View Media

Get involved in the Super Chip Tune Samba Band (We need your help)

Vist pixelh8's Profile

Get involved in the Super Chip Tune Samba Band (We need your help)

I recently visited a school to teach kids who to make unusual electronic sounds. I had with me on the day, a circuit bent toy keyboard which I had added loads of extra features to and a Nintendo DS that I had reprogrammed to make into a real time music synthesizer. At the end of my presentation I asked the now very keen 8 year olds if they wanted to have a go on the instruments for themselves, they all jumped to their feet and lined up as per the teachers instructions. But they did something very different to what I expected instead of forming two lines, one in front of the keyboard and one in front of DS, they all chose the DS.

After a few students had played on the DS it was asked if “anyone wants to play on the keyboard?”, “anyone?” eventually one of the girls near the front piped up “no, I don’t because I don’t know how to play a piano”. Which highlighted a very interesting situation, it seemed to me there was a cultural issue, of embarrassment, about not being able to perform as a “proper” musician especially not in front of others. Paradoxically they were quite happy to make sounds and draw attention to themselves by playing on the Nintendo DS through a very loud PA system, because the Nintendo DS had no set cultural rules in terms of musical performance.

From this there could be an argument made that these students at the age of eight were making a cultural distinction that keyboards are for formal traditional music and only trained performers should play in front of others whereas the Nintendo DS was for fun with none of these set musical performance rules.

Prior to this my primary focus was to make musical instruments and music, but this got me thinking, could I make software to help kids get involved in making music.

The software interaction needed to be as simple as possible, a drum, utilising the touch screen of a Nintendo DS as the drum head. The software needed to promote group music performance, for this I chose to emulate samba music which allowed the music to be individually simplistic and collectively complex. I used an unaltered Nintendo DS to allow the device to be recognizable and to allow the kids to be familiar and confident with it.

Each person was to be responsible for performing only one type of drum sound, but are also in a group of four or more performing the same sound, to allow for confidence building and learning. It helped mask mistakes from the musical novice and provided them with the opportunity to learn from another.

The software visually was bright and 8-bit, it’s layout was similar to the now generic “music sims” Donkey Konga, Guitar Hero and Rock Band and my personal favourite Parrapa The Rappa. But instead of mimicking the music the aim was to have the participants perform note for note, in this case beat for beat.

The first workshop took place at FACT a multimedia arts facility in Liverpool, with twenty participants ten adults and there accompanying adults. The workshop was a success, for many it was the first time parent and child were performing cooperatively using a gaming console. One of the parents liked the fact the could learn something with their child and the aim wasn’t to compete with each other but to work together for the best performance. I am truly grateful for FACT for hosting the event as part of their Space Invader exhibition and good fun was had by all.

Upon reflection of the workshop I realised that one thing was missing from the performance aspect of it, we were static, samba bands should march in my mind, you should hear them coming. I thought back to a time when I went microbusking (performing music on my Nintendo DS through little portable amp in a subway – like busking) I used this little Marshall MS-4 Microamp, there is a video on youtube if you want to see how I did it. So I thought about I have run the workshop I had the video footage and even written a paper on it for my masters degree. I decided to give Marshall Amplification a call and they were brilliant, they liked the idea and decided to sponsor it, they sent me twenty five MS-4 Microamps the next day. We were mobile. Thank you Marshall.

I want to take the research further I want more people to get involved I want kids who are confident in gaming to be able to transfer those skills into other activities, but I am only one man. The first workshop was great because everyone had their own Nintendo DS but I want to take this to schools, neighbourhoods and after school clubs where the kids aren’t so fortunate, where playing on a DS would be a luxury.

This is what it boils down to, I need your help, I need your Nintendo DS’s I already have two I use to perform live with but ideally I would have around thirty, that way I could show up with a box with the DS’s and the microamps and we could just make music. They could be original DSs, DS lite or DSis, they could be new or used, they don’t need cases or power supplies, they could look terrible but as long as they work I need them. We need them.

If have or know of anyone who might be able to help it would be greatly appreciated. If you are interested in getting involved send me an email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) you can also read about the research here at you can even read my paper on it there too.

Upcoming workshops are taking place on

June 25th 9.30am – 2pm as part of the BBC Blast Weekend, in Bury St. Edmunds. More details can be found here @

June 26th 2pm rehearsal @ Aldeburgh Primary School, June 27th 12pm performance as part of the Aldeburgh Music Festival. More details can be found here @

July 2nd Rehearsal at Town Hall Galleries, Ipswich and on and July 4th Performance at Ipswich music day as part of Ipswich Music Day. More details can be found here @

and many more in schools and music groups too.


There are no comments for this entry yet.

Leave a Comment:

You must be a member to leave a comment. Login or Sign Up

  • Sign Up
  • Log In

ShowOff Navigation