Does making music have to be so hard?

| tags: ideas, enabling technology

I've been thinking about the trade off between difficulty and choice (or freedom) in making music. I cooked up this simple graph to illustrate the idea.


I've no idea what the units would be on this and the scales probably aren't linear either.

The point is, listening to music on the radio (in the lower left) is really easy but you have almost no control of it besides off/on, and the station. Playing the piano is in the upper right because it is really hard, requiring years of instruction and practice, but you can choose whatever notes you want. Playing music on your mp3 player is a bit more difficult than listening to the radio and you get a bit more control. Guitar Hero makes you feel involved in the music creation but really you only have a tiny bit more control than playing an mp3. You control whether or not a note plays. Wii Music gives you a bit of control of the timing and, if you double time, will insert flourishes but you have no control over the notes.

I'm interested in the space to the right of Guitar Hero and Wii Music on that graph. Expressive but easy. I want to give players, especially kids with disabilities, access to making their own music.

Releasing the music in your head is inspiring. I don't know how it works but he appears to be controlling the playing of the large music "units" using gestures.

I'll try to write soon about some related ideas.

  • Spoken music input
  • Reactive music
  • Use the Guitar Hero controller for timing and whether the note goes up, down, or stays the same but let the system choose the note.
  • An accessible version of JamStudio.

I'd love to find a musically minded collaborator. I think I know enough about signal processing and I'm improving my machine learning skills but I don't know enough about music.