A method is described here for making multiple fast external solution changes at the tip of a patch pipette. The time for the change, 0.2 ms, has been established by measuring changes in liquid junction potential at the tip of an open patch pipette. This technique of producing an abrupt change in solution allows agonist/receptor reactions to be studied under non-equilibrium conditions. We have applied this technique to the nicotinic receptors in outside-out patches from skeletal muscle cell line C2 (Jaffe and Saxel 1979) and from bovine adrenal chromaffin cells. The application of step changes in acetylcholine concentration produces current traces with a characteristic shape, which may be compared with the predictions of established models for the activation and desensitisation of the nicotinic receptor. The results of making single steps and also short pulses in acetylcholine concentration are demonstrated. The direct comparison of two different cholinergic agonists is demonstrated.