Taking an old computer or game console and modifying it for music isn't very new - it's even spawned its own style of music called "chiptunes." But most artists that do this end up standing behind a table while they perform, since that gear can take up quite a bit of room. So, like the keyboard player who looked at the guitarist and said, "Hey! I want to do that!" one musician has created a handheld musical instrument out of a 1970's game console. Australian chiptune artist, cTrix, crafted together an Atari 2600, some custom software, and various musical modifiers to build a standalone instrument that he calls the "gAtari 2600."

Turning any game console into an instrument is difficult enough, but the Atari 2600 certainly isn't built for audio. Its sound may be distinctive, but it doesn't offer much range. To get the most out of the console, cTrix programs his own databoards with pre-composed sounds and plugs them into the machine like game cartridges. For the gAtari 2600, he linked the console to equalizer, flanger, and hold pedals as well as an Atari joystick that allows him to change tracks. The pedals and controller line up to create the "neck" of the instrument, with the console itself acting as the "body." The "tuners" on the end seem to be mainly to complete the guitar look.

As you can imagine, cTrix's instrument creates some sounds that would be near impossible on traditional instruments. In the past, he has used other gaming computers like the Commodore 64, Amiga 500, and Gameboy to create his distinctive rave-like style. Check out the video below to hear cTrix explain the gAtari 2600 in his own words and demonstrate how he plays it.

View gallery - 5 images