Networking Music

Modes and Methods: a case study in online distribution

One of the biggest changes in music in the last ten years besides the rise of digital production is the rise of digital distribution. To explain, in 1998 most records were recorded in professional recording studios and distributed on CD by record labels. Now, most music is recorded at home on computers at equal or better than 1998 studio quality and distributed through some form of the Internet (Greg, 2008). As the digital distribution of music records is an essential part of the music industry and all musicians are looking for bigger numbers of consumers worldwide, this essay will include an overview of online music distribution, its different types, and platforms. We will be also looking at an example of succeeded use of the Internet to distribute the music for free and, finally, tips for DIY (do-it-yourself) practitioners on using the Internet to its best potential.

First, it is important to distinct that music distribution companies distribute physical copies of recorded music products. This fact clarifies the difference between distribution of products, a physical thing (e.g. CD, cassette or vinyl) and the digital distribution (online dissemination of digital files) distribution or as Negroponte (1995) formulated, cited in Anderton, Dubber, and James (2012, p.85) – ‘stuff made out of atoms’ and ‘ stuff made out of bits’.                                                            Secondly, it is also important to realize the impact of the file compression on digital distribution progression, which “makes the audio file smaller by removing some of the unnecessary aspects of sound that many consumers will not miss” (King and Feist, 2009, p.35). According to King and Feist (2009, p.35) in many cases, compression reduces the file size down from 50MG, which is a typical size of the song on a commercially released CD to a more reasonable 3 to 7MG. Resulting benefits are a speedier delivery of music files over the Internet, bigger file storage on consumer’s computers and portable music player likewise unlimited space on retail shelves “leaving the playing fields for independent musicians and labels”(King and Feist, 2009, p.34) as well.                                                                                                          For defining, digital distribution is the process of releasing music online and placing music in online retail stores (

For defining, digital distribution is the process of releasing music online and placing music in online retail stores (Online distribution, no date). According to Online music distribution (no date), there are two major types distribution methods: Distributor to Digital Retailers, and Artist-to-Fan. Dedicated online music distributors are services that distribute a musician’s songs and albums to a number of digital retailers for a fee. According to Anderton, Dubber, and James (2012, p.94) and Online distribution (no date), the most prominent digital distributors are TuneCore, CD Baby, ReverbNation, The Orchard and Ditto Music. Most of those companies distribute music to the biggest digital retailers (the iTunes Store, AmazonMP3), popular streaming services (e.g. Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Deezer), and more. Meanwhile, the artist-to-fan distribution method is a more do-it-yourself approach to distribution. It enables individual artists and record labels to become retailers themselves, either on their own websites or using online services designed to facilitate the sale of recorded music by using services such as Bandcamp, Magnatune, Topspin or other e-commerce platforms (Anderton, Dubber, and James, 2012, p.96).

DeVito (2010) asserts that podcasts are not regulated, they can be created by anyone and therefore anyone can record anything, and that content can be downloaded openly over the Internet. “The music labels suffer greatly from this because this openness can be utilized by music bands want to share their music with the world and not have to use a traditional music label to have their music distributed “ (DeVito, 2010). One of the biggest cases in the music industry of releasing music over the Internet via download was in 2007 when one of the world’s most successful British rock bands Radiohead released their album “In Rainbows”. Radiohead proved to the world that it is possible to make more money selling your record if you give it away for free at first. Rather than releasing the album through the traditional distribution channels, the band decided not to renew the relationship with EMI group after their contract end. According to Wikstrom (2014), they felt no need for the label anymore because they already had their own recording studio, a dedicated fan base, and a new web server. They did this by making a sudden announcement 10 days before the release of “In Rainbows”, and then releasing the album as a download allowing fans to pay as much or as little as they wanted for the album, including nothing at all. According to DeVito (2010) an amazing 1.2 million fans downloaded the album in the first month, and roughly 40% of them chose to pay an average of $6, which netted the band an astonishing $3 million, which means, as stated by Wikstrom (2014) that average revenue per download was $2.40, which most likely is more than the share they would have received during their EMI contract. For the first time, Radiohead owned the master to their album, and they sold it direct to the consumer not losing any percentage of their sales revenues, and they were able to license it to other CD stores and make money the old fashioned way after the first month of “pay what you want” was over. One year after being ‘leaked’ on band’s own website “In Rainbows” had sold three million copies, reached the nr.1 spot on the US Billboard 200 and in the UK album chart. Not to mention two Grammy Awards for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Special Limited Edition Package (Wikstrom, 2014). Moreover, this ingenious strategy worked for the band again with their 2011 release of “The King Of Limbs” (Houston, 2012).

Because of the advent of the Internet and improvements in electronics and recording software, independent musicians can do what they couldn’t do before. Anyone can do everything from recording tracks to selling music online. The online distribution gives artists the freedom to choose how to want their music to be sold and distributed. Of course, “it is important for artists to realize that there are significant differences in the payment models between retailers, and to choose their outlets carefully based on what they are looking for their release: revenue, exposure, or both” (King and Feist, 2009). Creative strategies like Radiohead’s name-your-price experiment can be viral marketing tools themselves. Online music distribution (no date) explains:

“As The Pirate Bay, a torrent site has a “promotional apparatus” called The Promo Bay, which lets musicians, comedians, artists, etc. post ads with links to their websites or even torrents of their own work. The idea behind this is that pirates actually buy more music than non-pirates, so by getting your music out there to this wide audience,you’re bettering your chances of getting your music to someone who loves it and is happy to pay for it then.”

There is another noticeable streaming platform that wasn’t mention before. Founded in 2007, SoundCloud remains as one of the world’s top audio distribution platforms and attracts over 174 million unique visitors. It is a free-streaming “news feed” style homepage, where anyone can repost, make a playlist, follow, comment or favorite the artists and their tracks. Also group communities play a huge part in expanding the reach of SoundCloud’s massive library. This platform is a go-to option in giving your fans or followers the opportunity to stream your latest single for free (Sonicbids, 2015).

Another reasonable tip for DIY practitioners would be to sign up your musician profile on all the major social media/networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube) in order to populate your profiles with content and interacting with friends and fans! “Interaction is key to using social networking well, and the more you do it the more people will notice you” (Online music distribution, no date). Despite all of these qualified music platforms and social media/networking sites, all serious musicians need a personal blog or even better – a personal website. Besides uploading latest music, this opportunity allows you to put all the latest information about what you are doing, how things are developing. You can set your personal art design for it, which is also important to get noticed. It is important to maintain it sharp and up-to-date (Sonicbids, 2015).

Musicians and bands always have sought for greater numbers of listeners. Online distribution has proven to be one of the most effective Web-driven independent artists’ tools to arise over the past ten years. As King and Feist (2009, p.33) claims, there’s never been a more exciting time in the world of music distribution, “[..] While traditional CD sales continue to fall, digital retail and distribution is the fastest growing areas in the new music economy. “ Indeed, understanding digital distribution is central to an understanding the changes in the entire ecology of the music industries in this century, as traditional notions of distribution and retail are changing considerably (Anderton, Dubber and James, 2012). “There are more new players, formats, outlets, and partnerships than ever before, and similar to the weather in London, if you don’t like what is happening now wait for a few minutes and it will change” (King and Feist, 2009, p.34).



Anderton, C., Dubber, A. and James, M. (2012) Understanding the music industries. London: SAGE Publications.

DeVito, D. (2010) The digital music distribution revolution. Available at: (Accessed: 9 December 2016).

Houston (2012) Art of Blogs. Available at:”radiohead”/ (Accessed: 10 December 2016).

King, M. and Feist, J. (2009) Music marketing: Press, promotion, distribution, and retail (book & CD). Boston, MA: Distributed by Hal Leonard.

Online music distribution (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Sonicbids (2015) The top 10 digital platforms to upload, share and promote your music. Available at: (Accessed: 12 December 2016).

Wikström, P. (2014) The music industry: Music in the cloud. 2nd edn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity Press.


Networking Music

History&Ideas: What is Music?

Music can be defined in mechanistic terms “… as merely vibrations that are detected by the organ of Corti and assimilated by the brain’s cortex into what we hear…” (Lenox, 2008). Music can be seen as the art of sounds or simply as an entertainment. Plato, the great thinker of ancient Greece defines “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything” (BrainyQuote, no date). It means that music can also be seen as energy, which is not measurable in decibels or sales ratings. Trying to find a compromising answer, we will be looking at music through different aspects in different times.

Music was perceived much differently in ancient times. Although at that time there were not massive orchestras, symphonies, and masses yet, ancients realized its [music’s] effects:

“For from ancient China to Egypt, from India to the golden age of Greece we find the same: the belief that there is something immensely fundamental about music; something which, they believed, gave it the power to sublimely evolve or to utterly degrade the individual psyche – and thereby to make or break entire civilizations” (Tame, 1984, p.14).

Pythagoras, the great mind of ancient Greece was researching this something immensely fundamental about music and, as Tame (1984, p.14) summarizes, he discovered that all of the music could be reduced to numbers and mathematical ratios – and that entire universe and all phenomena therein could also be explained in these same terms of the same particular numbers and mathematical ratios which were found in music.
Conceptions of the relation between sound and the Universe can also be found in different religions:

“Religious sources show that the universe was created with sound. Bible states: “At the beginning was the Word…” through which God created our universe. Egyptians god Thoth created the universe with the sound of its voice. In the Indian philosophy, in the beginning, Brahma was incarnated in the sound of OM, and, through this sound was created all existence”(Tikumiba, no date).

Besides the belief, that sound was capable of such spectacular feats people in ancient times were equally concerned with the more usual effects of sound and music – upon the human psyche and upon society:

To major civilizations of antiquity, intelligently – organized sound constituted the highest of all the arts. And more, for they also believed music – the intelligent production of sound through musical instruments and the vocal cords – to be the most important, and the very basis of stable, harmonious government. More than anything else, however, the great thinkers of antiquity emphasized the powerful effect of music upon the character of a man (Tame, 1984, p.18).

As Tame (1984, p.19) claims – the idea that music is inseparable of morality and it exerts an influence over the character of man continues in the time of Christ, Middle Ages, Renaissance and 19th century:

“[…] The concept that music affects character was the one great inspiring force behind the creative lives of the great classical and romantic composers. It is clear from what we know of their characters that each of them, motivated by an earnest desire to serve and spiritualize humanity, saw their music as one of the most powerful means possible of influencing the consciousness and direction of the human race. Wars and politicians come and go, but music abides indefinitely, never failing to affect the minds and hearts of all who hear it” (Tame 1984, p.19).

The details of the ancient mysticism of music were lost or forgotten over the passing of the centuries, but not quite all men of modern times have ignored the possible relationships between music and civilization. A good example would be the story of music under the regime of the Soviet dictatorship in the beginning of 20th century:

“Music as a creation of the consciousness of individuals should therefore exactly reflect the structure of society, except in symbolized forms. This was an important notion to the Communist dictators, who emerged as victors of the October Revolution. Their concern was to keep the masses in order and to prevent any form of counter-uprising” (Tame, 1984, p.163).

According to Tame (1984, p.164), as early as 1936, the Russian Association of Proletarian Composers was itself replaced by Soviet Composers, an official organ of the government. This fact proves, that music as an art has also conceived seriously by politics – as a beneficial tool for propaganda or vice versa – a dangerous ‘virus’ for the existing regime.

At that time western civilization experienced a cultural explosion. Fragmentation and diversity is a distinguishing characteristic of

the 20th century’s spiritual culture. The conscience of mankind had lost the integrity of the global scene and thus the sense of security, which was affected by the disaster and the devastating power of World Wars. Faith in morality and humanism was undermined. That universal chaos awakened new philosophers, psychologists, for example, Sigmund Freud, who researched the human instincts, or Henri Bergson, founder of intuitivism. The idea of intuitivism is visible in art and music (surrealism, expressionism, improvisation, jazz, and atonality) of the 20th century. There came avant-garde and experimental music with its questions ‘what is the meaning of music’, a wave of hippies and their rock music. It was the century, which saw the chaotic birth of all kinds of music. Art and music divided into numerous genres as a society divided into numerous subcultures. “The philosophical outlook of most composers today [20th century] is simply stated: the ideal is that there should be no ideals, and the rule must be that there should be no rules” (Tame, 1984, p.72)

Concluding this, we can notice that music as an art has changed its aesthetic and ideological unity passing the centuries. This era of individualism has fragmented it in bits and pieces; therefore it is almost impossible to find the answer to a question “what is music”, which suits every kind of periods of music. Music conceived as a power and force could be exaggerated, although formation of subcultures, music therapy and music industry could prove the opposite. One thing is sure – music as a reflection of each of us and all as together. There is “an axiom, which declares that consciousness and all of civilization is shaped and moulded according to the existing style or styles of music. […] Music magnetizes society into conformity with itself (Tame, 1984, p.247).



Brainy Quote (no date) Available at: (Accessed 12 November 2015).

Lenox, A (2008) What is music. Available at: Music.html (Accessed 12 November 2015).

Tame, D. (1984) The secret power of music: The Transformation of self and society through musical energy. New York: Inner Traditions Bear & Company.

Tikumiba (no date) Kas ir muzika. Available at: (Accessed 12 November


History&Ideas: What is Music?

Audio Visuals module diary

Brief #2

For this brief we had to film a very short movie clip in order to learn and work on Premiere CC. As I have already done things on Premiere CC, i decided to skip this brief by showing some of previous works I have done. The first one is a music video for my music. I filmed sights and environment of Cardiff and Newport.

The second video was about montage. I took one of my favourite Latvian cartoons and fit it to one of my favourite track. Basically, i wanted to make a music video for Mona De Bo song, using a cartoon “Ezītis miglā” or “Hedgehog In the Fog”. Here you can see the difference between original and my music video version.

The original —>

And my version —>

Audio Visuals module diary

Audio Visuals Module diary

Audio-video project: Stop motion music video

Project development

In the beginning, I knew already that I would like to make a stop-motion animation. My search for ideas begun with overviewing my favorite videos playlist on Youtube. That is how I found my first-hand influence; a music video for ‘Mum’ – ‘They made frogs smoke till they exploded’, directed by Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir.  My admiration for this hand-made (draw, cut, glued, smoothly sequenced and captured) stop-motion animation hadn’t disappeared since I added it to my playlist of favorites.



After this, I decided to make something in a similar way. As I didn’t have any song with lyrics of mine, I had this freedom to make the movie about anything I wanted. I thought of taking different photos of things and people and putting them together randomly or even ridiculously. This is where an idea of Dadaism came into my mind. Last year I had a module where I had to make a Dadaism style poem – picking up different words and combining them randomly. To explain, Dada was an art movement of the European avant-garde in early 20th century. It developed as a reaction to World War I; the movement consisted of artists who rejected ideas of logic, reason, and aestheticism in dominant capitalist society, expressing nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeaus in their works instead. Here is some pictures and collages of my Dada board on Pinterest.

Thanks to one of my friends who suggested me to take a look at Monty Python cartoons that are full of nonsense that reminds me of Dada. They are made in stop-motion technique, consisting drawings, pictures and collages:


Project Development

When I got my general idea about what I was going to make, I made a to-do list for organizing the work:

  1. Find pictures, objects (print, cut)
  2. Generate concepts of frames, shots or collages
  3. Capture them by taking photos
  4. Find or make a soundtrack
  5. Montaging, sequencing
  6. Editing


  1. To find pictures, of course, I used our mother’s “Google” help. I didn’t have any idea of what pictures do exactly  I need. At first, I got attracted to a portrait of a guy. When I printed it and cut it out, ideas about further development just came additionally. In the end, I collected many kinds of pictures and objects and then just put them together and see what can I do with them.

and 3. Once I found some combination, I captured the movement to see if it looks fine and understandable. Additionally, new ideas came during the process and I tried to put them on paper as little storyboards.

4. I had a little struggle with the musical part of the movie. I didn’t wanted to make a music video for some of my tracks. I wanted to concentrate on the movie at first and add music eventually. In the end I made a little song on ableton; very naive, goodish, ‘abletonish’, four beat track.

5. Once I had a soundtrack, it made easier to do montaging and sequencing. With montage I had to stick the pictures together, so when playback, it looks like a logical movement of something. As for sequencing, I had to organise the shots and frames, according to soundtrack, so they change and flow organically. I also put a thought, about overall storyboard, so in the end, it doesn’t look so chaotic, for example, you see the babies, then you see a fish swimming around them, and then fish eats one of the babies. So, there is a storyboard, which came along during the process of montage and sequence.

6. First thing I did in editing was balancing the brightness, light and contrasts between pictures. When I was taking photos I had difficulties with finding the proper place with proper light. Some of pictures is taken in library on the white desk under a bright daylight lamp. It was impossible to do it at home, because from every angle there was my shadow on photos. And other pictures is taken after the christmas break, when the library was closed. I had to continue to take a photos in a classroom,  which had a same desk and a same daylight lamps, but somehow the lighting appears different in photos. So, I started editing with balancing brightness, contrasts and lighting between pictures.

Then I started to play with colors and its effects, for example ”paint bucket” and ” color balance”. As you will see in the video, the color of flowers changes, that is when I used color balance. In the shots where crosses come out of a guys mouth, you can see pink random spots, which I made using a paint bucket effect.

My outcome of the stop-motion music video:


Feel free to comment and give some critics and suggestions. It is also free for interpretations and it would be interesting to read yours. Thankyou.


Audio Visuals Module diary

Audio Visuals module diary

Analyze of sequence construction (Brief#1)

As the last movie, I saw was Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria (2015, Germany), so I considered it to be convenient enough to be analyzed for the module brief. The film is about a young Spanish woman (Victoria) who has newly moved to Berlin finds her flirtation with a local guy turn potentially deadly as their night out with his friends reveals a dangerous secret. Although overall story isn’t astonishing or unprecedented, it turned out to be an interesting choice, because this low-budget drama is a gimmick of one huge shot. According to review of Lisa Mullen, director S.Schipper and cinematographer  Sturla Brandth Grøvlen shot the whole 138 minutes in a single take, roaming the streets of Berling to encompass 22 different locations en route.

As suggested by module tutor, before I dare to talk about cinematographic stuff as sequence construction, type of shots, camera angles, lighting, music, sound and visual effects, I did a little research. My further screeds are influenced by Martin Scorsese’s concept of literacy and based on the guardian-storyboard-shot list guide, which is very handful for film analyzing, especially for beginners as myself. In further, I am going to discuss 4 questions about cinematography in the movie:

  1. What types of shot are used?

According to guardian-storyboard-shot list guide, it seems that there are mainly close up/close (CU)  and mid shots (MS) used. For example, in the beginning of the whole movie, there is a club scene, where this main character, a young woman named Victoria is dancing to techno music by herself. In this case, close up/close shots at the beginning of the movie gives us a clear information about who is the main character and the first impression of the character – young free minded and self-contained woman, who is dancing with herself and probably went out by herself.

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2. Why those shots/camera angles/lighting?

As I already mentioned there are close up/close shots mainly used. Any type of shot gives a different range of information for the audience. For example, a wide shot (WS) would establish a location of action, helps to set a geography or an atmosphere of the space. As in Victoria particular CU and MS shots clearly show emotions, reactions, body language and clothes of every character throughout the movie, while these things help audience to get more details about characters – whether they are angry, sad, nervous, mad, rich, poor, neat or dirty,  defiant or reserved.

Another important technical aspect is the camera angle. According to guardian-storyboard-hotlist, POV (Point Of View) angle provides perspective from a particular character’s point of view. In this case, the character whose eyes we are seeing through is the operator or even more, it is directors trick to make YOU, as a watcher, to follow all the way throughout the movie and feel like one you are one of the gang. Besides, all the shots are taken “at the level of eyes” angle, providing a realistic view on people and environment, making it easier to experience the journey in the movie. The second type of camera angle used in Victoria is O/S (Over the Shoulder), which, again, provides this strong feeling as if you are one of them going along, doing nothing, but watching.


Nothing much to say about lighting. For me, it seems like it is natural, whether location is the club, the streets or rooftop. Looks like the aim for director is to stay as realistic as possible.

3. Why that sequence/edit?

As mentioned in the beginning, this movie is one big take – there are no cuts. To explain, sequence is flowing naturally, as operator follows the characters all along and captures all the actions and emotions, which explains the use of CS, MS shots and POV, O/S camera angles. I guess, without this ‘one take’ method the movie would be another abortive attempt to make a classic everyday trill. This particular solution is a very effective one, it because of that it kept my interest and i got completely involved in the journey with Victoria and the guys.

4.Why that music/sound effect/visual effect?

Surprisingly, the author and performer of the music in Victoria is one of my favourite artists, german composer and pianist Nils Frahm. Frahm’s piano playing is so distinctive and personal, it feels ill-suited for something as disconnected as a soundtrack. Yet the tracks work exceptionally well independent of the film. They are beautiful and emotionally wrenching. Pianoless pieces (“In The Parking Garage”,”The Bank”)are meditative moods that clearly fulfill a certain atmospheric purpose. They’re functional, didactic even, in their tense, sombre tone.

As the punctuation of the cut is denied in this movie, the audience never has space to breathe. I consider it as an impressive and uncomfortable effect. It helps to keep the attention and get even a bit stressed like in a proper Hollywood type trill. Likewise, the barrier of language; Victoria is left out of crucial conversations. These gaps and glitches in verbal understanding make the film’ s visual seamlessness even more.

5. Can you spot anything added in post-production?

I couldn’t spot anything visually added in a post-production. Of course, music and soundtracks are usually added after the filming.

Audio Visuals module diary

Emerging Techniques Final Project

 MIDI fingers

After a struggle to find an idea for the last project at Emerging Techs module, I finally decided to make a MIDI glove. In general, you can make sounds or music by touching thumb with other fingers.

Development of idea

In one of the first sessions, we did paint interactive MIDI controller, after that, I realized I want to do something similar for my last project. As I sometimes play with my fingers as an inaudible piano keyboard (when listening to music), I kind of thought that it would be cool to make it audible!

I usually like conceptual works, with ideas in the background. This time I just really wanted to make something actually work. Practically. I wanted to get know these things about MaxMSP, Arduino&Teensy before I go deeper and make more serious stuff in future. I couldn’t force or fake myself to make some smart philosophy out of this just for a better mark because there is none.

Technical solution development

As I had to choose to cover some of/ all of the module themes we’ve gone through this semester, I decided to use a Teensy board with Arduino software to make the actual midi “device”, in this case, it is wired fingers.


  1. Make 10 wires for each finger (midi channel), thumbs as a ground.
  2. Make a code in Arduino, which allows making a sound by touching each wire and stops the sound when I am not touching it. Basic stuff, to be honest.
  3. Make midi samples/sounds for each finger on MaxMSP or Ableton.
  4. Figure out how to attach each wire to each finger to make it comfortable to play with i


  1. Actually, making and soldering wires was the thing I enjoyed most during my project. So I made 10 wires, two for thumbs as a ground and 8 for rest of the fingers. I attached a potentiometer to my teensy board as well. But it sometimes fails me by not working or staying in a place, so I didn’t give it an important function. As long as I have tried to make it work and it worked for a bit, it is alright for me. With setting up the breadboard with wires, I found this link very handful to understand the construction of  Teensy
  2. Understanding and dealing with the code was the biggest challenge. I wouldn’t do a thing in the code without Aiden’s help. During the process, I caught up with things I couldn’t make changes of add channels by myself. img_0133

The picture is just an example of how the code looks like.

3. For a sound, at first, I wanted to involve Max MSP. I played with some patches but was struggling to make some of my own. So I decided to stick with my old friend Ableton, to add the sounds for each channel. At first, my plan was to make a major or minor scale. Each tone for each finger. But in practice, things felt different. As wires are attached, fingers feel more clumsy and it is not possible to play it properly, as a piano keyboard for example. So I decided to make different sounds for each finger, just to make it more fun to play with.


4. There was an idea with the glove, but even with a fit glove, I didn’t find it practical or comfortable to play with it. I prefer it direct as possible. So.. nothing original again. I used a tape to make a little loop with wires attached. you can put them and take them off easily.

More pics and video coming soon

Critical view

At first, I think I should have undertaken something coherent, conceptional. Although, I started my work on this one quite in time and did miss only one session which was about 3D printing anyway.

With practical issues. First, I should have work more on potentiometers and other buttons. I wasn’t sure what function would they be. I kept it simple and understandable for me as possible.

Secondly, I thought that making sound with wires will be more manageable. I somehow imagined that it will be almost like sensors. I wanted to be them less visible and attached completely to my arm, but then it wouldn’t be possible for anyone to play with them. Generally, as an idea – it failed. But most importantly, I learned something, and hopefully, I’ll come up with more serious ideas and won’t be afraid to realize them in future.




Emerging Techniques Final Project

Emerging Techs Module Diary

Painted interactive MIDI Controller with Teensy

In second week of Emerging Techs module we got introduced with the platform of Teensy and Arduino, which allows you to design and programme touchable controllers. In this case it is wire capacitive touch sensors painted with Bare conductive Electric paint. Basically, it is touch->sound based interaction you can find everywhere these days. But this allows you to paint anything and make a sound from touching the painted parts that are connected to Teensy board and computer. This kind of interactive painting can be useful learning method for kids, disabled people or for those who do not have their own keyboard..


  • Teensy board (3.0 or higher)
  • Breadboard
  • Hook up wires and crocodile wires
  • Paper or card to paint on (non-conductive material)
  • Conductive paint (Bare) and paint brush
  • Computer including  Arduino IDE, Teensy libraries and music software with some kind of soft synth that can respond to MIDI, in this case Ableton live.

 Step 1

Draw something on the paper with the electric paint. It is important that the painting connects with the edge of the paper. I suggest to draw something very simple for now, for example geometric shapes and objects. Let it dry before you do anything further with it:

As you can see, the lines (or the legs) of an each element goes down where the paper sheet ends, so you can easily put the crocodile wires later on.

Step 2

Setting up Teensy -> Breadboard -> USB -> Computer

First, put the Teensy on the board like in the picture below and connect it to computer with USB

Open Arduino software and press the small button on Teensy. Now you have to make sure about few thing before we go further. Go to …

  • Tools->Board ->Teensy 3.2/3.1
  • Tools ->Port -> USB
  • Tools -> USB type -> USB

Open File ->Examples ->Basics ->Blink, then click on verify and upload

Now you need to make some changes in the code by renaming the numbers of delay. See in the picture below



Step 3

Go to my tutors blog to get another code. In this blog you can get more extended tutorials for this and another projects with Teensy. Go to Tutorials ->Paint a MIDI Controller With Teensy, scroll down to Step2 and download the code – Aerial Touch Test. Once you have opened it, verify it. If it is verified (no error appears), click upload.

If it isn’t verifying, go to Tools->port->dev/cu.usbmodem, and try again to verify and upload it.

Step 4 

Open the serial monitor in Tools. There should be a window with counting numbers and if you touch the wires, they should be changing. Change the band to 38400 (in the right corner), because, if a wire is longer, the capacity is bigger.

Step 5

Go to downloaded TouchMIDI folder-> AidensTouchMIDItest. Again you have to make some changes in the code. Change the touch value to 900 (for both) and verify it. See in the picture below


If the red error appears, go to Tools ->USB Type ->Serial+MIDI and verify it.

Step 6

If done compiling, open the Ableton live (or Logic, Cubase..) for synthesiser. We want to choose the sound when touching the painting. Again we need to set up a few things in Ableton first. Open Live->Preferences ->MIDI. There should be a Teensy on already, but if not, press the small button on the actual Teensy board. Then touch the wire to see if there is signal coming in into Ableton indicators. Choose some instrument, for example, analog synth and touch the wire to see if they respond the sound.

Step 7

Now we would like to set up the notes/tune for each painted object. Open the downloaded TouchMidi folder again and choose Aidans_Touch_MIDI+notescale. Do the changes again in the code and upload them, see in the picture.


Try to touch the painting. If it didn’t work, press the small on the Teensy board again.


P.S. If you change the numbers in Midi notes, you can get different major or minor scales.






Emerging Techs Module Diary