Casio SK-1: Introduction

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Casio SK-1

The Casio SK-1 is a sampler. Press a button and yell into its mic, and it will staidly BLARP, indicating it has stored your exclamation. Either that, or it will crash and not BLARP. If it doesn’t crash, you can then play your voice on the keyboard: it shifts the pitch to match the notes. Have your dog bark into it, and do your own rendition of “dogs sing jingle bells.” Dig into it further, though, and there’s actually a lot more: envelope settings, additive synthesis, a primitive sequencer, and some basic FX. In short, it’s pretty powerful for something you’ll find buried in thrift shops across the country. What’s more, the thing is a riot: no piece of musical equipment I own is better suited to entertaining a bunch of drunk people at a party. The ability to turn anyone’s voice into Alvin the chipmunk is inherently hilarious, and once people get the basic concept, the thing becomes a party game: people want to take turns trying it with their voice. Some people make funny noises, some people say dirty words, others sing a note, and still others simply yell “HELLO” at it. Eventually, someone gets impatient and starts yelling over someone else, and the resulting jumble of noise is even more hilarious.

Yet, the SK-1’s general popularity derives from something else entirely: It’s a goldmine for circuit bending. Get into circuit bending, and you’ll immediately hear about the SK-1 — and all the other Casio SK models. The SK-1, in particular, is easy to bend, and the results are amazing. The SK-1 is not terribly rare, or hard to find. They’re amazingly resilient, despite their age. If the Speaks & [VERB]s are the de facto ambassadors of circuit bending, the SK’s are cultural attachés, quietly laying the groundwork for circuit bending’s popularity as a whole.  People typically bend a Speak first: it’s quick and easy. Move on to an SK-1, though, and you’ll tumble down the rabbit hole in short order. In a sense, while the Speaks are very straightforward, they’re also shallow. The SK-1, on the other hand, is crazy deep. With oodles of info on the internet (including the service manuals!), it pushes a lot of people to move beyond merely shorting contacts together at random. After trying bend points for a bit, you notice the best bend points are in neat columns. When you figure this out, it’s tantalizing. It dawns you that you might actually be able to comprehend how this thing works on a deeper level; do things deliberately, not accidentally. The Internet will promptly serve up as much info as you can stand. It’s addicting.

Recently, I overhauled my SK-1, and I felt like writing it up. Once I do, I’ll update this post with links… figure I’ll also re-link all the SK-1 sites, too, rather than force people to dig through the overhaul posts for hyperlinks.

I do diary-style jams on my SK-1; you can find them here:

Categories: circuit bending / SDIY, gear, Uncategorized

2 Comments on “Casio SK-1: Introduction”

  1. I also have an extra line but it’s in my ring finger in my right hand does aonyne know what that means also I’m a twin and my bro has it too on his right hand also

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