People have asked me, can you really use thousands of notes? There are only 88 keys on a piano for instance…how many do you need to write a song?


Fair question.

I chose (at minimum) six samples of each surface, two hard, two medium and two soft (so if done on a piano, right there you’d have 88 x 6!). Striking something at different velocities actually creates a different tone, not just a different volume level.

The tone changes yet again depending on what you are playing it with, be it wood, latex, or some other material. Imagine the difference in sound of an acoustic guitar string plucked with a pick or with the flesh of your thumb. It’s analogous to my playing with a wooden dowel, a rubber mallet, a PVC stick, etc. Since I’m making a recording, I wanted ample sounds to work with, allowing me many gradations of tone to create a work with nuance.

In some cases, striking the surfaces with different materials yielded different notes altogether…witness the “Top Flat” in the image above (the one with the long name): it indicates an Alto G/Bass C# [“G” as the loudest note, “C#” as an audible lower harmonic or sub-tone]. When played with a latex dowel one hears the Alto G/Bass C# and when played with wood, an Alto G/Tenor Bb [As a short digression, let me add that often the pitch can drift up or down between the initial hit and the sustained “ring” that lingers afterward. As an isolated note the ring can often sound like the main pitch, but when used alongside other samples in a song, the initial pitch is all that is heard unless it is a quiet piece with no other sounds covering the ring.  I didn’t go back and re-name the samples it would take too long. It is just the nature of the “instrument” and those who might find themselves playing these mutable notes in a live concert will just be made aware of it.]

But why so high an original figure of 10,000? Because in order to get those six or so samples, I played each surface between five to twenty times at each volume level with each stick to make sure we had enough usable sounds to choose from. Then I could choose among them later. It all adds up.