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How-To: BeatBearing Tangible Rhythm Sequencer

How-To: BeatBearing Tangible Rhythm Sequencer

MAKE Volume 17: BeatBearing Tangible Rhythm Sequencer

Music sequencing doesn’t get much simpler than Peter Bennett’s BeatBearing tangible rhythm sequencer from MAKE Volume 17. Move the ball bearings on the grid and you change the beat.

So what is the BeatBearing? Simply put, it’s a computer interface that takes the pattern of ball bearings placed on a grid and translates it into a rhythm. The fun part is that the whole interface is transparent and sits on top of a computer screen, allowing graphics to be shown from directly underneath. The screen highlights which beats are switched on, and what sounds they’re playing, as a red line sweeps across the screen to show the current time position. The system is controlled by an Arduino microcontroller, and the screen is an old computer monitor cradled in a milk crate.

Intrigued? Wanna know how to build your own? We’ve just shared the entire step-by-step over on Make: Project. Check it out, build one, and drop some heavy beats.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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