Adam Matta – Beatbox Genius and Gadget Prodmodder

adam matta - beatboxI just saw Adam Matta and his friends perform last night at the New Museum here in NYC. Not only is Adam able to reproduce realistic sounds of the city and hip-hop-techno-scratching sounds with nothing but his vocal chords and a microphone – he also has some cool gadgets. This combination of creativity and ingenuity earns him some time on this blog. As a product designer and hacker I think it is healthy to get inspiration from other creative areas, especially music. Guys like Adam remind me that people are capable of great things. And I think there are a few things you and I can learn from him, if not be inspired by:

If you check out the video below you’ll see him spin this bicycle wheel he has propped up on a stool back and forth. He uses it to make turntable style scratching sound effects. He moves the wheel back and forth just like a DJ scratches a record. You’ll see a close up of the device at the beginning of the clip at 6seconds.

Isn’t he just some Beatboxer artist dude? Where did he get that? Did he make that himself? — Yes. Yes he did!

[youtube H2LmHkj8E9g]

click here for better quality.

This shows that Adam is not just some guy who makes cool sounds with his voice. He is a creative innovative person that focused his energy to build a gadget to suit his particular needs. He envisioned what he wanted, and he broke open a Walkman and re-composed it to suit his needs. Isn’t this the definition of Prodmod? Can we also say this is how Adam composes his music? He has the sounds and the notes all in his head. He has a vision of what it should sound like when they are put together, and out it comes.

Isn’t this what you and I do as hackers and prodmodders. We have a vision and we modify what is around us to turn that vision into a reality. Aren’t we like musicians? Composers at least? I think so.

When we build our Prodmod LED lights we are creating something greater than the sum of their parts. Prodmodding is a creative process that requires not only skill to find the parts/notes but the talent to know how to assemble/compose them together. Even though Adam has the skill to reproduce sounds with his voice, he wouldn’t be worth seeing if he didn’t compose the sounds together to make something you can feel and groove to or relate to.

And we can’t take a few LEDs and a battery and toss them on the floor and expect to wow anyone or get them to do anything worthwhile. We compose these parts together to make our product whole and useful.

Gadget Details:

After the show Adam was kind enough to let me take a closer look at the bicycle wheel. He said he used double sided tape to fix the audio tape to one edge of the wheel rim. Then he removed the magnetic pickup from a walkman and pressed it up to the tape on the wheel using a lever and a spring. The walkman is still there to amplify the sound and output through the headphone jack. If you look closely [see above video 00:06] there are no finely machined parts or gizmos, he used a coiled spring from the bicycle quick release axle and just propped it in place. I didn’t notice and glue or welding. And the lever seemed like a simple piece of wood.

Now ask yourself this: If Adam, a master beatbox artist, can make something great and amazing out of a few bike parts and a walkman, what can you do with the parts we find (collect) around us?

I hope Adam inspires you to just go for it and try it out. Whatever vision pops in you head. Just get it to work with what you have. Don’t fuss about the non-essential details, don’t worry about the best way to attach part A to part B. Just try it first and if it works for what you need-leave it alone. And if you think you can make it better, go ahead and try that too. But never hesitate to take the first step.

Experiment, create, modify!! Go now Go!

Another Gadget

You should also look at this one. His is using a theremin - another interesting gadget that reacts to your hand motions. Why don’t you make your own theremin?

[youtube ITjHMWibaPo]

Do you make your own musical instruments? I’d like to hear about it – add a comment with a link.


You can find more info on Adam Matta at his website (with high quality video) or MySpace page.
Yesterday he performed with a violinist, a bassist, a saxiphone/computer muscian, and also Sparlha Swa-guitarist vocalist.

Sparlha Swa was AMAZING. Wonderful voice, mystical presence. Worth checking her out.

My favorite one here – I think I like him because he mixes techno and hip-hop[youtube o7Zqh4NR3UM]

When you look at these videos of any beatboxer try to figure out when they breathe in. Adam is constantly making sounds but some of the sounds are produced on the way in. And really talented ones like Adam can simulate making multiple instrumental sounds at the same time. like horns and beats together from one source.

I should say this other guy is pretty cool too. Felix Zinger
[youtube tQc30kqq1y8&NR=1]

and this one is more DJ-Style scratching – Mr. Scratch

[youtube jLN63bRcY5I&feature=related]

if you are interested in where beatbox originated in Hip-Hop search for Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markee.

And if you think this stuff is “new” – go way back into Mongolian history and look up Mongolian Throat singing

[youtube NOsGvs1FZDs]


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