Echo Park nonprofit Machine Project is a do-it-yourselfer's dream. The humble storefront, on Alvarado just north of Sunset, offers affordable instruction in everything from quilting to computer programming, not to mention plenty of classes for the acoustically inclined. A recent two-parter involved: (a) building an underwater microphone out of cheap hardware store parts, and (b) taking a trip to Echo Lake to test out the goods. And if you'd taken the early-May workshop on “DIY Digital Sampler Design,” you'd be halfway to an atmospheric audio experiment of your own holistic design. Machine Project director Mark Allen hosts a recurring class that teaches basic soldering through the act of building a working synthesizer, and he sees projects like these — conceived to be accessible to all comers, regardless of experience — as belonging to a bigger trend. “We're at a point where people are interested in having some agency over the culture that they produce and consume,” says Allen, “and that ranges from how to make food to thinking about music as something produced by and for a community itself. There's a big difference in the feeling you get building a synthesizer versus buying one.” Occasionally that feeling is one of mild electric shock, but we think it's worth the burn. 1200-D N. Alvarado St., Echo Park. (213) 483-8761,

—Chris Martins

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