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SoundMachine sequences LEGO bricks into beats

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October 31, 2012

The SoundMachine LEGO drum machine sequencer

The SoundMachine LEGO drum machine sequencer

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It would be fair to say that we’re big fans of LEGO here at Gizmag, and so have covered the diminutive plastic bricks being implemented in a variety of cool projects, like the motorized wheelchair and Rolls Royce jet engine. The latest such design to grab our attention is a drum machine sequencer created by Irish computer security engineer and all-round LEGO genius Mark Crosbie, dubbed “SoundMachine.”

The SoundMachine features a standard blue 32 x 32 LEGO plate, with 2 x 2 colored bricks added and arranged to form four tracks of eight beats. Each colored brick represents a different command for the sequencer: notes are separated with white tiles, while the color black is used for borders, leaving red, yellow and green for actual notes.

The SoundMachine was created by Mark Crosbie

Once duly sorted into a pleasing rhythm, the bricks are then scanned by a LEGO Mindstorms NXT color sensor, which is in turn hooked up to a laptop via USB connection.

The laptop processes the colored LEGO brick data into MIDI with a simple piece of software designed for the purpose. Finally, this MIDI data is then routed into the Ableton Live music software suite and converted to beats, presumably with the help of Ableton Live’s on-board library of drum machine sounds.

In essence, the SoundMachine appears to operate much like an early drum sequencer, and Corbie states that several units could be used in tandem with each SoundMachine contributing to an evolving musical score.

The short video below shows it in action.

Source: ThinkBricks via Make

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam is a tech and music writer based in North Wales. When not working, you’ll usually find Adam tinkering with old Macintosh computers, reading history books, or exploring the countryside with his dog Finley.   All articles by Adam Williams
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