Soldering and synthesis workshops on August 8th

Nina and Zoë spent a day teaching soldering and sound synthesis for the Yorkshire Sound Women Network at The University of Huddersfield.

Focus on soldering This is my (Liz’s) first blog post for YSWN since we began just under two months ago. We’ve hosted two general meetings in Huddersfield, formed a working group and now hosted our first full day of events delivered by Nina Richards and Zoë Blade.

Soldering a noise instrument

Nina Richards (developer and distributer of Stepper Acid) delivered a workshop on soldering for beginners.

She developed a PCB (printed circuit board) based on the Atari Punk Console and prepared a small pack for each participant.

PCBs for use in the workshopcircuit component packsThe workshop began with demonstrations on how to solder a joint, including information about the PCB, what solder is, good technique, tips and also health and safety training.

introductory presentationThen we settled down to our workstations.

The morning vanished in a flash! Most of the participants were probably in their 20s and 30s with the exception of Megan (12) and Alana (16).

MeganAlanaThe workshop brought together a remarkable group of people including Annie Jamieson, postdoc researcher at Leeds University; sound and sonic perception expert Linda O’Keeffe from the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts; Shi Blank of BCB Radio, and Kellie Adams from The HiFi Club Leeds.

ClaireMegan and I watched each other’s work closely. Having satisfied me that she could rattle off the risks of using a soldering iron we settled down to soldering our first resistor into the board. Keeping a close eye on each other’s work we took it in turn to build our stepped tone generators.

You can see the rest of the pictures and some video clips on Twitter using #yswn2015 and on our Facebook page.

Huge thanks to Ian Glover and David Bray from The School of Computing and Engineering at The University of Huddersfield. Not only did they foot the significant cost of opening and staffing the space for the morning but they both came in on a weekend to provide the requisite health and safety training and room induction. Also, they were incredibly supportive of our aim to create an all female space, by providing inductions for us to deliver to the participants. I’m not sure what David must have made of the racket we were making by the end of the day, sat discretely around the corner in his technician office.

group with finished instrumentsSound Synthesis

We made swift and tidy exit from the electronics lab and moved over to Phipps Hall, in The Creative Arts Building.

Composer and synthesis expert Zoë Blade set up her ribbon controller and synths, as well as preparing some of our resident Huddersfield University synths.

Zoe's synthesis presentationsynths at the universityShe undertook the remarkably difficult job of providing a theoretical introduction to sound synthesis with beautiful hand drawn slides then after a brief terminology recap we broke off into small groups and spent a good 90 minutes learning how to use the synths. It was incredibly noisy!

I was really struck by Zoë and Nina’s support to everyone who came to this session and delighted to see participants really developing a good foundation understanding of sound synthesis. Zoë has a deep passion for the musicality and expressive qualities of this equipment; to push past the technical side to exploring and showing what is really human and engaging about these instruments.

Zoë and Nina are performing new music at Modular Meets in Leeds next week.

Go support them and check out the other synths there!

Also, you can purchase the Stepper Acid Synth.

Stepper Acid synthFinally thanks to our studio technicians Ben and Chris for setting up the synths and to the music department for the use of these facilities.

VCS III synthRoland system 100mHow does YSWN make a difference

First of all it was obviously wonderful to know that several participants were visiting an electronics lab, a university and/or our university for the first time. There were a lot of firsts here:

  • I was facilitating workshops for the first time, supporting others in sharing their practice;
  • Nina and Zoë experiencing this kind of teaching;
  • Soldering and synthesis for many (almost all) of the participants.

Actually I asked participants to summarise what they had done that they’d never done before and some early responses include:

  • soldering
  • soldering a PCB
  • basic electronics
  • attending a YSWN workshop
  • talking about electronics
  • visiting an electronics lab
  • developing an interest in electronics and sound
  • learning about sound synthesis

I’ve also asked what participants might do again, or to share plans. These include:

  • ordering a kit from eBay to practise at home
  • create a box for the noise instrument
  • attend more workshops

Hands-on synths

One of the key aims of the YSWN is to build confidence and I’ve seen this in spades! Some of the early feedback also shows this:

“it’s also really, really nice to be able to ramble on about electronics with beginners like myself (adults!), exchange info and feel at ease asking questions at the experts and not feel like a boob/be too awkward when I’m painfully shy.”

“Actually just being in that environment – surrounded by all the university equipment – was inspiring in itself. Makes you realise the potential of what you’re getting into!”

I was momentarily nervous to hear that Megan’s mother wanted a word with me after the event. However she just wanted to express thanks, relay Megan’s enthusiasm and tell me that she is keen to support her curiosity and creativeness. This is what drives our motivation for taking extra time to facilitate and run these events.

From Megan’s mum (comments shared on the YSWN Facebook page)

“I’m very proud of you today. You not only showed how sensible you can be but you created this yourself… I’m telling your science teacher never to accept ‘I can’t’ from you and showing them the evidence that you can!”

Megan is proudly sharing her noise instrument with other family members, making a lot of noise and developing a fresh interest in electronics.

THIS is what our network strives to achieve and I think that we’ve done quite a lot in a remarkably short time, on donations and the kindness of a few really key people.


We’re looking for sponsors and applying for grants next because this can grow and blossom with serious backing as there is a clear need and enthusiasm for it in this part of Yorkshire. If you’ve made it this far into my blog please please have a think. If there is someone, or something that can help us with fundraising, you could be in a position to inspire more youngsters to pursue new interests, not only in sound but electronics and computing through music technology.

Nina talking to the groupFuture events

  • Introduction to ixilang – informal workshop offered by Liz (me); as I’m exploring this myself we can explore it together.
  • March 12-13 A Sound and Music Go Compose with Norah Lørway and John Richards on DIY sound electronics and coding for 11-16yr olds (girls and boys) at the University of Huddersfield.

In the pipeline – Circuit bending, studio training, Logic X and Ableton Live tuition… a schedule will be published as workshop details are confirmed.

If you’d like to offer something informal, or something more like a structured workshop please contact

If you’d like to hear about events as they are published online please join our mailing list.

[Author: Liz, uploaded by Abi]

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