Modding is changing the circuitry of your gear to make it sound or perform better.
That can mean swapping components, adding features or changing the circuit’s behavior.
You do not have to utterly rearrange the guts of your gear to make it sound better or more to your taste. Mods could be easy enough to dive in with little or no experience.
Here are three of the most common methods to begin modding your own gear. However, there’s a whole world of modding out there to be found so do not stop at these recommendations.
Why should you try modding your gear?
It’s simple to think of a piece of gear as a mysterious box that generates its sonic impact with dark magic.
However, any piece of equipment is just a series of electronic components and processes.
Modding your gear puts you in direct contact with the circuits that ultimately make the sound of your tools.
Learning how signals and circuits affect your sound offers you a level of insight into your tools that could change your whole workflow.
However, there’s no reason you could not recreate a few of the same circuit tweaks with your own tinkering.
Popular pedal mods embody including features like:
- true bypass
- alternate clipping options
- different ranges of gain or tone control.
The best platform pedals for mods are sometimes a few of the cheapest out there on the used market.
You may be surprised by how close the circuits of some high-end effects are to common mass-produced pedals. Modding could get you these boutique tones without the high prices or waitlists.
Mods are definitely not just for guitarists. The synth mod community has a few of the most insanely dedicated tinkerers out there.
Including modern features to lesser-known vintage units is an enormous part of why modding synths could be so awesome.
As prices for more fascinating classics continue to climb, it is still possible to get a slice of the vintage pie with mods.
Enter the legendary Moog Slayer mod. It could develop the tonal palette of lower-end vintage synths just like the Poly800 by dramatically extending the filter’s range.
However, the classics still are not safe in terms of mods. The Devilfish TB-303 is a suite of mods to Roland’s beloved acid machine that transforms it into a complete beast.
From opening up the relatively easy bass synth to extensive parameter control to including features like onboard overdrive, this mod is powerful enough to warrant it is own sample packs.
Even some of the most prevalent synths on the market are nice platforms to mod. The Korg Volca series seems to have been built with modding unofficially in mind.
The experimentally minded began attempting to mod the Volcas nearly as soon as the series debuted.
Now there’s a devoted group of Volca modders and many easy-to-follow tutorials online for including features like individual outputs, CV I/O, VCO volume and more.
The ultimate form of synth hacking is the wildest modding approach out there: circuit bending.
Circuit bending is an exploratory, unscientific technique to modding.
Instead of researching a mod and carefully putting it into practice to achieve the desired result, circuit benders use a variety of strategies to probe a circuit board for “bends” while the device is still powered on!
By utilizing alligator clips to close circuits between components that were never meant to be connected, circuit benders could uncover some incredibly unusual sounds.
Actually, it isn’t limited to synths at all. Electronic toys just like the Speak & Spell are prime candidates for circuit benders to harvest and tweak into experimental noise machines.
The best thing about circuit bending is that it requires nearly no tools, experience or gear. Just head on down to your local charity shop, pick up anything that makes noise and begin bending it.
Just be careful never to bend anything that’s connected directly to AC mains energy and you are good to go.
Circuitbenders.co.uk is a good online community to get you began with circuit bending.
Are you there Mod? It’s me, Michael
Modding gear is one of the most fun methods to get a sense for how electronic circuits affect your sound.
Whether it is modding pedals, synths, or circuit bending an old Speak & Spell, getting began with mods will allow you to get hands-on with your gear.
Next time you feel the urge to purchase a new piece of gear, consider modding something you already have. It might be all you should get the tones you want.