It’s drumming, the multi-player game. The Drummer is an open-source application for the Nintendo DS handheld, developed by Andrea Bianchi and Woon Seung Yeo and presented alongside a paper earlier this year at the NIME Conference (The International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression). As with any Nintendo homebrew software, you’ll need a special DS cartridge capable of loading software from flash memory – though if this app were developed more, it could make a terrific DSi app.

The idea is this: while making a handheld game system into an instrument, why not take advantage of its networking features? Grab a friend (or friends) with the Nintendo DS, whip up a drum kit that’s to your liking, then play along.

Oddly, while we live in a networked, Internet age, the client-server model rarely gets applied to music. One of the things I try to explain about the protocol OSC (OpenSoundControl), aside from the fact that it doesn’t have to be about sound, is that it’s really a collection of best practices in open networking communication. It’s not simply about connecting devices to one another in serial fashion, as with MIDI, but forming a network – an idea familiar to anyone who uses instant messaging online. True, latency considerations and other complications can add another dimension of challenge. But I think there’s plenty to explore when it comes to networking devices, and it promises to make computer music a less solitary experience. The Drummer is a good step in that direction.

The Drummer project page + NIME paper
Google Code page

Thanks to Andrea for sending this our way!

  • http://www.pillowsopher.com/blog Andrew Turley

    I think the idea of using handhelds to let groups of people interact with a central program is going to take off soon. At least I hope it does. So many people have network-connected handhelds (DS, iPhone, etc) that it only seems logical for people to begin to produce systems that can be controlled by an interface running on one of these devices.

    I played around a little bit with a similar idea (circular sequencers and iPhones) a while back.

    Peter, as you mention, latency is a problem on systems like this. If you're just jamming for fun you can probably get away with a local network connection. But the lag may be enough to make it hard to do any truly complicated beats. One solution to that problem is to come up with interfaces and interactions that don't necessarily rely on precise real-time control. For example, you can quantize your beats. Or you can have the networked users control global aspects of a "sound" (sequencers controlling the order of samples, knobs controlling synth parameters, etc) and let another user with a faster interface (like a MIDI keyboard controller) handle the real-time part.

  • rhowaldt

    does anyone know of this (and other homebrew DS-music-apps) working on NDS emulators? And, specifically, on which ones? i do not want to invest in a NDS, but i would like to emulate?

  • http://truechiptilldeath.com peter

    Boo on laptop servers.

  • Greg

    uhm, Max and Pd have supported things like this for ages over any protocol your computer can spit . . .

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  • Eric

    THIS IS AWESOME!!! but i cant get it to get on my DSi

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