Can I mod my keyboard?
December 6, 2007 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I have a cheap electronic keyboard. What are the odds of me being able to rip out all the parts except for the keyboard and use it as a standalone synth module?

It's a Yamaha PSR-270.

Basically I just want to be able to carry around a little box that I can feed midi into that will output sound. So I'd take all the buttons, screens, electronic bits.

Bonus points if I can install a plug or something to reattach the keyboard part.

Is it just a silly idea?
posted by RustyBrooks to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Looks like that model has MIDI input. Have you opened it? The keyboard might connect on a plug already, which would obviously help, though the plug probably isn't designed for repeated use.

Basically once it's open you'll have a better idea of what you can safely amputate.
posted by exogenous at 2:26 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: yeah I should open it up, you're right. Let me take a minute and do that.

(Yeah, it has midi in and out)
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2007

I've been wondering the same thing about my Casio.

You go first.

(Great question though, and I look forward to the answers.)
posted by lekvar at 2:49 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: Well, kinda bad news.

I didn't get it totally open, something is still holding it shut and I can't find it. Don't want to pull too hard.

But I peeked and it's all modular in there, however, the modules are pretty wide and I'd probably end up with something nearly as bulky as the whole keyboard. I doubt I'd be able to stuff it into a 19" rack mount case.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: Ahahahaha

You have to open the battery compartment to remove the top.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:59 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: ok, yeah, looks like the keyboard comes off, there's a little plug. I'd probably cut the wires and install something more robust. It's a little ribbon cable. Hmm, actually having a tough time getting these off, they might not be intentionally removable after all.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:08 PM on December 6, 2007

If the cable plug is like those I've seen before, there is a fiddly little spring-loaded catch in the plastic that has to be released. Try to pull on the plastic housing of the plug instead of the wires, 'cause the individual wires might get yoinked out.

So long as you don't cut any wires (or re-solder those that you cut) or break any circuit boards or the like, you should be good to go. Sounds like a fun project.
posted by exogenous at 3:11 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, it's just not wanting to come apart. It actually kind of looks like the plug breaks into 2 pieces and the wires come out but I'm afraid to pull too hard. There might also be some tool that could be used.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:15 PM on December 6, 2007


Do not be afraid. Get out a scissors.

I have done this many times. It is OK to cut the keyboard connector. Just cut it with a scissors while the synth is off/unpowered. If you need to get it back together, you can always solder it back together. Just mark the two cut halves with a marker (top/bottom) so that you know which way they go together.

I also find it very helpful to take a few pictures of the internal layout for reference later.

Seriously, this is routine/totally normal. If you're not going to use the keys, it will do no harm at all to cut it. If you want to talk more about modifying synths, feel free to email me -- my email is on the site linked in my profile. I would be happy to discuss it in detail.
posted by fake at 4:00 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and often on cheaper synths, the ribbon cable goes into a black multi-pin connector that looks like it should unplug-- but doesn't.
posted by fake at 4:24 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: OK, the lines are cut. I'm taking everything out and trying to figure out the smallest package I can install it in.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2007

This might be something of an aside, but if you want something truly small and you're interested in learning some electronics, this chip takes midi 0 as input over a serial bus. Add usb to serial circuit and an amp circuit and you've got a tiny little midi synth you can control over usb.
posted by miniape at 6:54 PM on December 6, 2007

askmefi: blog edition
posted by white light at 7:19 PM on December 6, 2007

Is it desirable as a sound module? Can you edit the patches?

I would get a Yamaha Walkstation and just use that instead. If you are doing this for geek factor, though, good for you!
posted by Sukiari at 8:20 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: I'm not looking for truly small, I'm just looking for portable. I don't want to have to lug this whole keyboard around.

As a synth it's nothing special. I bought it to try to learn a little piano but I don't use it much.

It seems to work OK with the keyboard lines cut, so I think I'm good, thanks.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:55 PM on December 6, 2007

« Older List of Classical Music streaming/podcast sites   |   How often can I expect to be on campus for my Ph.D... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.