A LEGO Step Sequencer, Made with a Camera and Code [Video; Open Source Code]

Beat Bricks – A LEGO Step Sequencer from superquadratic on Vimeo. There’s something about that feeling of snapping a LEGO brick in place, a tactile connection to childhood memory. So, while it’s perhaps neither necessary nor terribly practical, this rig that turns a LEGO board into a step sequencer is somehow irresistible. And, like any good hack, it’s a chance to learn and discover – one that, thanks to freely-available code, is shared. The ingredients: a camera, Ableton Live, and some code for analyzing the camera image and translating those events into MIDI messages Live can turn into sound. It’s …

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Camp America Releases a CD Encased in LEGO Blocks [Album Pick]

A paper cover is one option if you’re looking for ways of making music releases physical and tangible. But Steven Cowley went to something a bit more unusual. A release of his one-man project Camp America comes with a bag containing 125 LEGO pieces, and instructions for building the case. Steven writes us as he sees that paper example to show us some next-level physical release magic. And, oh yeah, importantly, it’s really good music – finely-polished, top-notch, synth-laden pop songs. It’s just darned good music, so the best I can say is, go take a listen. I also think …

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Finding Beauty in Samples, Musicians Make New Music from Another’s Raw Materials

Remix albums are ubiquitous, and sampling has become one of the fundamental techniques of electronic music. But how much do raw materials impact the end result? And given that a sample might simply be a prompt or starting point, why not take on someone else’s samples instead of your own? Film aficionados routinely trade film – sometimes even double-exposing someone else’s roll, for unexpected results. Here, a group of musicians take on another artist’s samples, starting with 40 minutes of material by Forrest Reiff (Off Balance Atlas), shared on SoundCloud. The results are eclectic, sometimes exotic, sometimes chaotic, but well …

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A CDM Holiday Gift Guide: Musical Goodness, All Under $200

Photo (CC-BY) JD Hancock. We users may sometimes gripe, but music technology gives us an impossibly wide variety for which to be thankful. From free (as in beer, as in freedom) to high-end and spendy, from software plug-in to acoustic instrument to solid-state electronics to toy, you’d run out of time and money long before you ran out of exceptional, music-inspiring choices. I think the passion people feel for music is the cause: economics and logic be damned, we’re all glad to make music part of our life, both as makers and consumers. Tools aren’t everything – it can be …

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Exclusive Details: How the Rock Band 3 Fender Mustang Works as a MIDI Guitar

A toy controller – in a good way. The Mustang Pro guitar controller for Rock Band 3 is equipped with a full MIDI implementation and standard 5-pin port to connect to synths and computers. Since the very first Guitar Hero game, musicians have found ways of converting game music controllers into genuine music controllers, through various hacks and tricks. But now, no hackery is needed: Rock Band 3’s new “Pro” controllers ship with actual MIDI DIN ports on the back. With the help of Harmonix, we get to look inside how that MIDI implementation works. The Rock Band 3 Fender …

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Free How-to on Circuit-Bending the Saw Vocal Recorder; Handmade Music Austin Sunday

“Your kids will love this Saw figure.” So, too, must have been the calculation of the person who decided to immortalize the film Saw with little toys and figures containing 30 seconds of voice recording, because this toy is now available in quantity for — wait for it — US$2. A $2, 30-second sampler? Now that’s a bend waiting to happen. Circuit bending blog GetLoFi in 2008 posted a detailed set of instructions for bending the SAW III sampler. Download the full PDF, and you can make one yourself, using the $2 part from All Electronics. In the spirit of …

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An Adorable Singing Note as Musical Instrument: Maywa Denki’s Otamatone

What’s the cutest conceivable musical instrument? It’d be tough to top an anthromorphic musical note, complete with eight-note flag, whose smiling face opens when it “sings.” Boing Boing Gadgets (by way of Tokyo Mango) gets the story on this latest creation of art group Maywa Denki and lead creative instigator Novmichi Tosa. The Otamatone is only barely practical as an instrument; it sports a nasal tone from its simple electronic oscillator and, at the end of the video, demonstrates an entirely new way to render the US National Anthem slightly out of tune. (Apologies to Jimi Hendrix.) But it also …

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Exclusive: Free (Cardstock) Minimoog Model Offer Extended

If you missed getting a free Minimoog model with the purchase of landmark ambient album Gas0095 from label Microscopics and still want it, we’ve got good news for you. Microscopics have extended the offer, exclusively for Create Digital Music readers. Paul writes: "If they enter the code CreateDigitalMusic.com in the ‘Add special instructions for the Merchant‘ field in PayPal, we’ll extend the offer until July 14th. Not getting any promotional fees for pitching this; I’m genuinely excited about my papercraft Moog and the album! (Though I think I may have Microscopics buy me a beer if I see them…) In …

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Microscopics Play with Scale on Gas0095, Give You Tiny Moog Model

Gas0095, the landmark 90s ambient release by Mat Jarvis (Gas / High Skies), is back in a remastered version. If you know the music, you’re probably already thrilled by the return of this epic sonic world; if not, even non-ambient fans are likely to get a kick out of the spacey, synthy goodness. (Best press quote: “the ideal soundtrack to an IMAX film on the history of space travel.” You had me at IMAX.) Paul from Microscopics (the label) writes to tell us they’re sweetening the pot with a 1/8 scale Minimoog freebie for all June preorders. (Nanomoog?) It’s brilliant …

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Glam Machine, A Box That Makes Bent Retro Noises, and Other Nervous Squirrel Stuff

One box, many sounds, all toy-like and strange. Such is the vision of the Glam Machine. Norman Fairbanks, the man who brought us the all-Tenori-On album, has been teasing this creation, housed in a lovely wooden box with a giant VU meter on it, for a few days. Now we finally get to find out what it is — and apparently it was all inspired by Norman doing an interview here for CDM. Imagine a semi-modular box with glitchy sampler and the repurposed, Frankenbending sounds of electronic toy guts: The instrument will consists of three main sections: two modified toys …

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