Introduction: Making Sound (noise) Machines

About: IMPORTANT: Please do not message me personally with technical questions. Use the comments in the respective Instructables. I really love sharing and helping people makes much more sense in a shared space where…

As a part of being an artist in residence at Instructables, I took it upon myself to build of couple of noise machines / music boxes. My interest lies in designing objects that would enable people to explore the world of sound synthesis and for me to get a better understanding on how the different interfaces enables different interactions and sound qualities. 

It has been an intense experience. Trying to build as many interfaces as possible within one month. I have tried to make all of them stand-out as finished, while still being hackable pieces. Everything I have done is published here on Instructables for others to experiment with.

All of the projects consists of a few basic components: An interface and sometimes a screen or a led matrix. The basis sound component is either a Gameduino or a synth based on the following instructable.

Most of these machines would have been simpler to make as software programs on a computer or even as multitouch applications on a smartphone, but I wanted to have an aesthetic criteria as a frame for my experiments: I wanted to create simple tangible interfaces that would inspire curiosity. The objects themselves should welcome the user to try out and explore their interfaces. Lastly I wanted each experiment to be self contained. Instead of them becoming interfaces for a laptop they should be the ones who created the music. 

All of the projects are remixes of earlier experiments and inspirational sources found on the internet. Therefore each project should be considered my own interpretations and evolvements of other inspirational projects. I have done my best to credit my sources in each project.

The software for each experiment is still a little crude and leaves many possibilities open for new people to experiment with. I will update the software as I go along.

I made the following machines:

Step 1: Singing Plant: Make Your Plant Sing With an Arduino.

Making a plant sing has been a trick since the Theremin was invented.  Here I am going to teach you how to do this with and Arduino board, a gameduino shield and the touch shield from my previous instructable. With the introduction of the touché frequency principle by Disney Research lab and we can now make a really stable solution that can run entirely on the Arduino platform. The Touché works on a similar principle as a normal Theremin, but does a frequency sweep instead. By hooking the touché up to the plant we can measure the capacitative interaction and convert it into sound.

You can find the Instructable here.

Step 2: Kaosduino: Make Your Own Kaossilator

Inspired by Korgs Kaossilator I took it upon myself to build an opensource version of it. This way people can design new ways of interacting with the touchpad. The basic principle is creating sound via a trackpad. This enables you to create an instrument with quite wobbly possibilities. The challenge is to program something that would enable you to create interesting sounds. This is also a challenge with the Kaossilator which get mixed reviews for the same reason. This is an initial prototype. It uses the an Arduino as basic 8 bit sound engine and uses a capacitative trackpad from adafruit industries as the input device.

You can find the Instructable here.

Step 3: Organic Music Creation

Creating emergent patterns that can be converted into sounds fascinates me. So this is my first experiment in building an Arduino platform for creating such patterns. This version uses a Gameduino as its sound processor and uses particles that bounces around on a led matrix as the interactive sound generators. You can add more particles by pressing the joystick down for two seconds and the joystick serves as a drawing pen to create elements for the particles to bounce on.

You can find the Instructable here.

Step 4: Algorithmic Noise Machine

You can use bit-shifting as an alternative way of creating "music".  This principle enables you to squeeze as much processing power as possible out of the Arduino while creating novel and interesting effects. The challenge lies in composing through bitshifting.  This is an example of how such composition could look like:

OCR0A = ((-t&4095)*(255&t*(t&t>>13))>>12)+(127&t*(234&t>>8&t>>3)>>(3&t>>14)); // by tejeez

I have made this box to explore the consequences of changing the different parameters in the pieces. This enables me to see how they effect the overall sound qualities and enables me to prototype new compositions. The different parameters are changed through the 4 potentiometers. One potentiometer to choose the current algoritm and the other potentiometers to change the parameters of it. Although the sounds can be considered crude it is quite engaging to experiment and play with.

You can find the Instructable here.

Step 5: Button Matrix (to Be Created).

The button Matrix has yet to be created. I have the initial form factor down, but I still need to wire it up and write an Instructable. I have included it here because I want to add it to the list as soon as I get it done. I hope this will be done during winter 2013. In the meantime I would recommend you keep an eye out for Amanda's project, she uses the same buttons. She has written a nice toturial here and has a nifty little contraction on its way that combines it with a gyro.

Step 6: Guino: Debugging Interface for Arduino.

As an initial experiment I made a debugging interface for Arduino. It can be a tricky task to debug and visualize realtime data on the Arduino board. You are usually stuck with the standard serial output, as the complexity of your Arduino code grows this makes it impossible to comprehend what is actually going on inside the board. To solve this I have created a little library that will enable you to create your own custom GUI for your Arduino projects.

You can find the Instructable here.