Beatboxing 101

The idea that you can use your voice to mimic other sounds means you always have an instrument with you. Beatboxing can be extremely expressive, is totally free, and not to mention, a lot of fun.

So after watching many hours of videos on how to beatbox, it seemed like a good idea to bundle together the videos that seemed the most informative and share them with others who may want to learn, too.

That desire led to a strange middle-ground on how to share them. A tweet is too short and informal to put together a substantial collection of links and commentary. A blog post feels too boxed in, one-way, and heavy.

So say hello to the world’s first Blinkot!

A blinkot is a decentralized, democratized way to share short-form content. Each blinkot’s data is stored entirely in the URL, allowing it to be easily edited and forked by anyone without needing user accounts or hefty servers.

Click on the blinkot below to see the content contained within it (hooray beatboxing!). Of course, you can also create and share your own blinkot from scratch.

Find It Fast!

Staying motivated to keep a start-up going isn’t always easy. Here’s what throwing those cares away and procrastinating for a few days turned into at Fiddlewax.

While most time is spent designing, prototyping, and developing new kinds of musical instruments, distractions inevitably sneak in some days. And since new ideas can come from anywhere, instead of completely shutting out the distraction, this time we decided to embrace it.

Find It Fast is a fast-paced multiplayer game where you look for colors in the world around you using the camera. It encourages kids and grown-ups alike to see new things around them and explore the world beyond the screen.

Think of it as the common kids game “I spy with my little eye…" but with realtime scoring and a countdown clock. Play the game like never before with up to 4 people, fun sounds, and friendly competition that will keep you coming back for another round.

But be careful, you’ll have to find just the right color before time runs out to score big points.

It’s free for the first week, so be sure to check out Find It Fast in the iOS App Store. And oh, tell your friends while your at, won’t you?

Coffee for Creative Work

If your livelihood depends on “being creative,” there are a few things I’ve learned over the past few years that I’d like to share with you.

It’s often the little things that make a big difference, so I’ve distilled my experience down to seven things you can do everyday to encourage consistently productive and fulfilling creative work.

Most likely you already have a basic workflow or routine. These suggestions are simply meant to augment what you already do; think of it as a cup of coffee for your creative process.

1. WORKSPACE 

Clean things up to make new messes.

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This one seems obvious, but everyday you should start with an open workspace. That could mean a clean desk or a spare workbench — the point is simply to have a space where you can make new messes and create new things. And that translates to the digital world, too. 

Don’t make your workspace completely empty (a little visual noise around the edges can be stimulating), but do ensure you have a region that you can work in.

Building a great creative workflow requires balance. You need just enough stimulation to keep you going, but not so much that it gets in your way. The goal is to achieve “flow” as much as possible where you can get the most done and enjoy yourself while doing it.

2. STIMULATION

Be zenfully awake.

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Music for Squirrels!

Here’s a video of Fiddlewax Yellow in action.

It’s easy to change the pitch of your voice, but the realtime harmony generator is especially fun for physical objects that can only make one sound. In this video the sound of nuts hitting a bowl are harmonized with a major and minor 3rd to produce a melodic phrase.

Of course, the dapper nature of these sophisticated tree-dwellers also necessitated candlelight. You’re welcome, squirrels.

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Sketching with your voice.

A sketch is often the first form an idea takes in the real world. It may not be pretty or precise, but those initial few scribbles and samples can be the beginning of something great.

The tools we use to bring those thoughts to life are also very important. But the decision of what tool and medium to use is full of tedious tradeoffs: simplicity vs capability; speed vs precision; focus vs breadth; constraints vs malleability.

Then there’s the issue of being able to get an idea down before it disappears. And with music, there are even more hurdles when externalizing ideas that use instruments you don’t know how to play or sounds that are difficult to make.

Fiddlewax Yellow is our attempt to walk that line and be your go-to, portable audio sketchpad. With realtime vocal harmony, instant-on effects, and a 6-track synchronized looper you can go from thought to sound as fast as possible.

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Music for Dinosaurs!

Here’s a quick improv session using Fiddlewax Yellow to create realtime harmony, dynamic vocal effects, and multitrack looping. All sounds are created on-the-fly so you can follow along and get a sense for how everything fits together.

Keep watching after the main video to see an overview of how the interface works.

If you want to try it out yourself or see more details, check out the Fiddlewax Instruments page.

Yellow Guide Book

Need help getting started with Fiddlewax Yellow? No problem. This post is meant to guide you through the app’s ins and outs so you can get to making your own music right away!

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First, you’ll need have some headphones handy. Since Yellow lets you record sounds and loops while you’re playing other loops and hearing yourself at the same time, the speaker isn’t really an option — you’d hear lots of squeaky feedback, and no one wants that.

Once you’ve plugged in headphones, the welcome screen will disappear and you’ll see the full Fiddlewax Yellow instrument ready to go. 

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The large number of buttons may seem overwhelming at first, but everything is intuitively grouped and logically ordered to be simple once you grasp the basics.

Of course, the easiest way to learn Yellow is to play around; just sing and experiment with each button to get an idea of what it does. Unlike a physical instrument, you can’t break it, so stop worrying and just try things!  

If you’re still stuck, or just curious to know more, the rest of this post will walk you through each section of the instrument.

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Say “Yellow” to Realtime Songwriting

Here’s a quick peek at what’s coming soon in Fiddlewax Yellow!

  • Realtime 3-part vocal harmony using our very own super fast, polyphonic, pitch-shifting and audio analysis pipeline. Sing and synthesize new sounds and audio textures on the fly.
  • Built-in effects let you add dynamics, distortion, reverb, low-pass, and high-pass filters with the push of a button so you can quickly transform your voice into other instrument sounds as you play.
  • Synchronized, auto-expanding looper enables you to layer together up to 6 audio tracks as you create a song. Easily start/stop any track and clear tracks independently when you want to overwrite/undo.
  • Integrated digital audio recorder lets you save your songs and share them with other installed apps (such as uploading through dropbox, google drive, etc.), attach them to email, or download them later from iTunes when you sync your device.
  • Low-level core audio implementation makes everything run super fast and robust (built using The Amazing Audio Engine). 
  • Headphone-aware control logic to reduce the chance of squeaky feedback while you record. 

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Playing MIDI over WiFi / Bluetooth

Fiddlewax Blue v1.1 adds support for realtime MIDI output over WiFi. Now you can use any of the instrument’s interfaces to control your favorite sound libraries on your desktop or laptop. Bring on the synthesizers and effects!

And using MIDI with other apps also means you can easily create sheet music and piano rolls of the songs you’re playing. Here’s an example of what GarageBand produces while recording:

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Here’s how to make it happen.

Setting up MIDI over WiFi with Fiddlewax Blue is easy, but it does require a few steps to get everything talking and playing together.

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1. Make sure both devices are on the same WiFi network. For testing, you don’t need to do anything fancy here. But if you want to really play with fast timing, you’ll need to setup an Ad hoc WiFi connection (a direct wireless connection between your devices, instead of going through the WiFi access point).

Alternatively, you can connect your devices via bluetooth. This gives reasonable timing without needing to disconnect your existing WiFi connection. Just pair your computer and phone/tablet via Bluetooth and you’re ready for the next step.

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2. Open Fiddlewax, tap on the Fiddlewax logo (top left), and set MIDI Output to YES. This creates a Bonjour network-MIDI source that is ready to output notes over a WiFi connection.

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3. Now we need to help the desktop/laptop find Fiddlewax and listen for notes. This will vary depending on which operating system you’re running:

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Improvisation with Blue

Here’s a bird’s-eye view of what it’s like to make music on-the-fly with Fiddlewax.

We grabbed the camera, hit record, and this is what happened. Starts out simple using the piano in the key of C, then shifts to using my voice as the instrument in different keys and styles as a way to experiment.

Fun to see a handful of interesting melodies and chord progressions come out of just playing around for five minutes.