Hacking a drum machine
The PO-32 drum machine excels at hand-on beat-making, but a few switches can free up your hands for something else!
Teenage Engineering created one of the affordable, yet powerful, drum machines out there with the Pocket Operator PO-32. It features a wide array of adjustable drum sounds (and pitches) and a calculator-esque sequencer with ready-made effects. The Pocket Operators are made and distributed in this slimmed-down no-case design, which invites hacking. In fact there was a Teenage Engineering sponsored hacking competition where a number of clever and silly additions to the Pocket Operators were introduced.
The tiny hack I want to introduce is so simple but adds a great deal of functionality to the PO-32. The PO-32 drum sequencer has a unique feature where the four columns are designated as different channels and while playing, any key in will mute that corresponding channel. This is extremely useful in case you make a drum pattern with four instruments and want each one to come in one at a time. To use it though, you physically have to hold down one key for each channel you want to mute.
What does this tiny hack do?
This tiny hack bypasses your fingers and uses switches. The switches are placed at the bottom, out of the way of most of the keys, and simply allow you to activate the “mute channel” feature without holding down any keys. Since its placed in parallel of the button, there is no other circuitry needed. Here’s a demo of it:
Why do this tiny hack?
This tiny hack is useful if you use the PO-32 and find yourself making a pattern for individual instruments: i.e. one pattern with bass drum, another pattern with the same bass drum but adding a snare, etc. This tiny hack lets you build a single pattern with all the instruments and you can toggle them on/off simply by flipping a switch!
How do I do this tiny hack?
One note of caution: I have confirmation from Teenage Engineering that this will void your warranty.
This tiny hack is tiny indeed. All you need are four switches, some wire, and a soldering iron (and a PO-32 of course).
First connect the switches to two wires and cut them so that they are similar length (will make it easier for next step).
Then heat up the bottom of one of the legs of the key on the PO-32 and use solder to solder the wire of the switch to it. Repeat for each key that you want to toggle!
One note on use: make sure you turn off the switches when you are done playing with the PO-32 otherwise it will continue to remain on until the battery expires.