more like a guitar, but will retain as much of the electronic sound as possible.  There's more

information at Exertion Guitar 2.










     8/2/2010 - Michael and Noah share some research into acoustics which can increase the efficiency of selectively-chosen, yet reasonably-priced woofers.  Yes, for those who love to get down and to the source, I can heartily recommend Keele's paper and especially On the Specification of Moving-Coil Drivers for Low-Frequency Horn-Loaded Loudspeakers, from W. Marshall Leach, Jr.  Or, if you would like to skip to the chase, and actually build an instrument making use of this technology :) then please check out the most recent update to our Speakers Wiki .  We go as far as to list 5 part numbers from PartsExpress.com.  These are the ones you should use to produce the most sinister possible bass technology known to man.


     7/29/2010 - A massive update to the software archive has been made!  Take a browse through it. This release includes all of the synthesizer code that has been written so far!  Go download it! 


     This summer (2010), we have a special addition to the Exertion Music team!  We are lucky enough to be loaned the brain power of Michael Harradon, undergraduate researcher from MIT.  Michael will be helping publish the design files for Exertion Instruments, help maintain the fleet of instruments for the instrument library, and is also conducting some new research into generator-powered soundfield generators!  Welcome Michael!  Here's some early work by Michael, a video with related information on making a multi-channel sound field.


     There is now a Google discussion group for Exertion Music.   Please invite people in!

Workshop and Performance Dates 


  • Workshop #6  February 25th-26th, 2010, NWEAMO, Theater, UCSD Campus, San Diego, CA


  • Workshop #5  Machine Project, Los Angeles, CA, December 11th - December 18, 2010, with performance December 17th. 


  • Workshop #4  Boston Music Hackday #2,  2010


  • Workshop #3  Tangible & Embedded Interfaces conference, January 25-27, 2010



  • Workshop #1 NWEAMO, October 2009, San Diego, with accompanying performance. 


New Work:


                         Exertion Instrument Server  *  Phased Speaker Array (M. Harradon)  *  Exertion Guitar #2  *  Eagle to LaserCutter Converter  *  Applets Server



Advanced Topics: 


     Synthesizer Synthesizer  *  Homebrew Measurement Tools  *  Developer's Kit


  Selecting Parts  *  Favorite Design Tools  *  Favorite Parts  *  Reference Design  *  Switching Power Supply


               Switching Regulator  *  Low-Voltage CPU  *  Resonance Test Violin  *  Workshop  *  Generator Test Report  


Instrument Bodies  *   Online Patch Compiler


   Presentation  *   DIYDSP






Electronics Design


Academic Homepage 


Fellow Instrument Designers, Musician Friends, Collaborators, and Bloggers

                    http://rapidboard.com/id3.html  - Circuit Board Assembly house in Lowell, MA. 


                   http://www.digilentinc.com/Products/Catalog.cfm?NavPath=2,401&Cat=9    - modules galore

                    http://hackaday.com/category/musical-hacks/  music hacks 

               http://www.inventables.com/  - super crazy space age materials

                    http://tasml.parsons.edu/?p=584 - international environmental data realtime project

               http://www.ciat-lonbarde.net/ um, crazy electronic instruments.

http://www.elby-designs.com/  - modular synthesizer shop in Australia run by Laurie Biddulph from the early days of the Death Synth/DSPLite.

http://www.acoustics.hut.fi/publications/papers/ - massive amounts of research

http://www.gig-fx.com/ - Local electronic instrument designers- Guitar FX and a very special pop-eliminating guitar cable.

http://scripts.mit.edu/~miters/wiki   MITERS, the MIT Electronic Research Society.  Productive hackers with a dedicated build space.

http://leaflabs.com 72 MHz, 32-bit Arduino clone with built-in lithium charger and USB.  Do want!  Do have!  Need to upgrade my OS? 

Hojun Song - Synth Building and Instrument Bodies, oh yeah, and open source SPACE TRANSPORTATION AND EXPLORATION PROGRAM.

http://www.cgs.synth.net/tube/vcf.html  Schematics for Synthesizers made with vacuum tubes

Steve Witham - Local Music Hacker and software developer

Jonathan Ward - Has published an elegant circuit board mill design. 

Ethan Bordeaux - PSP Seq, SynDevKit, recently hired by Line 6!  

Riff Roll - Chord searching database

Noteflight  - flash-based song/note editor/analyzer

Electronic Musician - Avtomat 

Computer Musician - Kurt Ralske

Music MetaData Mafia - EchoNest

The Squarepent / Homemade Tuba - Youtube  Howto Page

Awesome hacker's blog - http://hackaday.com

My Stereo Modification Blog with Izrocka - http://sickmods.blogspot.com/

Noah Vawter's Music - http://soundcloud.com/snackmaster-1  http://myspace.com/snackmastermusic

Jeff Snyder - http://www.snyderphonics.com/about.htm

Pete - Circuit-Bending Expert - http://www.casperelectronics.com/

Clarflupet - CAD Instrument - http://www.clarflupet.com/     http://www.deskeng.com/articles/aaafsp.htm

Hardcore Circut-Bent Musicians - http://burnkit2600.com    

Electronics Genius Mark Feldmeier - http://www.media.mit.edu/~carboxyl and his open source hardware projects! http://www.openmusiclabs.com/


Wonderful, happy, zippy chiptunes - http://selectstartrecords.com/systems-check-detroit.html

Lissajou - Brilliant Gameboy Musician - http://www.myspace.com/lissajou




You are invited to contribute to this wiki.  Write to nvawter-at-media.mit.edu






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