by Mat Janson Blanchet

Sound Pez

Project Description

As a musician, I often experiment on my guitar or on a keyboard to develop interesting melodies. This project intends to give this ability to create pleasing melodies to non-musicians.

The apparatus consists of blocks, each of which includes a infrared sensor pointing upwards. They are linked through a Basic Stamp Stack to a serial port of the computer into which they interact with a patch made in Max/MSP.

The player waves his hand vertically above the Sound Pez. The faster the movement, the stronger the attack in the note played. A simple wave over a box is considered a quick movement.

There are currently three types of sounds, all sampled from guitar plucking. The hardest attack is a guitar string plucked with a pick. A medium attack is a string plucked with a finger, which attenuates the attack slightly. Finally, the softest sample is a faded-in version of the medium attack.

The samples are played from a pool of prerecorded notes, which follow a heptatonic major scale. For most western ears, these notes can easily be perceived as pleasing. Samples are almost chosen at random from the pool.

The gestures are also a way for the player to be more involved in the creation. Notes are chosen so that there is never a feeling of being off-scale, which is quickly jarring and unpleasant. The idea is to give non-musician an glimpse of what it is to try and create a piece, to experiment with sounds and not know in advance what is the result.

Current Status

The glass cases shown in pictures above have been lost. However, I have recreated an IR sensor box which could serve the same purpose on connected to the Max patch.


  • Hardware: IR sensors, Basic Stamp, glass, wood
  • Software: Max, Basic Stamp


  • Mat Janson Blanchet: Design, fabrication, programming, and sound design
  • Piet Drécoll: Technical support and general help


Design, fabrication, programming, and sound design


While studying Computation Arts at Concordia University



artelectronic artelectronicsfeaturedsound