Sometimes, the best ideas are those that have time to ripen and develop over time, like a fine wine. Sure the ‘Eureka’ type of vision is flashier and makes better cinema, but not every product is the result of such moments of divine inspiration. In the case of Charlie Lesoine’s arpeggiator, the process from initial interest to functioning design took place over a period of six years. Lesoine described the journey in an interview with 3DPrint.com:
“It was designed slowly. I need time to step away and think about things. The design had to stew. I first had the desire to create an arpeggiator in late 2009 and worked very sporadically through dozens of different iterations until arriving at a design I really liked in 2013. Around this time the team came together and the project became a group effort. We first created a 3D model in Cinema 4D extracted from my Illustrator vectors which focused only on the appearance of the outer shell, and all subsequent designs for production were created in Solidworks.”
So what exactly was the result of all of this rumination and experimentation?
An arpeggiator is a synth instrument that takes the notes from an assigned chord and repeats them in a pattern, usually in an arpeggio, at a particular tempo set by the user. It can do this either in response to the user holding down the desired notes or it can be set to repeat those notes as if in a loop. Lesoine explained his interest in creating such a machine:
“It started because I wanted to be able to create, save, and chain melodies together in an immediate way. So I set out to devise a set of features I decided were useful for achieving this. The purpose of the interface is in enabling fast melodic improvisation by creating a looping sequence of notes in real time.”
If you are not a musician, this may sound like an odd desire, but for many musicians having this kind of simple way to generate beats and automatic accompaniment can be very helpful. The difficulty for Lesoine lay in the inability to locate a machine that suited his needs and met his specifications.
“I had a Casio keyboard which had an arpeggiator and drum beats built in when I was 3 years old, ever since I’ve been fascinated with musical instruments,” Lesoine explained. “As a musician this is something that I’ve always wanted: A simple, immediate way to play with and save a melody without diving through menus on a device or messing with a computer. I looked around and found that the instrument I envisioned wasn’t in any store, so I decided to make one.”
When he was ready to turn his design into a physical product, he turned first to Shapeways and then later to his own MBot 3D printer. It took about four hours to print the nine pieces needed to put together the arpeggiator and once the electronics were added, the fully assembled creation was ready to make music.
It has done more than that, however. This creation inspired Lesoine to start his own company called Tangible Instruments with a mission to create a family of instruments that follow a consistent, clean design aesthetic and user experience, each focused on a fundamental musical element like harmony, melody, and rhythm. With an emphasis on accessibility and high-quality user interface, this instrument clearly reflects the value added by the lengthy contemplation of a design problem.
Would a synth like this help you to make music? Join the conversation at the Tangible Instruments 3D Printed Arpeggio forum thread at 3DPB.com.