Beat Blocks

Jeff Hoefs has developed a multi-track drum sequencer, dubbed Beat Blocks, using toy building blocks as a sequencing metaphor. This is an easy idea to dismiss at first, but it is actually a very cool way to manipulate samples, and could be an incredible device for teaching.


Jeff Hoefs is a Brooklyn, NY based new media artist who has been creating devices and installations that incorporate technology to “inspire curiosity, creativity, and interaction in playful and meaningful ways.”

Hoefs calls Beat Blocks a “tangible interface for a rhythm sequencer.” The user is able to create and manipulate an 4-track drum loop on the fly by physically re-arranging blocks within a simple grid. Each block is actually a sub-sequence identified by the blue tape in the prototype above, but will probably have silk screened symbols in the finished version. This allows the user to quickly identify what the sub-sequence is and instantly place it within the composition. The device can be integrated directly and synchronized with other MIDI hardware or communicate with a computer via MIDI.

Ableton’s Live is obviously the natural choice to utilize Beat Blocks as a MIDI controller, but Hoefs’ device would be a godsend to music teachers who want to teach young students about music production on a computer. It’s very easy to grasp the Matrix Concept using Beat Blocks, and turns the complicated methodology into a simple and intuitive idea.

Two versions of Beat Blocks are in the works. The first being a sequencer for use in a performance setup and the second being an installation based around a table design. The performance device will be much more compact, utilizing a 4 x 4 or 8 x 8 matrix, and the installation version will be designed around an 8 x 16 or 32 matrix with a more spacious layout to accommodate multiple users. Watch a video of Beat Blocks in action!

Go Jeff Go!! (Steve Jobs should hire this guy on the spot. –Ed.) More information about Beat Blocks.

Author: FutureMusic

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