Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Axoloti - Embed A Digital Modular Synth In Your Instrument

This is very special to me.  This is exactly what I have been looking to do with the digital music instruments I have been designing and building - Give them a modular synthesizer editor.

This is a software and a hardware project.  It lets you graphically edit a patch for a DSP-based music instrument, then upload it into a small circuit board.  That means you can put that instrument into a box with sensors and controls, make a digital guitar, tune it to sound just the way you like it and even put all kinds of digital effects on it!  It's a very difficult and important project and I am sure it will lead to very many interesting kinds of new instruments, songs, performances and possibly even genres of art!

Here are the specs:
  • Two 1/4" jacks
  • Stereo headphone output
  • MIDI Input
  • STM32F4 processor (168 MHz w/ FPU)
  • USB
  • Modular synth editor on Desktop
  • Cross-Platform support (Lin/Win/OSX)
  • Approximately $100 incl. shipping

I highly recommend supporting Axiloti on Indiegogo.  I look forward to working with it a lot in 2015!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Binaural Sound with the Javascript Web Audio API

Live Demo of Binaural Sound with the Web Audio API

What is Binaural Sound?

Binaural sound is a way to make 3D sound!  Binaural means "Two Ears."

How does it work?  It starts with any sound you like, such as a dog barking.

Then it convolves that dog bark sound with a special signal.

The result: it sounds like the sound is coming from in front of you, or to your right or left!

Try out the real-time demo above!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Javascript audio feature extraction library designed for and implemented in the Web Audio API

I've posted hugh's demo on DIYDSP.com for you to try out.

This is a Javascript library for "Feature Extraction."

If you don't know what "Feature Extraction" is, let me tell you:

It's a term used in Machine Learning.  A "Feature" is quite simply a "calculation."  For example, if you examine a stream of sound or a file, you may want to calculate the average loudness of the stream every 50 milliseconds.  In that case, you are said to be calculating the "Feature" of loudness.  Also, you may wish to calculate the loudest part of the spectrum.  In that case, you would extract the feature called "Spectral Centroid."

So now you learned the jargon of what it means when everyone says they are "computing features."  What is it good for?

The primary use of features is in "trying to figure out what a piece of audio means."  For example, I once wrote a script that automatically downloaded 2-hour FM radio shows from WMBR.  I wanted to know which parts of the shows were the DJ talking and which parts were the music.  So, to do that, I did some research and discovered it's possible to compute "features" on the audio and compare them to determine whether the audio is speech or music.

Unfortunately the code for that is on a computer in another country at this moment, but if enough people request it, when I get back to that computer, I'll post the code and show how it works.

Good luck with this library and try out the demo I posted at Meyda Demo on DIYDSP.com.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Playlist For Electric Eel Christmas Carols

 My new playlist: Electric Eel Christmas Carols

Subscribe to find out when new songs are added on my upcoming trip to Germany!

This is me playing traditional Christmas Carols like Silent Night, Joy to the World, etc., on an instrument I designed while at the MIT Media Lab.  It's called the Electric Eel.  I designed it because I was stuck between the two worlds of electronic and acoustic music.  I like the sounds of electronic music, but I also like the spontaneous, collaborative, nature of acoustic music.  So I designed this instrument which responds to the intensity of sliding the belt up and down by generating more power to emphasize notes.  If you're really curious, check out my wiki Exertion Music where I show how to design and build your own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Volca Sample SDK - A Sample and Sequence Encoding Library for Volca Sample

Did you know that you can upload samples and sequences into the Korg Volca?

Yes, it's possible and now it's much easier with this software from Korg, including the source code. Wow!

This program takes your sequences and samples and turns them into an audio file that you play into the Korg Volca Sample to record the data into its memory!  Wow!

It even comes with a Visual Studio project and a GNU makefile! 

This is seriously cool, thank you Korg!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Music Instruments are Not About Music

This is a long, but brilliant essay.

I especially enjoyed the section on Music Instruments about 1/4 down the page.
The theme argues the idea that civilization/society/humans create for the sake of social status, not for the effect of the creation.

For example: We choose to learn to play guitar to "be cool," or piano to indicate we want to be thought of as high-class rather than because we value the sounds of either of these instruments.

This can be incredibly earth-shattering to realize. I hope it's not 100% true, but there is plenty of evidence to show it is.

This type of thinking may also inform the famous "Mac vs. PC vs. Linux" debates. Do we choose our OS based on it's social significance or its technical, productive and visual benefits?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Music Hack Day in Cambridge, USA

This is music Hack Day, November 8th - 9th 2014, in Cambridge, MA, at Microsoft N.E.R.D.

The day begins with an incredible amount of information dissemination and research on topics related to online music software development and APIs.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Compiling the Bitbox for the STM32F4 Under Lubuntu 13.10

If you didn't know, the Bitbox is an excellent, efficient graphics and audio project for the stm32f4 microcontroller.

In a small package you get VGA out, Micro SD Card, USB Keyboard and Controllers in, and headphone out.

Over on DIYDSP.com, I give step-by-step instructions for compiling it under Lubuntu 13.10.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

.MOD music player ported to BitBox

If you're not familar with .mod  format, you should read up on it, because they're an efficient way to store music.  Instead of recording a full waveform, like mp3/aac, they store a number of short samples and a score file for the music.

Having mod-playing code on a platform is extremely useful because it allows that platform to play songs with very limited resources - which is often the case in embedded environments where DSP is most useful. 

The Bitbox itself is a DIY video game console based on the excellent stm32f4 processor.  So, having the mod player there is valuable because it will let you add music to your video games without having much memory and disk space.  Speaking of disk space, this release of the mod player is extra great because it can play the mod files directly from an SD card!  So, check it out!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Synthesize Sounds of Thunder in Javascript!

This is a really great demo in which first lightning is synthesized and then thunder that you can actually hear and actually sounds like thunder!

p.s.  Here is a link to the source code for synthesizing thunder!

p.p.s.  Andrew Glassner, a research in Washington State, has also written about his model for synthesizing the sounds of thunder while working at Microsoft!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Understand Dither Intuitively with Nigel Redmon's Javascript Applet

Over on Earlevel, Nigel Redmon writes on a number of topics that can help you increase your understanding of DSP at an intuitive level.  Most recently, I've found his "Dither Widget" exciting!  Go ahead and play with it and see if it doesn't increase your understand of the technique of dither in DSP.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Expert: Richard G. Lyons' DSP Sequel

One of the most valuable books I have ever read was Understanding Digital Signal Processing by this author. I highly recommend it to people who want to get started with digital signal processing.

Suddenly, just this evening I noticed Lyons released a sequel!

Just looking at the table of contents,

 I was impressed with the promise of clearly-explained algorithms. 

It appears to deliver algorithms like: 
  1. "Efficient DC Blocking" 
  2. "A Fast Binary Logarithm Algorithm"
  3. "Ultra-Low Phase Noise DSP Oscillator"

Some chapters help alleviate common, time-consuming tasks, others promise higher signal-to-noise ratios than ever before.  And some just help you do more calculations per millisecond than it ever seemed possible.

Considering the epic impact of Lyons' previous book

people on the comp.dsp newsgroup still rave about this author

I'm rating this a strong buy recommendation. BTW, I've placed it, along with his first book and a few others at BuildInstruments.com on the bookshelves.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Richard Moore's DSP Code for a Piano String

Richard made this program to synthesize a piano string available for people to experiment with for free!

He would like some help updating the model so it can simulate a "prepared piano," so if you can help him, get in touch with him.  You can see his email address on this page:

Richard's Piano script is based on Master's thesis work by Charalampos Saitis which you can find at http://www.music.mcgill.ca/~harry/pdfs/Ch_Saitis_MA_Thesis.pdf .
Also, if you don't have Matlab, try out GNU Octave.  It's free, very compatiable and quite good!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Piano Player Rolls Transcribed via DSP

Piano Player Rolls Transcribed via DSP

Clever application of DSP!

Zulko extracts notes from a youtube video of a player piano!  He talks you through every step of Python to pull it off. 

BTW, this video tours a factory where rolls for player pianos are made!  It shows a piano player entering notes one step at a time, some classic computers used in the process and many other fascinating details!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hilarious Intro to DSP

A Great Sense of Humor

hahaha!  Honestly, it is rare to find people with a great sense of humor when learning DSP!  This video though, is a wonderful exception!  He describes DSP using PacMan!

My New Recommendation

Over on my main website DIYDSP.com, I go through great pains to introduce people to DSP so they can make music instruments from it.  I recommend books, FAQs and other tutorials - - but from now on, I'm going to be introducing people to DSP using this video!  Excellent!

Once You Get Through That

I've been collecting a whole playlist of youtube videos that help explain Digital Signal Processing, with a particular slant on learning how to make electronic music instruments, so check them out.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sketch a Filter from DSP Creations

Draw a filter by hand with Dr. Gerry Cain's extremely powerful tool, Sketch-a-filt. Listening to him, I am amazed at how incredibly intelligent and experienced he sounds with DSP!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Making of a Fortune-Telling Robot

A nice example  project which makes good use of multimedia to create an animated robotic fortune-teller using modern technology, such as servos, speech synthesizers, a Raspberry Pi.  The designer's focus and thoroughness are inspiring:


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Satellite CCRMA for Art and Music Instruments



Satellite CCRMA is a platform for building embedded musical instruments and embedded art installations. Used by artists and engineers alike, Satellite CCRMA integrates together open-source software and hardware components including some novel software. Most importantly, Satellite CCRMA comes with examples that make it possible for new users to get up and running within a matter of minutes.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

How Musicians Get the Most From Reddit

Your Music Audience in 2014

If you're a musician in the 2010s, working with your audience is full of changing challenges.

Recently, I came upon this mega-post on reddit.  Reddit is a HUGE social news site with many active users and music lovers.  This post gives great advice on leveraging Reddit as a FREE point to reach your audience.

Just be sure you follow the rules in that post!  Reddit can be a fickle community and you want to abide by their community standards.

Here are the topics the megapost covers:

1. How to share your music to the widest audience

2. Music sharing and critique

3. Music production, discussion, technique and community

4. DAW, Gear and Instruments

5. Music collaboration

6. Miscellaneous

7. Music discover


Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Magic of Chordify.net for Learning to Play Songs from Youtube Videos

Walk-through: How to Use Chordify.net to Get Chords From Songs

Mostly on DIYDSP.com, I teach people how to use DSP to make digital music instruments, but I also enjoy sharing new technologies I discover that help people learn to play music and help their careers.  Chordify.net is one great example.

Chordify is free (freemium model), has perfect pitch, and it's clever:  It picks out chords and measures from any youtube video.  And if anyone else has already analyzed the track you point at, the results come up instantly for you!


1. Look up the song you want to learn to play on youtube.

2. Copy and paste the URL into Chordify.net.

3. Wait for it to analyze the sound and figure out all of the chords for every measure...

4. Grab your instrument, press play, and jam along with the song you analyzed!


Chordify is so smooth, it even works in Linux - you don't need even Flash because it uses 100 percent HTML5!


I have to stop writing now, because I'm off learning and jamming along with these songs:
  1. "Jockey Full of Bourbon" by Tom Waits
  2. "If I Had a Boat" by Lyle Lovett

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mysterious Names - How Audio Companies Got Their Names

The Name of a Music Instrument Design Company... How Powerful and Meaningful is it?

A new music instrument company's name has been a pursuit of mine.

Popular music companies on Wikipedia were the starting point.

Major categories they fit into:

1. Blends

The most interesting category because they create distinctive names.  Benefits of distinctive names are stronger trademark protection and  more likely available domain names!

Blend examples:

Alesis - A Loose acronym for Algorithmic Electronic Systems adjusted to make spelling and pronunciation easier.

JoMoX -  Jürgen Michaelis X-Tended. Die Sternchen zwischen den Buchstaben sahen aus wie "o"s, und fortan hieß es JoMoX.  My translation: It started with the name Juergen Michaelis X-Tended.  "The little stars between the characters looked like letter 'o's, and that led to it getting named JoMoX."

2. Technical

Names like "Metasonix," "Quasimidi," "Sequential Circuits," etc.   This is the second largest category of names of music instrument companies

3. Places

Examples: PAiA, Waldorf, Teisco. This is actually a small category.

4. Bland

These are names that seem to be arbitrary, dry permutations of words like "music," "electronics," etc.  Some examples are: Electronic Music Laboratories, Electronic Music Studios, Generalmusic.  These names are so generic, they can hardly even get trademarked!

5. Designer Names 

This is the largest category of digital music instrument company names.  You know them: Moog, Kurzweil, Dave Smith, Buchla, etc.

* * Conclusion * *

The name of a music instrument company is important, especially in light of trademark law and all of the other requirements for brand names....  They should be easy to spell, have an available internet domain name, and not mean something embarrassing in a foreign language!  (Chevy Nova is a famous example!)


While researching, I discovered this interesting link, which gives the stories of a large number of music company names:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hurdy Gurdies - An Introduction to Constructing Them

Hurdy Gurdies - An Introduction to Constructing Them

Recently a neighbor mentioned his desire to possibly someday construct a hurdy gurdy.  I was very curious to know what goes into it and what solutions/possibilities and plans are available, so I did some research into it.

One of the coolest customized Hurdy Gurdy constructions I've seen.  
Notice how it includes 7 electronic control knobs!

  • This person built the above kit and made a 20-minute slideshow of the entire process - 133 images!!!
  • This is a person who is blogging the entire process of building their hurdy gurdy!
  • This guy has lots of great information if you're deciding whether to build a hurdy gurdy from scratch or from a kit
  • This website also has a kit and you can pay in alternative currency!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Free Acoustic Analysis Software!

It's called LISA and I didn't know it existed until now!  And it's free (for up to 1300 nodes)!

This can help you design music instruments by telling you the resonant frequencies of instrument-shaped wooden housings like guitar bodies, cigar boxes, etc.!

Sounds great, right?  Somebody Download it and tell me how it is!!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Berklee Music Therapy Hack Day

Berklee and hack/reduce will cohost this first-of-a-kind event March 28-29, 2014, creating a space for hackers to develop tools for music therapists to use in a variety of therapeutic and healthcare settings. Sponsors will help shape the Berklee Music Therapy Hack and provide tools and resources for developers. Practicing music therapists and music therapy students will present the developers with problems to be solved in real-life settings.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Real-Time Signal Processing in Python

Did you know computers are fast enough to let you write Python code for guitar effects?

I am curious how far this can be pushed!  If we can write python guitar effects and synthesizers, what about these question...

Instrument builders: Shouldn't it be possible to help musicians craft the specific sound they want?

Instrument players: Is it possible to give you the power to perfect your sound through code?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Guitar Maker at Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi

Guitar-making from scratch - there are many informative videos out there!

What makes this one special?

1. The style of music they play.  It's different from how we play in the United States.  Listen for it!

2. Limited constraints force this guitar maker to effect the bare essentials.

3. Inside of a refugee camp - what is life like there?  Are people free to move about?  How do they stay happy?  An entry point into all of that is right here.  Somehow, it's much more comprehensible - we can relate when we think of people playing music there.


Wondering where Malawi is?  Here's a hint: It is completely landlocked, but a major lake forms its border.  Take a guess, then click here to find it on map.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Levitation, Acoustic: Three-Dimensional Mid-Air Manipulation

Wow...  Just one of the neat things you can do with great acoustic control!


Just think about how much you can do when you learn to use Digital Signal Processing well. 

You can create this amount of control over sound and music.

That can help you make very precise music that communicates and express exactly what you like from moment to moment. 

Christopher Walken once mentioned that he would rather have the ability to express himself through having a tail than to be able to fly!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Olli Niemilato's Introduction to DSP

Back in the day, the music-dsp list was a hotspot of people designing and implementing their own DSP algorithms for musical purposes. 

Olli Niemilato was one of its leaders.  He shared knowledge with a sense of humor. 

I was delighted to discover his introduction to DSP algorithms in snappy, fun-to-read form.


Additional guides to help you learn DSP from DIYDSP.com:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Exhibition of Gijs Gieskes' Music Instruments

A friend introduced Gijs to me many years ago.  We've stayed in touch as much as possible, considering he lives all the way over on the other side of the ocean in Holland!


He recently had an exhibition of some of his vast instrument library.

His elegant, yet slightly jagged approach always impresses me.

His adoration of the connection between the sounds of physical and electrical media tickles my fancy!

What physical objects would you go out of your way to incorporate into electronic instruments?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Subwoofer Build From Scratch by Svinec

Svinec builds a large subwoofer from scratch, including coils, spider,  foam, everything!  It's nicely documented and has a great sound track of "Bass Music"!  Pump it up!


This is a really nice video.  It is well worth the 10 minutes.

Get comfortable with a friend, watch the construction and enjoy the details!  

Do you think you could pull this off yourself?