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How do I start Geeking? Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 31st December 2010
  #1
Gear Nut
 
Will-Low's Avatar
 

How do I start Geeking?

Hi guys. I've been wanting to learn the technical side of the gear we all so dearly love, but I have no idea how to start. I am quite serious about pursuing it and am aware of how much time and effort it will take. Any advice or ideas would be greatly appreciated. I am an undergrad. Classes to take? Websites to pour over? Books to read? Thank you.
Old 31st December 2010
  #2
Gear Guru
 
kafka's Avatar
Get a kit. Something cheap, so if you screw it up you won't get discouraged. Something from PAiA might be fun.

PAiA Corporation - Analog Synths, Theremins, Preamps, and More

These are fun, too: Electronics Learning Lab - RadioShack.com
Old 31st December 2010
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kafka View Post
Get a kit. Something cheap, so if you screw it up you won't get discouraged. Something from PAiA might be fun.

PAiA Corporation - Analog Synths, Theremins, Preamps, and More

These are fun, too: Electronics Learning Lab - RadioShack.com
either that or look at something you actually need, and build it
Old 31st December 2010
  #4
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myles's Avatar
 

As long as you're in college, take the first part of whatever sequence physics majors take (you can leave off relativity unless you're really into it). If your math isn't up to snuff, take calculus and analytic geometry first.

While neither of these is going to set a record for new, fun things to do, if your foundation is solid, you'll be able to actually understand how stuff works as opposed to not. Forever. Knowledge doesn't wear off, and you'll be able to make a broad range of decisions much more easily.

You can get started at the same time with any one of a number of books on actual music/audio electronics. The Art of Electronics (Horowitz and Hill) is recommended. Pohlmann's Principles of Digital Audio is a great way to free yourself from the hocus-pocus that surrounds the subject.

Another great thing to do is learn a bit of history. A relatively small number of people invented the equipment and techniques that most every recording engineer uses, and not that long ago. History of audio engineering for the equipment side, recording studio history for the vibe and techniques. This one is great: Studio Stories - How the Great New York Records Were Made

Others will chime in, I'm sure. Have fun!
Old 31st December 2010
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
brad347's Avatar
 

First, get your feet wet with the practical. Acquire a decent soldering iron (Hakko 936, Weller WES51, or similar) and an inexpensive digital multimeter.

Start by making some instrument cables. Then make some XLR cables. You can find "how-tos" on the web. Then build a stompbox or two from projects at small bear or generalguitargadgets, if you could use a stompbox. Fuzz Face would be a good one to start with. Starting off making some stuff that's low-stakes and actually useful to you will keep you inspired and interested. I have PERSONALLY always found that it's best to let someone develop questions before dumping a bunch of answers on them. I think that's why some people don't do well in school, but I digress...

After a few simple projects are under your belt, download the NEETS training manuals, which were the Navy manuals on electronics. They're free, since you already paid for them with your tax dollars. Google "NEETS." If you have a Kindle, upload them onto your kindle for easy reading, as they're in PDFs and staring at a computer screen for that long will make you crosseyed. Start with the first one and read slowly. If there's stuff you don't understand at first, don't worry, just get as much as you can. When you get to the end, you might want to move on, or you might want to go back to the beginning of the first volume ("module") and read again. The first few should be read in order in their entirety, but after that you can skip around (i.e. you can skip the ones on "microwaves" and "radar systems," but you'll definitely want to read "magnetic recording," "tube amplification," "solid-state amplification," etc.)

Then you might want to get into some further kit building and attempt some light repairs. Try converting a 2-prong piece of gear to grounded 3-prong. Attempt a filter cap job on an old tube amp. Do lots of googling and asking here to help you with those projects.

For projects, Seventh Circle Audio is good. The Royer Mod MXL microphone is a good project. A clone of a Fender 5F1 Champ from Weber, Mission, or other companies are good "feet wet" tube projects. Just keep kit building and doing light repairs, all the time referring back to the NEETS manuals and other books you find. Hang out on forums.

Pursue your interests most of all, or you will burn out.

Good luck!
Old 31st December 2010
  #6
Gear Nut
 
Will-Low's Avatar
 

Thank you guys so much for the responses. I went to my local Radio Shack and picked up that kit just to get my feet wet. No practical audio projects per say, but I have to start somewhere and it seems as though it is good at familiarizing the reader with the uses of various electrical components. Great idea about learning the history side. I never really thought about that. Thank you for the NEETS recommendation as well. Sadly I didn't know that existed. First "big" project might be a simple stomp box. Other responses are still very welcome!
Old 31st December 2010
  #7
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DrFrankencopter's Avatar
Kits are good. Start on something with op-amps. Learn how to read schematics and try and understand how simple op-amp circuits work.

Pick up Horwitz and Hill's 'The Art of Electronics' it's practically the bible and contains pretty much everything you need to know.

Cheers

Kris
Old 1st January 2011
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
brad347's Avatar
 

One more thing-- I'd resist the urge to start with a cheap soldering iron from Radio Shack or the like.

They're terrible, and harder to use-- they bring the degree of difficulty up several notches.

Of course it goes without saying that you need an iron designed for electronics work-- no soldering "guns" or the like.

I recommend just biting the bullet and getting the Hakko 936 or Weller WES-51, or something comparable. Yes, it's 75-100 bucks, but it's a real professional quality tool that will reduce frustration and increase your chances of success early on.
Old 1st January 2011
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brad347 View Post
One more thing-- I'd resist the urge to start with a cheap soldering iron from Radio Shack or the like.
+57,000
Old 1st January 2011
  #10
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I am glad to see the mention of Paia Electronics. The founder, John Simonton (RIP) was one of my mentors eons ago when I was a mere "baby boi" in High School.

FWIW, Paia was/is based here in my town of Oklahoma City, and I worked for John circa 1973.

Most Paia kits were designed as a "step by step" project. But, ya gotta solder them! <g>

I own this:
\\Amazon.com: Weller W60P 60Watts/120V Controlled Output Soldering Iron: Home Improvement

egads...

I like the Weller because I can "switch out" tips for different applications.

For "new work":

GootPX-201 lead free soldering iron temperature controlled.

Bri
Old 1st January 2011
  #11
Gear Nut
 
Will-Low's Avatar
 

Thank you guys for the soldering comments. I tried to make some speaker cable with 1/4 using a cheap one I found around the house a couple months ago and the thing didn't heat up enough to melt the solder. I will invest in a quality one for future projects. Thank you. If people have more ideas they would most definitely be appreciated.
Old 1st January 2011
  #12
Gear Addict
 
Reggie Love's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFrankencopter View Post
Kits are good. Start on something with op-amps. Learn how to read schematics and try and understand how simple op-amp circuits work.

Pick up Horwitz and Hill's 'The Art of Electronics' it's practically the bible and contains pretty much everything you need to know.

Cheers

Kris
I have Horowitz and Hills Art of Electronics and the Student manual. I found them on eBay a couple of years ago.

My problem is that the main text is over 1100 pages long!

i know to a degree all areas of a subject are important, but it would help to be able to start working on core concepts. i don't suppose you have any guidance to offer as to chapters or sections of the text which might make good starting points for persons interested in audio electronics?

Reg
Old 1st January 2011
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
brad347's Avatar
 

I don't know that book, but here's some very "basic basic" stuff I'd look into to start.

First, learning what various electronic components do, their schematic symbols, and what they look like "in the real world" is a good start. Learn to identify, both on a schematic and in the real world, a resistor, for example. What does a resistor do? Then learn to identify a capacitor on the schematic and by appearance. What are the different types of capacitors? What IS capacitance? Does the explanation make sense to you? If not, don't worry... you will get it in time. Sometimes the brain decides how fast it wants to learn.

Repeat the above for potentiometers, inductors, switches, fuses, batteries, relays, transistors, vacuum tubes, integrated circuits, transformers, diodes, etc. These (and maybe a few more) are some of the basic parts of electronics. Think of them as your "alphabet." For each, know what it looks like in real life (sometimes this varies), what it looks like on a schematic, and at least SOME vague idea, for a start, of what it does. This knowledge will help you at least be able to put a kit together.

If the individual components are the "alphabet," then it only makes sense that there are also some "words." There are several types of circuits-- made up of a few components arranged a certain way-- that pop up over and over again in many devices, and you can think of them as "building blocks."

Some simple examples you can learn to recognize just by their basic appearance on a schematic: the voltage divider (a volume control is usually an example of this), the high-pass filter, the low-pass filter, the full-wave bridge rectifier (usually very easy to spot on a schematic), and many others. If you learn to spot these "building blocks" and learn to understand their basic function/goal, you are a long way toward a functional "hack" knowledge of electronics-- maybe you won't be able to design your own gear from scratch, but you can at least start to troubleshoot and fix problems, and maybe tweak some things.

It's also good to learn basic behaviors of some components. What happens when you put resistors in series versus parallel? What happens when you do the same with capacitors instead? How do you read a color code on a resistor? etc.

Besides all of that basic stuff, I think the root of all electronics theory is Ohm's Law. The idea that current is equal to voltage divided by resistance. That will help you calculate some things you need to calculate, but more than that, the general understanding of how current, voltage, and resistance all relate is fundamental.

You can use the glossary/index/contents of your book (or Wikipedia/Google) to look up the answers to any of these questions, as they arise. Any 'textbook' is usually designed so you can skip around. Don't be overwhelmed by the whole book. As always, you can just dig into whatever section you want, and dig into some projects.
Old 1st January 2011
  #14
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DrFrankencopter's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reggie Love View Post
I have Horowitz and Hills Art of Electronics and the Student manual. I found them on eBay a couple of years ago.

My problem is that the main text is over 1100 pages long!

i know to a degree all areas of a subject are important, but it would help to be able to start working on core concepts. i don't suppose you have any guidance to offer as to chapters or sections of the text which might make good starting points for persons interested in audio electronics?

Reg
I'm not sure what your current level of knowledge is, but I'd suggest that you understand Ohm's law...calculate out some resistive pads. Understand the concept of impedance, and RC circuits. Read the basic info on transistors (BJT and FET)...see how transistors can work as switches or amplifiers. Don't get bogged down in topology though. Skip ahead to the op-amp chapter, and read it a few times. Then, grab as many schematics as you can find and start to identify the components and their function in the circuit. You can skip over the digital stuff in the book for the most part...at least initially.

Head on over to the Lab at prodigy-pro, and try to absorb as much as you can. Whenever the discussion gets above your level of comfort you can go back and reference Horowitz and Hill.


Hope that helps a bit...

Cheers

Kris
Old 3rd January 2011
  #15
Gear Guru
 
kafka's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFrankencopter View Post
Pick up Horwitz and Hill's 'The Art of Electronics' it's practically the bible and contains pretty much everything you need to know.
Honestly, Horowitz is about the last book I'd recommend to a beginner. It's way too dense, and only gives a cursory treatment of fundamental electronics. Something like this would likely be much more accessible:

Amazon.com: Basic Electronics Theory With Projects and Experiments (9780830642007): Delton Horn: Books
Old 3rd January 2011
  #16
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DrFrankencopter's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by kafka View Post
Honestly, Horowitz is about the last book I'd recommend to a beginner. It's way too dense, and only gives a cursory treatment of fundamental electronics. Something like this would likely be much more accessible:

Amazon.com: Basic Electronics Theory With Projects and Experiments (9780830642007): Delton Horn: Books

I'll stand by my recommendation, as that book has taught me plenty over the years....but you are right in that there is a certain level of required knowledge before diving into it. It's also not a book you read in a linear fashion...it's more of a reference where you jump to a particular chapter to help you out on a project you're working on. At least, that's how I've used it.

Cheers

Kris
Old 3rd January 2011
  #17
Gear Addict
 
Reggie Love's Avatar
 

Oops! I just treated myself to Sound System Engineering (3rd Edition) by Davis and Patronis...

I guess, having been in an electronics club at school, I understand the V=IR triangle and know how to read the symbols in a circuit diagram.

Am I still going too heavy?

Reg
Old 3rd January 2011
  #18
Lives for gear
 
djmukilteo's Avatar
A good plan would be to just take basic electronics theory.
Text books/online course on your own or community college courses.
Electronics 101:

Math for Electronics (you'll need this throughout all the topics)
DC circuits
AC circuits
Power Supply circuits
Transistor theory
Linear circuits (op amps etc)
Digital circuits

Essentially in that order!
It's important to understand each one before moving on to the next because unless you understand the previous topic you will have a difficult time understanding the following topics.
Old 4th January 2011
  #19
jrp
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i started with absolutley no knowlege.

First build was a simple cable/connection tester.
two strong wires as probes, a 7k resistor, a 2ma led and a 9v batterie with clip. Easy to understand.

Then there was the fuzzface. Very simple and good sounding. Impossible to understand without an idea about transistors...

Then i got into diy synths, managed to build several modules without knowing what i was doing.

Soon i got problems and troubleshooting begun. Several people in forums around the world helped and tought me. That was and is so great!!!!

A question like "how can i lower the output of this?" soon lets you learn about voltage dividers. "How can i tame the highs?" got me to know about rc networks.
On and on....

Now i can see the building blocks in most schematics, understand their function and change or rearrange them to my needs.

Good reading for me was CMOS Cookbook, Active Filter Cookbook and a couple of "children" electronics starter books which you will surely find in the nearest library.

Have Fun!
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