Andrew and I have recently begun a project working with Hob Moor Oaks Special School in York, funded by York Music Hub. Over five weeks we are providing accessible music sessions for four different groups of children.
Part of the objective of the project is to get some of the existing music technology kit that the school owns back into use. Whilst Andrew engaged in some ‘getting to know you’ music sessions, I commandeered a classroom to try and untangle the mass of cables and equipment that we found lurking in a cupboard.
Although we’ve covered the basics of resurrecting old technology before, below are a few lessons from my own experiences in the store cupboard.
- Find the key boxes first – in this case a Soundbeam One, a MIDIcreator, several Boss samplers and some effects units.
- Try to find the matching power supplies – if you know what you are looking for then this will be easier. Try looking for brand names on supplies and then double check the power ratings against the back of the unit. You’re looking for voltage, current and polarity to all match otherwise you risk damaging the product.
- Find the manual or download a version online. The manual should contain details of the power supply and also how to link boxes to speakers etc.
- Try to power up the main boxes. Look for power indicators or displays coming on. It’s possible the power supply is dead and that’s why the equipment ended up discarded.
- Sort all the other cables into piles of similar looking leads. I found lots of odd power supplies that didn’t match any of the equipment I had, together with many different audio leads.
- Follow the manual and try and connect things together as shown.
- Give it all a test.
I can’t emphasis enough the importance of finding the manuals. Some equipment can have esoteric settings and even seasoned ‘professionals’ like myself get caught out. My downfall was not remembering that the Soundbeam 1 has a mode where it listens to MIDI notes coming in rather than playing them back (Mode 10). I spent a good 20 minutes trying to sort out the problem!
At the end of this session we ended up with a working Soundbeam One, an effects unit and microphone and a MIDIcreator and sensors. We also had a small pile of equipment to go to the tip for recycling. It’s important to get rid of broken and obsolete equipment as soon as possible to save it from getting mixed in with the useful stuff.
Next week – Starting to use the equipment in music sessions.