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Entries in Sequencer (1)

Friday
Apr292011

Everyone Can Be a Musician

Through out my life I have taken lots of joy in making noise, it has entertained me endlessly when bordem was creeping my way.  As a kid it was singing songs I made up, as a teenager it was playing drums in too many bands to count, and as an adult it has been as a sound editor.  But I know a lot of people for whom making noise seems to be something they just don't do.  Sometimes its fear of someone hearing them and laughing, sometimes its that learning an instrument seems too daunting, and other times it is just that they take joy from hearing what others are creating.  There are a million reasons to stay quite I guess, and there is a point that the world is already too loud in general.  Yet there is something that happens inside when a person is responsible for something musical that is not really replicated in any other pursuit and thankfully technology is helping bring that to more people.

Here is a really great and simple audio toy that ANYONE can have a whole lot of fun with.  @JadAbumrad, co-host of RadioLab, posted this as a link on his twitter feed a few weeks ago and I have been noodling with it ever since. It is an online step sequencer built around a simply matrix grid, just click on various squares within the matrix and they will make a "ping".  The higher up on the grid the higher in pitch the ping will be and it loops going left to right repeating your composition endlessly.  If you don't like the way a section sounds just click on the squares again and they will go back to silence.  Once you have played with it for 30 seconds it makes perfect sense.

Try it yourself: http://www.sembeo.com/media/Matrix.swf

I love playing with this because it can be tackled a few ways and will always be fun.  The simplest is to just randomly click or drag over the grid and see what happens, normally something great happens.  It is almost like you can not make bad music with this thing.  Another approach is to make visual patterns on the grid and see how the pattern sounds.  Finally you can really dig in and try to come up with something through trial and error that is just mind blowing.

The other great thing is how the grid illuminates the squares as they ping, and the light spreads like water after throwing a rock through its surface, between the soothing music you can create and the trippy lighting, this thing can really take away the debris of a shitty day quickly.  The main thing with this is anyone can play with it and have something cool sounding in moments, whether they are 3 years old or 75, no musical training necessary.  It is addictive!!!!!

Here are a couple of "songs" I did on the fly (no planning just winging it), with a video of the grid in action:

The way this thing sounds is similar to a song I made in 1998 with my friend Scott Ballem, when we were roommates.  I had a 4track and drum machines and he had a Roland JX-3P synth, so we pooled our gear and one of the results was this song.  He came up with the loop and I stole it and did the rest.  I took it into the studio where I was working the night shift at the time and did this mix:
(AUDIO NERD SIDENOTE:  I just found the protools session on a CD, Protools 4!  No plug-ins or automation in the session as it must have all been done in the console back then.  No stereo tracks either.  We have come a long way.)

And here is a video I found of someone expanding Mary Had A Little Lamb into a ambient nightmare, 

And here are some sound clips of other audio doodles I did with it:

Matrix 1 Boost by azimuthaudio

Matrix 2 Boost by azimuthaudio

These are other cool sound generators:

http://www.sembeo.com/pulsar/

http://www.unitunitunit.com/qwertybeats/

I know there must be plenty more out there, so please leave a comment with any suggestions of sites along these lines if you know of any.