Dough-Re-Mi – Final Project

Dec 2012


  • Showcased by Wired correspondent at Pop-Up Magazine in Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
  • Class concert

  • Demoed at Maker Faire 2013 – happy users! The sound output is through headphones so we can’t hear it on the video, unfortunately


Beagle Board, Arduino Nano, PureData


  • To invent a new musical physical interaction.
  • Intuitively map the user’s controls to sound to support expressivity in performance.


  • Dough-Re-Mi is a new electronic instrument for vocal manipulation with play dough controllers.
  • It derived from the concept of embodying one’s voice within pliable matter and molding it. It seeks to override the barrier between esoteric electronics and the audience.
  • In performance, a number of instrument-players may form a choir; the resulting music is a polyphony of voices, each under the maker’s handwork.
  • Using the electrical conductivity of play dough, combined with data from flex sensors buried in the dough, this instrument manipulates a recorded sound sample using granular synthesis.
  • The instrument works well with tonal voice input, with a discrete Harmonizer control that maintains the key. However, a continuous Pitch Bender control enables a departure from this mode.
  • A Breathalyzer control was created with the ability to pan output sound by blowing or singing into a mic, embedded in the dough. This was achieved by real-time FFT analysis of signal energy.
  • The electrical signals were processed using an Arduino Nano microcontroller connected to a Beagle Board running the Satellite CCRMA architecture.

Future Work

  • It was originally envisioned that the play dough would be stretched and squished, altering its electrical conductivity, thereby allowing more expressive control. However, it was found during testing that the dough did not have a linear resistance as hoped. Perhaps there is a similar material with this desirable characteristic?

Final Report

Work in Progress

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