Tingle – 2015

Tingle brings the acoustic touch and feel to the digital music controller.

Tingle is a new music controller which brings back the tactile and gestural ways of playing music which we knew from acoustic instruments, to electronic music instruments. It looks like the pin-board toy from your youth, except that the 3D landscape that you create with whatever you put underneath it, now translates into musical sound. With your hands you mould, and form the sound to generate a “musical landscape”. You can feel the pressures and shapes change with your actions and sense every small sound transformation back in your fingertips, as well as your ears.

  • What sound would your face make? Or a banana? Or… name it! If it has a shape then it makes music.


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Why is this important?

Electronic music synthesis has been an important step in the evolution of music. Since it’s invention in the 1950’s, it has opened doors to previously impossible levels of sound-creation, and thereby transformed music to what it is now. The transition was rapid. So rapid in fact, that the tools we created to control the advanced computer softwares have had to rely on the physical interfaces we were using at the time to talk with computers; Dials, sliders and buttons.

And over the years, this has largely stayed the same. Because of this we have lost the bending, hitting, shaking, sliding, vibrating and plucking that made traditional music instruments great! Coupled with sound, these traits were the very reasons that reminded you why you continued playing to this day!

The pins in Tingle press back softly against your finger; like a piano key. And when enough pins are pressed, the body & pins vibrate with the sound; much like the body of a guitar when you strum it. And lastly, you can warp Tingle’s sound to your will by holding it at different angles for more gestural play!

Original Design

Tingle was originally developed from a challenge; to rethink musical instruments for play & learning and the 21st century. Music has often been linked to students who are more successful in school. It teaches persistence towards results, it teaches discipline, it is self-expression and it leads to social benefits (bands, choirs, campfire playing etc). Unfortunately, many of the lower education schools do not give music lessons any more, as the value is not seen.

A side problem is that musical instruments have stayed the same for decades. Any explorations into new musical instruments either became run-offs on older instruments (piano-like instruments) or abstract art installations (footballs that create buzzy clicks when spun). With Tingle, the aim was to make a musical instrument of the 21st century that had a character to its own.

  • At last you may play music with your face ;) !



The original concept of Tingle was found during an exploration of synesthesia. What would it be like to be able to see sound? And then to make it more interesting, what if you could grab it and manipulate it physically so that a new sound existed?

Many ideas were sketched out, and 3 were selected for early trials. To test these with users, I took on the position as a music teacher of a lower education school and used the 3 concepts to probe for a final direction. From this the pin-art toy direction was chosen. It appealed most to the kids who we were trying to introduce music to, and it had the strongest link of action-to-sound because it looked like the sound visualizers on computers (but then physical).

From this, a technical prototype was built by programming image recognition software into a webcam that hung above a pin-art toy. This was later improved to work with a renewed form design (plectrum) which was easier to hold and allowed for more abstract sound mapping.

This model was not portable, because the webcam needed a unique set of circumstances and a table mount for it to function properly. To make this realistic for musicians, Tingle needed to be hand-held. To achieve this I experimented with research papers from varying disciplines to look for ways to embed the technology inside the Tingle. A collection of three different papers came together to make Tingles new technology, which is now patented.

The final steps made with Tingle have had to do with it’s commercialisation. Business plans, full aesthetic re-design, UI design for an interaction software, web-platform design for sharing your creations, and getting people excited about buying or funding Tingle’s development.