Music Electronics

On the threshold of a career

I have often been asked about how I got into Engineering. I got a serious reminder of it on 23 November 2011 when I went to see The Moody Blues in concert in St Kilda.

The Moody Blues - Live in St. Kilda 2011
The Moody Blues – Live in St. Kilda 2011

I had started a science degree at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds, Geelong, and stopped after the first year because I realised I didn’t have a good reason for being there. I had always liked science but I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career.


Isn’t life strange

One thing that did happen that year was that a fellow student introduced me to a music group I had never heard of. This was The Moody Blues. I was hooked on the first listen. They sang songs about the meaning of life and communicated with such skill that I wanted to able to do the same. So I took up guitar and started teaching myself how to play.

At the end of that year I decided not to go back for second year of science and took a year off. I worked a couple of mundane jobs, moved from Geelong to South Melbourne and joined a pub band to try my hand at music. We were no comparison to The Moody Blues but something very important happened. I found that I loved working with the equipment and thought it would be really cool to be able to design my own guitar effects, amplifiers and PA equipment. Music Electronics was the career for me.

I had no idea what to study so I went back to Deakin University and asked them. They said that I should do a degree in Electrical Engineering majoring in Electronics. So that is what I did for the next 4 years. This time I had a reason to be there and it showed in my academic results when I graduated with a First Class Honours degree and a grade average of a High Distinction. I also started designing music equipment during my career and even before graduating had equipment installed in recording studies and sold to professional musicians.

So that is how I got started in Electronics and why Analogue Electronics is one of my technical specialties.


Lovely to see you again my friend

So back to the concert.

The Moody Blues - Live in St. Kilda 2011
The Moody Blues – Live in St. Kilda 2011

Wow. The Moody Blues were founded in 1963 and the main line up dates from 1967 where they released the first concept album. That’s right, they beat the Beatles to it. The album was Days of Future Past. Of that line-up, three are still touring: Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge. Graeme Edge turned 70 earlier this year. And they still rock. That’s what finding the right career does for you. Passion and perseverance for the long haul. It is one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

And again I am grateful for the inspiration they were to me and for the career in Electronics that came from that.

Some of you may have noticed that the headings are all based on albums or songs by The Moody Blues.


New Horizons

I still play guitar and now also produce music. So as an example, here is a piece I recently produced trying to capture the journey from uncertainty into hope using music only. It is titled “Finding Hope“. Enjoy.


Finding Hope -Ray Keefe
Finding Hope -Ray Keefe

Finding Hope – © Ray Keefe Right click to save or click to listen in the browser.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2011 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

Australian Engineering Week 2010

Australian Engineering Week 2010

Today begins Australian Engineering Week 2010. You can get a full run down on all the events at Make It So which you might recognise as a tribute to the Star Trek series.


It got me thinking about why I got started in Engineering. It was music. I had done 1 year of a Science degree focusing on Physics and Chemistry at Deakin University and had taken a year off because I had no idea why I was doing a degree. So I worked a few mundane jobs and joined a pub band. We were pretty bad. I had only started playing guitar a year before that. The equipment was low grade and needed a lot of maintenance and I was constantly trying to improve the PA, the mixer, the guitar and amplifier and the effects. They were all analogue electronics in those days. It was mostly trial and error and occasionally trial and success!


What if I knew enough about Electronics to be able to improve, or even design from scratch, my own guitar effects pedals, guitar amplifiers, mixing desks and PA system?


But where would I learn that? So I went back to Deakin University and asked them. And they suggested Engineering. I had mostly thought of Engineering as roads, buildings, bridges and transport so this was a new type of Engineering for me. But I was also hooked.


Four years later with a First Class Honours Degree in Electrical Engineering I was doing just what I had set out to do. Electronics Design was now a part of who I was, not just an area of study. My rig was designed and built by me. And I also doing electronics design and custom pro-audio equipment construction for recording studios and professional musicians.


Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © 2010 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

What’s So Good About Being An Engineer?

An Engineering Problem in Disguise

A funny thing happened to me the other day during the Christmas shopping rush at our local shopping centre in Endeavour Hills. Our daughter had purchased some clothes for her nieces for Christmas and used the self serve checkout. When she got home she discovered she had not had one of the security tags removed so she asked for my help.

OK, I might be an Electronics Hardware and Embedded Software Engineer but I did do a year of Physics and Chemistry at Deakin University before switching to Engineering and I have had a role in the design of Multidisciplinary Systems with Electromechanical Actuators and Variable Frequency Motor Drives including Multi-Axis Robotic Handlers. So I thought, “How hard can this be?”

The first step was to review the problem and identify the information. Those familiar with Edward De Bono‘s Six Thinking Hats will recognise this as the White Hat stage.

I had:

  • circular plastic sealed tag with an alignment feature – a hole through it to accept a tapered pin
  • a metal pin with a large head inserted into the centre of the plastic disk
  • no other visible connection points

So assuming the tag was made at a minimum price, needed to be aligned correctly to be released and could be disconnected without an external power source; I concluded that the release mechanism was probably magnetic. So I got a magnet and did some experiments and I could hear something click inside the security tag as I moved the external magnet around. Now I am very confident that it is a Magnetic Latching Mechanism. But no orientation of a single magnet released the pin.

I got 2 magnets and worked around the unit until the pin released and the problem was solved.

Having released the tag I gave the garment to my daughter to wrap in Christmas paper and put the tag with pin inserted back into it by the front door. Since we were shopping the next day I thought I would return the tag. At the very least it would get recycled.


What’s so good about being an Engineer?

At the shops, I went to the help desk and offered them the tag. They were very confused. I explained that it had been accidentally left on one of the items we purchased so I took it off and was returning it to them. The stunned reply was, “You took it off yourself”? “Yes” I said. “I’ll have to call security” was the next reply. So I said, “It’s all right, I’m an Engineer“. “Oh, that’s fine then” was the reply and I wandered off to collect some final groceries for Christmas dinner.

So apparently there was a connection in the shop assistants mind that made being an Engineer something special. They may not have known what that connection was. And that got me wondering about Engineers and what is so special about us. Here is a bit of a list of my initial thoughts if I ignore specific Engineering Disciplines:

  • we create the future by designing and constructing the machines and systems that it requires
  • we routinely solve complex problems that others do not know even exist
  • we do all of this because we want a better world and are prepared to do our part to achieve it
  • we have learned that covering up a symptom is not the same as solving the underlying problem

You might have some thoughts of your own so please leave a comment.

And of course, I hope you had a Merry Christmas in 2009 and that 2010 is a very good year for you all. Happy New Year!

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.