God bless you, 4/4. Yes, there’s still something about that four-beat, sixteen step bar that gets toes tapping and booties shaking and floors fouring on the… floor. So, when musician and maker Steve Cooley decided he wanted more physical control, he didn’t want some perfectly generic controls, and he didn’t want rows and columns. He wanted sixteen steps and faders alongside. The result is Beatseqr, an Arduino-powered hardware controller recently spotted at the Maker Faire outside San Francisco.
Because it’s just a controller, they’ve built Roxor, a Mac software step app that sends OSC, and Steppa, a Max/MSP patch, though other options would be viable. The idea is to combine software to make a productive “toolchain.” (I’m still surprised people don’t make more use of tools like Python for these sorts of tasks, not only for cross-platform compatibility, but even for ease. But the principle is the same.)
I like the idea and layout, and if you want one, you can even buy one for $299. (We’re talking extremely limited runs. Right now, there appears to be … one of them.) It’s a cool creation, though it makes me imagine this as a prototype for something else – something with onboard MIDI or possibly even basic onboard sound generation. I think we could be on the verge of a real explosion in new, hand-built devices of that sort. And that could mean layouts like the one found on Roland’s 808 are about to make a very big comeback, re-imagined for a new generation.
And the bottom line: it’s fun for its creator. It’s not only a solution to a problem from an engineering perspective; it represents bridging the gap from wanting something, and realizing exactly that thing you want by making it yourself. As Steve puts it:
The goal wasn’t to create a box that can do all things for all people. It’s a specific tool for a specific purpose. It is a very fun tool for improvising and performing.
If that isn’t the spirit of DIY, I don’t know what is.