Our Sound Design & Programming class used MaKey MaKey’s and Scratch to create a musical instrument. With this instrument, students composed a musical piece and performed their composition for the class.
Capturing the highs and lows that are a natural part of the creation process as students work on their projects in class.
- To explore the musical principles of form, rhythm, duration, melody, texture, timbre, composition, and performance
- To experience the computational and physical principles of sensor interfacing, electrical conductivity, triggering, and event listing.
- To help students gain an understanding of open versus closed circuits (using the MaKey MaKey)
- To use Scratch for students to make a basic event based program
- To discuss ease of use for a user interface
Prior to this assignment, students created “found objects” instruments. This involved them taking everyday objects and making a musical instrument. The requirements for the instrument were to re-evaluate the sound properties of objects and also to develop a melody and supporting rhythm to compose a piece in ABA form. Students were also tasked with creating their own notation system so that another group would be able to read and re-create the piece. The idea behind this was for students to learn how to notate time, space, pitch, etc.
From here, students completed a project where they created a composition from their digitized found sounds. To do this, students recorded sounds made by their found objects instrument in Audacity and learned how to edit, layer, duplicate tracks, and add effects to create a new composition.
With these two projects complete, students had a sense of musical form, basic music theory and notation, and an introduction to Audacity. The next step was for students to create an instrument with the MaKey MaKey incorporating some of the sounds created in their previous projects. In creating the instrument, students used Scratch to program the MaKey MaKey. The learning goals in this project were to introduce the class to programming in Scratch – emphasizing conditional statements, loops, and event handlers. Musically, this was preparing students to identify and dissect various types of musical form, recognize melody, accompaniment, and structure.
Outcome of Project:
The above is an exemplar project created by 3 students. The completed project was particularly well done for multiple reasons. First, visually it was very attractive and functional in a way that others would immediately be able to play the instrument without instruction. Second, in creating their instrument, they used every note in a major scale allowing them to access a broad range of melodic motifs throughout the performance. Finally, in programming their project, they did a particularly good job with lining up timing of events to ensure a successful live performance.