by Author Simon Glenister

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Exploring using games technology to make music and break down barriers to making music

Here at Noise Solution we have been experimenting with using the X box Kinect bar to make music. Why?

Well what if I said we have a system that in many ways is as powerful and flexible as a Soundbeam kit (that costs thousands of pounds) for a fraction of the cost.  With this system your outlay is £70 for a Kinect bar (my children were very disapointed that you don't need to buy the Xbox that goes with it), a laptop, which most organisations or practitioners have access to, and some free software. Does that make you sit up and listen?

At Noise Solution we have been using all sorts of games controllers over the last few years from Wii controllers to Guitar hero controllers to find effective ways of getting hard to reach young people to create high quality music quickly. Some of them work some of them don't. This one we're quite excited about though. The Kinect bar is a sensor bar that tracks your movement. When combined with a peice of free software developed by Chris Vik called Kinectar it allows your movements to be converted to Midi messages (both notes and control messages). If your not at all techy this might not mean anything and I suggest you skip straight to the links to the video's so you can see what it's capable of doing.

Essentially what it makes possible is an instrument in thin air (no need to touch anything at all) enabling you to play any sound that your computer is capable of producing purely through body movement. If you want to create a massive phat wobbling bass synth that plays through a pre set scale by waving your arm from left to right you can. If you then want to then be able to filter that sound by adjusting the frequency cutoff (slowly take out all the high frequencies) by raising your other hand you can. It can be as simple as lowering your arm to lower the volume. Or if you want to trigger an imaginary violin by waving one hand around and change its articualtion with the other, moving from pizzicato to legato or whatever you can do that as well. For the user it is immediate and amazing to be playing something out of thin air. I've seen children dancing to music that they are creating by the fact they are dancing creating a wonderful loop of music/dance/music..

The down side,

It's complex to set up but it is getting easier. Well within the reach of anyone who's reasonably savy with music technolgy though. Anyway pictures paint a thousand words so here's a selection of videos showing us playing with it over the last few weeks and slowly developing it to the point that we are just starting to bring it into sessions.

Vid one - what it does

Vid Two - playing the air!

Vid three - Air Violin anyone?

Vid four - using it in a session

Hope that sparks some thoughts....and can someone tell me how you embed video here :)

Kind Regards



Director, Noise Solution