Basic Bends – Kidtunes Electronic Keyboard

I’ve been working on a new toy and I wanted to give a quick update on my progress with it. Today I’ve been working on a Kidtunes Electronic Keyboard which I picked up at Value Village. The Kidtunes electric keyboard is made by a Chinese company called Scientific Toys and though I wasn’t able to find an exact year I would assume based on the circuit that it came out in the early 2000s. The keyboard itself is a little odd as it has two octaves (from G to F)  but is missing the second F sharp. I guess they assumed kids wouldn’t notice. The toy is monophonic (only one note can be played at a time) but has two distinct voices. There is a sustained organ voice as well as a shorter cleaner piano sound. The Kidtunes keyboard also features a demo mode and a low-high volume control.

One thing struck me as odd on the circuit board of this toy. It looks like, though they have used a black blob IC, they manufactured it separately and then added it onto the board. This has left easy access to the pins of the IC where it was connected to the main board. Though the majority of these solder points are triggers for the keys it still allows a level of access which is rare with modern toys. Additionally all of the components outside the main IC are though hole which allows for fairly easy bending and modification.

The first thing I added to this keyboard was a simple pitch bend. To do this I located the pitch resistor and removed it. On this toy the pitch resistor was located immediately below the IC. The resistor I removed was 220K ohm so I replaced it with a 100K ohm pot and a 150K ohm resistor in series. While playing with the pitch bend I also noticed I could illicit some very interesting glitches by attaching one of the legs of the pitch resistor through a capacitor to the base of a transistor on the far left of the board. I wired this up through a switch and moved on to see what else was available.

The next two bends I found were fairly straight forward point to point connections which I wired through switches. The first (red wires) involved connecting one of the resistors on the board to the trace running across the emitter of the transistor I mentioned in the pitch bend. This bend seems to impact the sustain of the Kidtunes keyboard. By connecting these points all sustain is removed so that the keyboard sounds like an xylophone. The second (yellow wires) connects one of the trigger points to a resistor on the board. When the keyboard is in organ mode this has the effect of holding any note played indefinitely when the switch is turned. Further in demo mode this will cause a note to play repeatedly. This second functionality will be extremely helpful while searching for further bends as I will no longer have to keep pressing keys.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten with this one so far. If I am able to find more I will be sure to provide an update. Also I should have a video of this toy online within the next day or so.

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Speak And Spell 2 – Pitch Bend and Hold

Pitch Bend and HoldAfter a lot of experimentation and some frustration I feel like I am beginning to wrap my head around the Speak and Spell’s operation. This is by far the most complex toy I’ve attempted to bend and as such there has been something of a learning curve as I explored the circuit and began manipulating it. That being said because this is such a popular toy for circuit bending I’ve been able to find a wealth of information to supplement my own experimentation and give me direction as I delve into this project. Today I’ll take you through the addition of a pitch bend up knob and a hold switch to my Speak and Spell.

Pitch Bend

Speak and Spell Pitch BendFor the pitch up bend I actually used three points, I initially found and started experimenting with the pitch bend using the two points on the board above (The 2nd and 4th pins from the right on the synthesizer chip) but found I was able to get a greater range by connecting the third lug on the potentiometer through a resistor to the point shown on the smaller board on the right side. I used a 100K pot and a 15K resistor though I recommend experimenting with different values until you find what works best for you.

Hold

wp-1467656667322.jpgHold and loop functions can be some of the most fun bends on any device as the allow you to create a constant repeating noise from the device which you can modify or play with in all kinds of ways and from my research into the speak and spell I understand it has a number of these type of bends available. Above is shown the first of these bends I was able to locate. If the switch is flipped while the device is making a noise it will continue to make that noise until it is flipped back down. You can then modify the noise output using the pitch bend.

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