Category Archives: Music

Everything about making music

The Fastest, Cheapest, Dirtiest Earbud Hack To Keep Your Headset In Place When Running and Doing Sports

After a few uses, they'll look like they're covered in goop, but these are the best sports earbuds I've ever owned.

A little bit of rubbery glue (let it dry first!) on the back of your earbuds will keep them seated solid during any sweaty exercise you can throw their way.


If you’re anything like me, you know that music greatly enhances any type of exercise, especially running. But you’ve likely also discovered that earbuds never stay in place after a few minutes of sweating. Tired of dealing with this annoyance, I’ve been experimenting with a fast, cheap and dirty way to keep your earbuds where they belong, and the results so far are great.

I have a preference for Apple earbuds — the sound is adequate, they are pretty comfortably in my ears (better than most that I’ve tested), and they’re cheap (a huge advantage for someone like myself who has a propensity for losing, breaking, or washing my earbuds). But while the smooth, white plastic casing looks super stylish, it doesn’t create the friction necessary to keep the buds firmly set into the ear canal. I also noticed over time that the rubber ring around the circumference has a tendency to crack and peel off, revealing an uncomfortably sharp lip that hurts when you try to repeatedly force the earbuds deeper and deeper into your ear (which is how I spend most of my energy when I’m running).

The connection between the ear and the earbud’s lip isn’t where most of the earbud grip comes from, however — it’s actually the back of the ear fold that keeps enough pressure on the plastic to keep the tiny speaker from slipping away from you. That’s the exact area that has most of the smooth, slippery plastic, and the piece we’ll focus on modifying.

Used but unmodified earbuds, ready for updating

Gather your supplies:
-Small piece of sandpaper or emery board
-Small tube of rubber cement-type glue
(both of the above are easily found in a bike tire patching kit like this one)
-“Third hand” clip/holder

1. Sand the exterior of the earbuds to rough them up a bit. I found this was easiest with a small piece of sandpaper folded to give a rough edge that lets you get into any of the tight areas. Make sure to get around the metal screen and the back of the bud.

2. Wipe the buds clean of any dust with a dry cloth or napkin.

3. Lay a smooth bead of rubber cement glue around the outside of the metal screen, and continue it down the back of the plastic, to approximately where the circumference of the bud ends. This should adequately cover the area that your ear is in contact with.

Once the glue is in place, you’ll want to let it dry for a while. I used the vulcanizing glue from my tire patch kit (MSDS info leads me to believe this should be fine for skin contact, but no guarantees if you do the same!). I used my “third hand” to hold the earphones in place as the glue dried.

Remember that often times this type of rubberized glue remains very tacky to itself and other materials. Like I said, it’s a quick and DIRTY hack, and you’ll notice a lot of grime collecting in the glue over a very short time. You probably don’t want to stuff them into your lint-filed pockets or purse.

The results are amazing. I’m totally blown away. I’ve gone for long, sweaty runs using these, even in the rain, and have yet to adjust them or struggle to keep them in place. Not even once. In the past I tried everything from old-fashioned walkman headphones, to expensive in-ear headsets with rubber sleeve tips, to the type with the over-ear loop. And finally, with a simple tweak, I’ve got the best sports headphones I’ve ever used, for next to nothing.

After a while they'll start to look ragged, but they're still more effective than new ones


Awesome $5 Subscription Deals – Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines (and others too!) – UPDATE: Popular Mechanics for FREE

UPDATE: Here’s an offer to get a year of Popular Mechanics for nothing more than just a few pieces of personal information.

Once again (but only until December 3), Amazon is offering a $5 magazine subscription deal on some great titles. Perfect timing for your holiday gift buying needs — magazines are one of those gifts that are always appreciated, and they last a whole year.

Two great choices: Popular Science or Popular Mechanics — I don’t know anyone who would mind this as a present.

And there are many others to choose from at this price too. American Photo, Bicycling, Details, Backpacker — even Cosmo —  all jump out at me as fun reads.

Again, their offer is only until December 3rd, so best to get them now while the deal is still active.

Steel Drums Made From Discarded Barrels

Sometime around 30 years ago, a segment on Sesame Street left an impression on me. In the scene, a few kids rolled a steel barrel to a man who hammers away on it and creates a steel drum, then they play a Caribbean-style tune on it.

I don’t see or hear steel drums often these days, but whenever I do, I instantly think of that segment. Are steel drums really made from discarded barrels that kids find in fields? Is it really that simple to make one? After some quick research, it seems the answer is yes and no…

You can see in the Sesame Street video (which itself is an interesting time capsule of 1981 New York), the drum making has been abridged to fit in the short time constraints of the show. But watch the following video – the drum is created by pounding a heavy weight (looks like lead ball) against the bottom of the barrel, denting it inwards. It’s then further refined and smoothed with taps of a hammer.

Continue reading Steel Drums Made From Discarded Barrels

My Halloween Pizza Bash Video

Halloween is a big deal on my street. This year I invited a few friends and neighbors over to pass out candy while I made pizzas. It was a blast. Many, many thanks to PizzaHacker for creating the PizzaForge oven and for working with me to build a prototype of a one-piece unit. Anyone that follows him and has experienced the pizza his creation produces knows that he’s designed something truly awesome.

Also, thanks to Chris McMains for delivering a fresh batch of starter to use for the dough. I used the Varasanos recipe (with a pinch of dry yeast) and everyone, including myself, was raving about the flavor.

Here are the technical details on the video:
Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8
Tripod: Manfrotto
Image capturing software: Sortofbild
Runtime: 4 hours 15 minutes (stopped when the battery died)
Assembled with Quicktime Pro, edited on iMovie
Color correction in Photoshop (removed some of the overpowering orange coloring and lightened shadows)
Music: “Ghosts N’ Stuff” (Hard Intro Remix) by Deadmau5

This might be the best thing I’ve ever made. It also might be the weirdest thing I’ve made. Watch in HD on Youtube.

Only got one photo of a pizza cooked that night, but it was a good one. Everything was really clicking.

Machine Your Own Electric Guitar

Machine Your Own Guitar: Another awesome DIY guitar project to add to the “how to build a guitar” list – this one is a bit more complex, using tools that you’ll likely only find in heavy duty workshops (mill, band saw, drill press, extra long drill bits). But for someone who has access to their high school/college/work workshop, the write up steps you through all the instructions in a very clear way.

The shape of the wood slab forced the guitar to be designed in a way that you don’t see often, with the grain perpendicular to the strings. I love the unique way that ends up looking, but can be a bit dangerous as the tension from the strings put a lot of strain on the grain and can cause cracking/breaking.

Because the creator already had a neck from another guitar, he was able to make this one for about $100 – but says that using better wood and electronics would bump the price up to the $450-$600 range. Still, a very decent price for a custom, sweet looking guitar.

– Approx. 1.5″ thick hardwood slab, large enough to accommodate your design
– Prefabricated bolt-on guitar neck
– Double coil humbucker pickups ($33 for two on eBay)
– Tune-o-matic bridge ($12 on eBay)
– String tail-piece ($6 on eBay)
– Jack plate ($3 on eBay)
– 1/4″ mono jack
– 2x knobs ($3 each on eBay)
– 2x 100k audio-taper potentiometers (pots)
– Les Paul rear plate ($6 on eBay)
– Strap pins
– Sacrificial piece of 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick plywood
– Wire
– Solder
– Triangle wood wedge
– Large sheet of paper
– Wood conditoner
– Wood stain
– Urethane wood finish
– Paint thinner
– Cloths
– Mill
– Assorted mill cutters
– Assorted Forstner bits
– Mill slot-clamps and assorted clamping bars/rests
– Drill press*
– An extremely long 3/8″ drill bit
– Band saw**
– Sandpaper
– Sanding block or palm sander
– Wood rasp
– Soldering Iron
– Bubble level
– Pencil
– Protractor
– Mallet

How to Pirate A Vinyl Record, And How Vinyl Records Are Made

Vinyl records have a unique place in the world of music media. Aside from their warm analog tone, vinyl is the only popular medium that is nearly impossible to create or duplicate at home – something that can’t be claimed by cassettes, CDs, DVDs, and certainly not mp3s. Not to be an apologist for piracy, this inherently creates more value for recorded music than using an easily reproducible medium (be it physically or digitally) does. But as we all know, digital is the present and the future, and I am not complaining about that at all; one look at my iTunes playlist and you’ll know what I mean.

A while back, the site ran a piece on how to “pirate” a vinyl record using normal silicone casting materials. Sadly, the link is broken, but thanks to the Wayback Machine, I’ve pulled the archived copy up and am attaching it here for posterity:

Posted May 14, 2006 at 06:49AM by Anna S.Listed in: Misc. Gadgets

So you thought you’ve pirated everything huh?

Step 1

Using the wooden strips, make a box around the glass plate. Seal off the edges using the window cement. Make sure everything is air tight.

Step 2

Place your record inside the box making sure that the portion to be copied is facing upward. Squeeze in some window cement to mark where the hole in the record is.

Step 3

Mix the silicone (Smooth On OOMOO 30 or OOMOO 25) for about 3 minutes before pouring in to the mold.

Step 4

Pour in the mixture. Start from one corner and let it fill-up the mold to about half a centimeter. Make sure it’s even. Let it dry for 6 hours.

Step 5

Peel off the silicone from the cast. Cut off the excess using a cutter.

Step 6

Pour the liquid plastic (Smooth On Task #4) on top of the silicone cast.

Step 7

Make sure that nothing spills over the round form. You can also brush off any air bubbles that might occur.

Step 8

Carefully loosen the plate from the silicone form. Using a drill press, bore a hole through the center of the plate. You can use the silicone form as a template to make more copies.

There you have it. Your very own pirated record.

(QJ translated this from the German site, also unavailable except via archive)

How well does this work? To be seen… the next step is to rip a vinyl record (pretty easy to do using a USB turntable), then cast a copy of it using this technique. Rip the copy, compare waveforms and look for any major discrepancies. That’s an upcoming project.


Now, if you haven’t seen the exact process in how records are created, you might be surprised at how much manual cooperation is involved. From inspecting the metal pressing discs and the lacquered masters, to centering the disc for hole punching, you’ve got sweet old ladies who are meticulously making sure your music will sound great. And the actual assembly process, even with automation, is like something you’d see in a Detroit auto maker’s factory: heavy hydraulic equipment pressing hot platters into precision shapes, rotating slicers, and vacuum-assisted label placers.

You can watch the whole process happen, courtesy of Discovery’s “How It’s Made” – part two is where things get interesting.

Guitarist and Musician Project: Make Your Own Digital Delay Pedal

This is a low-cost, easy to follow project that appeals to all of us who have wanted to sound like a guitar god at some point. Delay pedals are a staple effect of so many musicians these days. Take U2’s The Edge; his sound is almost entirely based on the use of delay.

The Instructable for this project goes light on the actual electronics, but fortunately many more detailed writeups exist already. The case for it gets more attention, and you can tell – it looks professional.

One note that is made in this interesting piece by RG Keen on the economics of pedal building – if you’re doing this to try to save money, don’t. Cheap delay and effects pedals can be bought new for as low as $20 – and used for even less. But there is a real value in building something yourself, so make sure to calculate that aspect in as you prepare yourself to embark on this project.

My schematic is largely (read: almost entirely) based upon Casper Electronics’ EchoBender pedal, which is in turn largely based on Tonepad’s Rebote 2.5 Delay pedal, which is in turn, more or less, based upon the example schematic in the PT2399 datasheet. Having breadboard all three, I personally can not hear a significant difference in sound between the Casper Electronic version and the one on Tonepad, which some people say is superior sounding (the one in the datasheet just sounds flat). The nice thing about the Casper Electronics version is the inclusion of a feedback pot, which gives a really full sound to the echo effect.

You will need:
(x1) “BB”- sized Steel Enclosure
(x1) PT2399 Echo Processor
(x1) TL072 low noise op amp
(x1) LM7805
(x3) 100K potentiometers
(x1) 50K potentiometer
(x1) 5K potentiometer
(x1) PCB
(x1) DPDT stomp switch
(x1) SPST toggle switch (SPDT okay)
(x1) Power jack (with cut-off)
(x2) 1/4″ mono jacks
(x5) Knobs
(x1) sheet 1/16″ santoprene rubber (McMaster-Carr 86215K22)
(x1) sheet 1/8″ cork

(x1) 100uF
(x3) 47uF
(x1) 4.7 uF
(x6) 1 uF
(x3) 0.1 uF
(x2) 0.082 uF
(x3) 0.0027 uF
(x2) 0.01 uF
(x1) 100 pF
(x1) 5 pF

(x2) 1K
(x11) 10K
(x2) 15K
(x1) 100K
(x1) 510K
(x2) 1M

A Rundown of The Top DO IT Posts For Your Weekend DIY Inspiration

Jump into your weekend with some DIY projects. Here are a few of my favorite ones that I’ve posted here. Remember to take pics and send them to me too.

How to Build a Temporary Wood-fired Brick Pizza Oven with Cheap, Easy to Find Materials
(and Make Your Own Wooden Pizza Peel (Paddle))

Near-Space DIY Aerial Photography for $150

How to Make A Digital Pinhole Camera – Fast, Cheap and Easy

Arduino RC Controlled Lawnmower Project

Build a Six-Wheel-Drive ATV for Go Anywhere Fun

Build Your Own Camera Gyro-Stabilizer With a Spare Hard Drive

DIY Electronic Drum Pads for Less Than $30

Bike Repairs Made Easy With the DIY Bike Repair Stand
Then Tune Up Your Bike: Adjusting the Derailleurs

DIY Electronic Drum Pads for Less Than $30

With a few small, fast tweaks, Remo drum pads can be transformed into triggers for electronic drum modules that work perfectly for building your own highly affordable electronic drumset. The Remo drum pads are great – they’re tunable, have a realistic response, and are easily disassembled. I have one and I love it, although I admit I should practice more often.

Here’s an overview of the procedure, as posted on Another writeup with useful photos and instructions is available here as well.

Parts needed:
  • 1- 10″ Remo Tunable Practice Pad – about $23
  • 1- Piezo Transducer (Radio Shack # 273-073a or similar) – $2
  • 1- 10″ x 20″ piece of 1/2″ thick poly foam rubber (same density as Remo’s foam)
  • 1- 8″ length of 20 guage stranded speaker wire
  • 1- Chassis-mount RCA jack (Radio Shack #274-346)
  • 1- 8″ diameter circle of 28 guage galvanized steel (or large coffee can lid) Continue reading DIY Electronic Drum Pads for Less Than $30

Lava Lamp MIDI Controller – Control Your Synthesizer

Brilliant project that uses a lava lamp to send randomly changing MIDI continuous controller signals. The creator uses it as a synthesizer controller on Reason and create some wonderfully unique sounds.

The basis of the project is a standard lava lamp (a large one will be easier to work with) and 12 light dependent resistors (“photocells”). I don’t even know what resistence mine are – they were cheap off ebay – the important thing is you can make pairs of the same resistance.

Check out the full set of instructions including Arduino code: Lava lamp MIDI controller (skriyl)

Continue reading Lava Lamp MIDI Controller – Control Your Synthesizer