Arduino, Sound
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Hack n’ Roll – Musical instruments to surprise, amuse and excite


The Hack n’ Roll is a collaboration between KORG, OK GO and the students and tutors from the Platform 21 unit in the Design Products Department at the Royal College of Art in London to design musical instruments that surprise, amuse and excite.

Led by Yuri Suzuki, students were divided into three groups and asked to use their newly acquired skills in physical computing to create a series of objects which generate sound, while creating something visually appealing and entertaining. They were asked to consider their tools as way to help the musician elevate the experience of performance.

The team used KORG products as a starting point, creating a series of objects or a space which allow the musician to play while being free from traditional constraints imposed by existing tools. The outcomes were instruments designed to interface between the performer and his instruments or a space/system that allows the musician to play on stage using his/her body.

The Team OK (Gemma Roper, Paula Arntzen, Jurinka Ebhardt, Zekun Chang) worked around the concept of “Visual Amplification” where the circuitry of KORGs MS-20 mini has been hacked and rewired to play only the 4 notes of the repeating bassline to the song, ‘Another Set of Issues’. By rotating the handle, the user triggers contact between the circuit and the oversized keys that play the corresponding notes. The rotating action required to play the instrument is an intentionally exaggerated gestural interpretation of the notion of ‘looping’ used in electronic music.

The setup includes  1 MS-20 Mini, 6 Arduino’s, 6 Stepper motors, 6 Stepper shields, 6 Fresnel lenses and 10 meters of timber

The Team G (Bike Ayaskan and Begum Ayaskan), worked with the idea of “Floating Keybords”, a set of 8 modular keyboards that make up one long keyboard. Each keyboard’s height changes with the music, and is choreographed according to lyrics. The concept for the floating keyboards is creating an object that both enhances the stage, audience experience through light and visuals, as well as creates a new humorous platform to play electronic music.

Finally, the Team O (James Boock and Jakub Pollag) were concerned with “Inflatables & Contemporary Busking”,  an instrument designed for one person enabling them to deliver a range of different sounds. It uses five KORG synthesisers and a KORG Wavedrum at the front used as the percussion instrument. The ‘Volca’ synthesiser trio are triggered by the footswitch, that when pressed delivers one note programmed into the synthesisers. The two KORG Monotron are hacked and put through an arduino to ultrasonic distance sensors. From these sensors the pitch is controlled using your hand on the side of the plinth. Having all the devices on display it allows the user to adjust anything and also shows the audience what devices are being used. A completely portable product Contemporary Busking brings it’s own style to street performance.

For more information on the project and making-of details, please visit the links below.

Project PageDesign Products RCA | KORG