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Electric Violin Tutorial Wins Grand Prize

I am very happy to report that my tutorial on was awarded the Grand Prize in the 2×4 challenge! The object of the challenge was to build something (anything) using a 2×4. I had been planning for some time to build an electric violin, and when I saw that contest, for some reason my brain started working it all out.

I’m very pleased with how it turned out, especially considering the materials are somewhat more humble than your typical electric violin. It appears to be holding together well, it sounds great, and plays fantastically. I still haven’t attached the shoulder rest – that’s the next part of the plan, followed by making the circuit for the pre-amp.

Feel free to check it out here:×4-Electric-Violin/

Digital Music Stand – Raspberry Pi + Touchscreen


I started working on this when I realized how much loose paper I have around the house thanks to IMSLP. Unlimited access to any and all out-of-copyright scores has a way of doing that, I guess. So I started thinking about it and came to the conclusion that there’s no reason I couldn’t just throw together a simple setup to have my entire digital library at my immediate disposal, no paper needed. And when I finally started looking into it, I felt pretty foolish for not realizing earlier how simple it really is – get a touch screen and a raspberry pi. End of instructions. (Almost.) True, I did some tweaking of the software to make it better fit my needs, but I could have left it pretty much as it was when I set it up and it would still be doing it’s job well enough. Since I bought a screen big enough for two pages at once, and since I’m a piano player, I felt pretty comfortable sticking to the on-screen controls for turning pages. If I was mainly using it as a string or wind player, I would have probably hooked up a foot pedal rig to turn pages. And I still intend to at some point, it’s just not a top priority at the moment.

Let me say up front that this is still a work-in-progress. I’m developing (or attempting to, at least) a program that will analyze notes drawn on screen using a stylus and convert it for playback and export to midi/music-xml. I decided to go ahead and release the instructions it in it’s current state because I saw a contest on Instructables that I wanted to enter.

I won’t reproduce the instructions here since parts of it are pretty lengthy, but here is the link to the full set of instructions:

Here are some photos of the interface. I’m working hard right now on the note recognition code and I’ll post again once I have some updates!

Calibre Library and Pathetique Sonata opened in Xournal


Xournal as composition sketchbook


And Then There Were None – Concept for the Piano Suite

As a part of my work with Theatre Britain, I am regularly called upon to provide original music for use in plays. Since this is a company that exclusively produces British theatrical works, Agatha Christie is to be expected in the rotation. The first one I did (last year) was The Mousetrap, which was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I’ve always deeply enjoyed working with this theater group and it was thrilling to see how effectively they produced that classic play. This year they are putting on “And Then There Were None.” (Running three weekends starting March 5 and ending March 22 if you’re in the North Texas area…)

As I was reading through the script in preparation, I had a blinding moment of inspiration. Now, I consider myself a fairly jaded and pragmatic composer and have more or less lost my faith in Pure Inspiration, but Sister – this was it. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling what I’m sure you realize is a murder mystery by revealing that throughout the show, characters die. I noticed that at each transition, either between scenes or beginning/ending an act, there is a different number of people who are still alive. It starts with 10 at the top of the show and gradually dwindles down, sometimes by one and sometimes by two at a time. It didn’t take me long to decide that it would be rather clever to make this grim data into a thread connecting the musical pieces of the show. My weapon of choice was the meter. For the overture I chose 10/8 because there were still 10 people alive. At the end of Act I, a character dies so the closing number for Act I is in 9/8 (which, incidentally, I opted to subdivide as 2+2+2+3 rather than the standard 3+3+3). I won’t spoil things completely by revealing what meter the curtain call is in (although I can assure you it is not 0/4 time).

I’m so fond of this particular set of tracks that I intend to create a piano suite based on the work. Naturally most of the tracks are only 15-20 seconds in length so I expect to be able to expand somewhat on my ideas. Here is the opening piece of the set. Hope you enjoy it!

365 days – the first three weeks

[For a daily gallery of the action, head over to]

Howdy, folks! Still trucking along over here on my 365 days (as well as a few real-life gigs, which I am being very careful not to get behind on). I’ve got a few highlights I wanted to post here from the last week and a half.

Day 11

A six-voice synthesizer hooked up to a physics simulation of a springy mass. Each voice has 8 sine oscillators and the spring changes the levels of each of the partials.

Day 17

This patch loads a sound file into memory and then plays it rapidly from random points.

Day 20

One of my attempts at generative composition. A markov chain guides creation of an arpeggiating line while other markov chains determine the harmonic progression and structural flow. Nuance is created by introducing subtle oscillations of tempo and dynamics.

365 days – the first week in review

Happy to report I haven’t missed a day yet! I did catch a cold for a few days that nearly threw me off track, but, thankfully, no harm done. And I know what you’re thinking – yes, I live in Dallas. Let the Ebola jokes commence.

So far I’ve tried to keep it fairly simple and straightforward each day. In fact, if any Pd veterans happen across my work at this point, I’d be a little embarrassed at the simplicity of what I’ve accomplished.  I can recognize even from this early stage that one of the pitfalls one might come across here is taking on too much at once. My great fear in all of this is coming to a point where I simply have nothing left to do. I mean, I know this whole experience is about learning and becoming better at coding, but without some sort of path to follow, it’s a little intimidating to gaze into the next year and wonder how long I’ll be able to make it.

I’m chronicling my pursuit in a few ways.


A gallery, of sorts. I’m keeping an entry for each day that contains a sound file and an image of the patch. I’m preparing to implement a link to the source code on my github repository. (please ignore the wonky formatting. I’ve got it looking right on Chrome, other browsers are in progress)

2) GitHub

This is where one can find the source code for each day’s product. Still working this bit out, as this is my first github.

3) Reddit

I’ve been hoping to wrangle some interest from others to join me – as we all know, misery loves company! Right now it’s me and another dude on reddit who is doing his year in Processing (almost sounds like some kind of prison thing when I word it like that…). There’s a subreddit devoted to creative use of programming and we’re keeping a weekly/monthly log there for anyone interested to see.


Additionally, I’ll try to post some results here now and again. Especially when I dig up something really interesting. So far, everything I’ve done is pretty well-trodden territory, but in that territory there are things which I’ve neglected that I should have learned a while back.

If you are interested in following my escapades, I’d check in occasionally on that first link. Hope to see you around!

365 days of creative coding – day one

I’ve officially started on my year-long journey to coding enlightenment. I am committing myself to 365 days of completing short goals each day to expand on my programming skills.

My first project (as I expect most of my projects to be) was created in PureData. It is an interactive Pd patch that uses mouse coordinates to control a simple fm synthesizer. I chose this because I want to understand more about fm synthesis and set this up as a way to find different configurations of settings that sound cool. X-axis controls the harmonic and y-axis controls index. The pitches are randomly generated every 400ms and bounced through a delay to give it some character. It’s really fun to play around with. I’m working on getting the patch up on github in case anyone wants to try it.

Here’s what it looks like:

And here’s what it sounds like:

Could you complete one creative project every day for 365 days?

I found this really cool project a guy named Peter Ha (hiddenenigma) is doing in Processing: Every day for one year he is completing a new graphic project. You can see the product of each day here on his instagram.

I’ve got a huge amount of respect for what he’s doing. A couple of years ago, I tried the same thing during the month of May. Each day my goal was to write one new piece of music. As it turned out, my goal was a little broad and probably would have yielded better results if instead of focusing on a piece each day I focused on a simpler task.

After seeing Peter’s awesome sketches and thinking about my own try from a couple of years ago, I’ve actually begun to plan to complete a similar exercise to over the course of a year. Every day for 365 days straight I’ll make one PureData patch. It won’t have to be super complex. In fact, that’s the idea – it will be small, manageable demonstrations of concepts or otherwise cool things I’ve stumbled upon. I’m getting pretty excited because I’m sure I’ll learn tons of new techniques for working in Pd. Instead of starting in January, I’m considering starting October 1, mostly because I just can’t wait that long. :/

 I might even spread the idea and see if I can get anyone else to join me in a year-long creativity campaign. If you’re interested in being a part of this, I’d love to hear from you!

Decompressing after a crazy year

I’ve finally started catching my breath after a super crazy year! Around March, 2013 I started my collaboration with a local author on a new musical. [I’m working on one or more new posts that detail the insane experience of writing my first musical from start to finish, but in the meantime I wanted to share the reader’s digest version of things.] I finished the work that summer, and we began planning the workshop which took place in September with me as the MD. Soon after that (and after making some tweaks based on lessons learned) we sent it to a company in LA that specializes in just doing workshops for musicals. After a pretty disappointing experience with them, we nonetheless continued to tweak things a bit and started the big plans – premiering the musical here in Dallas. I was again hired to MD, and given permission to hire a pit orchestra. We went through a straight month of rehearsals with a really fantastic and dedicated cast, a week with pit+cast, and then opened in late July of this year. Though we were battling sound system issues on a daily basis, we worked hard and put the show on night after night for about 2 weeks. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to gain the traction we wanted and the producer/author decided to close the show a week earlier than planned. Though it would be easy to walk away from this most recent experience in disappointment, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and very proud of the music we made. I’ve learned a lot about writing for musical theater as well as directing. I’ve gained some new skills and I’m really hoping for another opportunity to flex my new muscles! Til next time!

An elegant comment system, for a more civilized age

Just a quick update to let you know 1) I’m trying to get back into the habit of working on my blog, and 2) I’ve decided to scale back the crappiness of my comment system. Hopefully this will help encourage more discussion – something I’ve always wanted to be a part of this site!

Happy reading and see you again soon!

Puredata piece/toy – Solar Windstorm

I had some fun with Pd while I was on vacation over the summer. I decided to challenge myself to see if I could make an interesting piece using just a single oscillator and a delay line. The result was this fun little piece:

You play it using the arrow keys on the keyboard. I think I’ll return to it and add some more oscillators because when you play it rapidly you can hear the previous tone being cut off.