This AI-powered tech can turn your voice into a drum kit

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Image credit: Vochlea Music

If you regularly use music production software, you may have used traditional a MIDI controller like a MIDI keyboard. In short, this is a keyboard that connects to your laptop or computer, and when played, triggers sounds in your music production software (DAW) of choice. 

To use a MIDI keyboard, you ideally need to have a basic knowledge of playing the piano – but what if you don’t? What if you prefer to sing your musical ideas out loud?

That’s where the Dubler Studio Kit comes in. Created by music technology startup Vochlea Music, the Dubler Studio Kit uses a mixture of AI-powered voice recognition software to turn your voice into a MIDI controller, allowing you to sing, beatbox, or talk into the microphone and hear your voice transformed into a synth or drum kit in real time.

The kit has just been launched as a Kickstarter project, and surpassed its £40,000 (around $52,000/AU$74,000) goal in less than an hour. 

London based MC and producer Novelist tries out the Dubler Studio Kit. Image credit: Vochlea Music

London based MC and producer Novelist tries out the Dubler Studio Kit. Image credit: Vochlea Music

How does it work?

The Dubler Studio Kit comprises two parts: the Dubler software, which is a “virtual MIDI instrument for Mac and PC that’s compatible with any DAW”, and the Dubler USB microphone, which has been custom-tuned to work with the software.

It uses AI voice recognition technology to pick up your voice and turn it into a MIDI controller, which in turn, can be used to trigger electronic sounds via a DAW like Logic Pro or Ableton. 

Like any artificial intelligence software, it needs to be trained. Vochlea Music says that training the kit to recognize the inflections and tone of your voice takes “less than 60 seconds”, which means you can start creating music almost straight away. 

Once you’ve trained the software and selected a MIDI instrument in your DAW, you can sing into the microphone and your voice will become the controller of your instrument of choice. 

A new way of making music

Aside from potentially making music production more accessible to those who can’t use keyboards, the Dubler Studio Kit presents a new way of making music. 

For example, you could beatbox a drum loop, which also adds an interesting performative element to live music production and sampling. 

The same could be said for singing synth chords and melodies – as well as potentially creating an intriguing live performance, including the unique nuances and inflections of your voice adds a personal touch to MIDI instruments that are widely available and used by many different musicians. 

It’s not all about chords and melodies however; Vochlea Music says that “using all the timbral qualities of the voice, Dubler Studio Kit allows musicians to trigger samples, control synths, manipulate filters and effects, track pitch, pitch-bend and control envelopes, velocity and MIDI mapping values simultaneously, based on the way [the musician] makes their uniques sounds.”

The Dubler Studio kit is also designed to let musicians have a bit of fun with the music-making process. In a press release, Vochlea Music’s CEO George Wright claims that the kit “unlocks musical expression, fuels creativity, and is generally a lot of fun”, and that it “speeds up the traditional music creation workflow”.

Image credit: Vochlea Music

Image credit: Vochlea Music

What about amateur musicians?

While you may need a little musical background to use the Dubler Studio Kit (and perhaps the ability to hold a tune), you won’t need to be a keyboard virtuoso to create synth melodies, chord progressions and sonic effects.

The creation of a voice-enabled MIDI controller could be interpreted as part of a wider trend for accessible music creation technology, that democratizes the production process right from the point of building instruments to doing live performances. 

Another good example of this democratization is the LittleBits Synth Kit. Aimed at both professional musicians and complete amateurs, this modular synthesizer allows kids and adults to “explore the science of sound, make sweet beats, and create instruments".

Once the domain of tech wizards, building synthesizers is now something anyone can do with the right kit. 

LittleBits is a company well known for its STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and maths) products that encourage kids (and adults) to play while they learn – and it’s not the only one. 

Sphero Specdrums

The Sphero Specdrums
Image credit: TechRadar

More recently, Sphero (creator of the BB8 Star Wars bot and the Bolt educational toy), released Specdrums, a pair of app-enabled rings that allow you to create music by tapping your fingertips on different colored surfaces.

Although Specdrums is primarily aimed at children, there’s no reason why professional and amateur musicians couldn’t use the rings to trigger their own pre-recorded samples and loops, making beat-making and music sampling easier than ever before. 

Of course, these things cost money, and require a little time and patience to master. Perhaps the most democratizing aspect of accessible music making is the proliferation of music creation apps

Apps like Groovebox, Auxy Studios, and GarageBand are working to demystify the music making process, creating an accessible (and usually inexpensive) entry point for anyone with a mobile device. 

While the Dubler Studio Kit could well be the next big thing in the world of accessible music creation software/hardware, we will have to wait a little while before we find out. Vochlea Music says that Kickstarter backers will receive “fulfillment priority” when the first kits are delivered in mid-2019 – until then, you’d best start refining your vocal technique.