10 new interactive ways to make music

Meet the next generation of musical instruments

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Musical instruments have been around for centuries. Mankind has always had songs and music around to entertain themselves. But in this century of digital interactions, multi-touch interfaces and self centered design we can’t just blow on a wooden flute or play with some strings. So we at Johnny Holland Magazine decided it was time to present to you: the next generation of musical instruments.

10. Rhythm Ring
Rhythm Ring is an instrument on which you can place balls. By changing places and varying the number of balls you can create a sound. Unfortunately the video doesn’t demonstrate that this sound will actually sound nice. Even though it’s a funny way of playing with music. The device looks a lot like a game you can place on your table during parties.

9. Monome controller
I had to look up what a Monome actually is. According to Wikipedia “is an [..] grid of backlit buttons, which connects to a Computer using a USB cable and the OpenSound Control protocol. Originally developed as an open ended performance interface for electronic music, its developers have said “The wonderful thing about this device is that it doesn’t do anything really,”" And that’s something we like.

8. AudioTouch
AudioTouch is still very experimental. It clearly explores the possibilities of music on a multi-touch device. It hasn’t actually got any focus yet, but still nice to view.

7. Wavetable
The Wavetable looks a lot like the Reactable (no.1). The Wavetable also has blocks you can turn, move and combine in order to influence the music. But the Wavetable looks like it is more focussed on expert use in stead of general, because of the details you can change. What’s really good and interesting on this instrument is the use of movement and gestures, which probably takes time to learn but looks really smooth.

6. reacTogon
The reacTogon is a self proclaimed ‘chain reactive performance arpeggiator’. Each cell on the tangible table represents a note. By giving the notes a certain behaviour you can influence the sound. This instrument is interesting for it’s form, it’s beautiful to actually see the music move. On the other hand it looks like a very high involvement instrument.

5. Beat Blocks
The beauty in this tool lies in it’s simplicity. You’ve got a series of blocks showing the beats and a lot of places where you can click them in. By playing around with the blocks you get a certain beat which feels good or doesn’t. It’s not complicated, but very to-the-point. I really believe this would be a superb way for children to learn the basics of notes and beats.

4. Wii Music
The Wii is trying to make us happy, by giving us tools like Wii Music to play around with friends. This time you can turn your controller and nunchuck into a series of instruments. It looks funny and very social. But to be honest, I think I would feel stupid if I had to do this with friends, unless there would be alcohol.

3. Paper Turntable
Don’t buy expensive turntable technology anymore, just draw your tools on paper mr DJ. This is a very unique concept created by DJ Mocap. You draw tools on a paper and the webcam detects these forms and translates them into input devices. It would be super if we could do this on the road… turning every object around us in an input device.

2. Smule Ocarina
We, and half of the world, already wrote very positive articles about Smule Ocarina… this piece of software changes you iPhone into a flute. It’s incredible that you can come up with something like this when looking at a phone.

1. Reactable
The reactable is a music generator using a tangible interface. By placing, turning and combining blocks you create music. The greatest aspect of the concept is that it’s build on a table, which automatically creates social interaction. The blocks are inviting to play with and makes you want to explore. Björk even used this device in one of her songs.
Standing around a table, very social. Together influence eachothers sounds and create music. Bjork used it in one of her songs.

Jeroen van Geel

Jeroen van Geel is founder/chief kahuna of Johnny Holland and the interaction director at Fabrique [brands, design & interaction], a Dutch multidisciplinary design agency. You can follow him on Twitter via @jeroenvangeel.

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