XOXX Composer

Arduino makers project - XOXX Composer


The XOXX Composer is a different take on a drum machine. It turns the inner functions of sampling, looping, and sequencing, into a tangible, kinetic and sculptural form.

Capture sounds from your surroundings or pick samples from records and then play them back on the XOXX Composer by placing the magnets on spinning discs. Simply let curiosity and creativity lead the way to quickly create unique beats away from the computer screen.

The project is a result from Royal College of Art’s Design Products platform Object Mediated Interaction within the context of the De-Computation elective. The De-Computation elective is an approach to learning computational thinking – not through programming computers but by taking apart, and re-making a new. t’s about de-mystifying, de- constructing, de-composing, de-coding, de-programming machines, minds, space, and time.


What have you made?

A mechanical drum machine.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

My initial questions asked if it would be possible to design a drum machine that does more than hide its workings inside a box? I wanted to know if I could make its functions more comprehensive.

What is the original idea behind this project?

The project started with a curiosity to understand when and why people take their first steps into producing music and how we relate to rhythmic composition and construction in an electronic environment.

The idea was to dissect the functions of a traditional analogue circuit drum machine and redesign the interactions to create something that would be more tangible more understandable. One way this is done is by referencing analogies from existing products like record players. Or by observing digital functions and designing how those could be represented physically.

How does it work?

The XOXX Composer is run with a .wav shield and the sound samples are triggered by magnets passing by reed switches. An Arduino is controlling the stepper motor and thus the beats per minute. The volume sliders and effect knobs are working through MIDI.

The physical interface is made up from eight rotating discs allowing the user to layer up to eight different sounds. Each set of eight discs are colour coded and each individual disc in the set has its own pattern so as to allow the user to create their own mental system and means of organising their sounds. Every disc is quantised into four bars, which is indicated by the coloured lines on their faces, and each bar is divided into four steps. That means every disc has sixteen steps which allows the user to explore a variety of different music styles and degrees of complexity.

How long did it take to make it real?

The project lasted for about three weeks. Right now I am developing the next version.

How did you build it?

The XOXX Composer is built from laser cut acrylic and ply wood. There are several layers so that the electronics would fit into pockets underneath the main board. The legs tilt slightly to angle the product to the user, they can also be removed to make the transportation of the product easier. Under the motor there are T-slot rails with springs letting the motor slide back to exchange the row of discs. The graphics are a printout that is squeezed between the plywood and the clear acrylic.