Slack Off From Home With A Networked Jam Session

Those of you who were regular office dwellers before the pandemic: do you miss being with your coworkers at all? Maybe just a couple of them? There’s only so much fun you can have through a chat window or a videoconference. Even if you all happen to be musicians with instruments at the ready, your jam will likely be soured by latency issues.

[Eden Bar-Tov] and some fellow students had a better idea for breaking up the work-from-home monotony — a collaborative sequencer built for 2020 and beyond. Instead of everyone mashing buttons at once and hoping for the best, the group takes turns building up a melody. Each person is assigned a random instrument at the beginning, and the first to go is responsible for laying down the beat.

Inside each music box is an ESP8266 that communicates with a NodeRed server over MQTT, sending each melody as a string of digits. Before each person’s turn begins, the LED matrix shows a three second countdown, and then scrolls the current state of the song. Your turn is over when the LED strip around the edge goes crazy.

Music can be frustrating if you don’t know what you’re doing, but this instrument is built with the non-musician in mind. There are only five possible notes to play, and they’re always from the same scale to avoid dissonance. Loops are always in 4/4, which makes things easy. Players don’t even have to worry about staying in time, because their contributions are automatically matched to the beat. Check it out after the break.

Tired of sitting indoors all day, but still want to make music? Build a modular synth into a bike and you’ve solved two problems.

6 thoughts on “Slack Off From Home With A Networked Jam Session

    1. Seems like they are defined by five audio samples each for each instrument, and they can be replaced by the user during compile time. I guess that means that every user can have a different set of samples in their device, selected to taste or whatever

      According to their filenames, the default chords are F, Am, G, C and Dm, the default lead notes are C, D, E, G and A, and the default bass notes are F, A, G, C and D.

      1. Okay, thanks. So using the barebones first thought best thought analysis:

        default chords F, Am, G, C and Dm : I, ii, IV, V, Vi
        default lead notes C, D, E, G and A : 1,2,3,5,6 Winner winner chicken dinner!
        default bass notes F, A, G, C and D : 1,2,4,5,6

  1. I had a similar idea a few months ago that I didn’t do anything with. It was smartphone based rather than controller based, but I couldn’t figure out the end goal other than just make music. Super cool that someone went ahead and built something working.

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