New ScrubBoard Prototype Takes Audio Tape Scratching To The Next Level

Designer Jeremy Bell shared this video demo of the latest prototype of his ScrubBoard audio tape scratching instrument. 

“The ScrubBoard is a audio toy I built that uses a loop of audio tape to ‘scratch,’ like with a vinyl record,” explains Bell, “but it’s unique design allows for a very different approach to scratching.”

Bell is currently looking for partners to help with design and manufacturing of the ScrubBoard. He can be contacted via his site.

17 thoughts on “New ScrubBoard Prototype Takes Audio Tape Scratching To The Next Level

  1. Very cool idea & execution!!

    As I was watching I was thinking it would be cool if the record head was integrated into the hand-held scrubber. All the other features seem very well executed. This is a winner!

    I think he’d be smart to design an iOS emulation of this– as soon as possible! Even though a digital emulation might not be where his passion is, he could partner with one of the better developers, make all those controls into screen controls with MIDI controllability. Additionally, he could incorporate the idea of recording to the variable speed virtual tape with with the variable speed/position virtual hand-held record head (as suggested above).

    Hardware and software, it would be fun to use. The software should use images of this original contraption.

    1. A record head on the wand simply wouldn’t work- no offense but you need to study how tape recording works before you start designing virtual apps! Samplers already “do this” so why make a virtual recreation of this? There’s a long history of using this method- study

      1. A record head in the wand could work in one of several ways. A record head COULD be used as a play head (as with the syncro/monitor mode on a large multitrack)– the head gap & impedance could be put somewhere between a good playback head and a good record head– and it might be that an existing head could be used for that purpose. Alternatively, both a play & record head could fit on the wand. Not sure about the erase head. It think it could be possible. But you are clearly much more advanced in your knowledge, so perhaps you could put your thinking cap on.

        As for the virtual version, I suppose this is most similar to Samplr. With this idea, one could set a tape length (which is somewhat arbitrary, but it sets the time-length of the sample at the normal tape speed). From there you would have this contraption has a paradigm for seeing and working with the loop in space. You would see the loop as a tape running its cycle. You would have realtime control over the speed of the tape, forward & backward. Wherever you touch the tape it plays that point. If you drag you will be offsetting the tape speed. You could tap for stutters or go back & forth for scratch effects.

        I’ve already got the name and the slogan:
        WHY ANYTHING? Not the dumbest looper you’ve ever seen!

        A quick question about your name… Why “Why”?

        1. The human hand can’t move fast enough to do anything interesting with the record head on the wand- you would know this if you actually experimented with tape, instead of dreaming about it while playing with your phone. Give me a break insulting my name! How juvenile

    1. Why intentionally distort a guitar signal? Why play a theremin when the sound is limited and keys are far more precise? Why use a diy midi controller to run a light show? Why build an Atari punk console? Why do people still use c64 trackers? Why are acoustic pianos still manufactured? Why use a hardware sampler if you already have a laptop and an interface? Why did allesandro cortini use a Tascam Multi-track recorder to playback tape loops with NIN in 2015 when he had virtually EVERY other option to playback static parts?

      Because it can be done, and because they wanted to do it. And, god forbid, something be done for fun in this cold, boring, far-too-serious world.

  2. The music tech world needs more people like this super enthusiastic gentleman.
    The physical interface is the key to spontaneity and the sense of occasion directly affects results. Nothing I do on my iPad ever feels like playing an instrument which is why I have far too many rarely used synth apps.
    The production model needs a funky design and livery, pitched at a relatively sane price point and then I’m in 🙂

  3. i think this is amazing and i applaud you for your thinking,but i must digress at this point it became clear the scrubber was a play head the footswitch was a on/off and reverse motor switch,whats stopping everyone just buying a tape machine and copying your design??
    maybe you could you get a real to real with more inputs and record from more sources the mk 2 scrubboard.
    but i have to be truthfull you have not invented anything
    what you have done is take apart a tape recorder and nailed it to a board .

    1. “What’s stopping everyone from … [fill in invention here]?” You can answer that question a bunch of ways. But when someone does a hack at this level — both in complexity and effectiveness; it earns my respect.

      So many clever inventions involve taking existing technology and using it in unusual ways. Yes, it uses parts scavenged from a reel to reel. And you can make a case that people have been making & using reel/real tape loops for decades. But this has a couple cool twists.

      What seems unique to me is the combination and implementation all these elements:
      1. foot control of speed & direction
      2. hand-held playback head!!
      3. hand stutter-switch

      The main take-home for me is that it shows that a tape loop (if done right) might have some advantages over a turntable.

  4. I don’t understand why people are asking why. If this is not a community of people that support audio experimentation and exploration, then what is it?

  5. If Jeremy Bell is working on it, it deserves attention. If electronic music had a “people to watch” list, he’d be at the top.

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