A drum machine in a ball, a bouncing rubber ball, that bangs out beats with every ricochet – this is Oddball. Released on Kickstarter today they are hoping to capture the imaginations of the streetwise mobile beat making crowd, and maybe other musicians looking for a new take on rhythm generation and MIDI control.
It’s an odd concept but one that feels familiar. It’s like something we’ve already done in our heads when absent-mindedly playing with a ball. There’s something instinctive about bouncing and catching a ball, a natural rhythm, a playfulness that speaks of less complex times. You bounce it, it makes drum noises, you bounce it some more, it makes beats. Bounce it wrong and it’s up the street, under a bus and down a drain. You’ve might have to work on your catching skills.
Oddball is a bounceable technology infused ball that’s paired with the Oddball app via Bluetooth. Every time the ball bounces it triggers a sound in the app. Oddball is pressure sensitive so you can change the tone of the sound by the hardness of the bounce. The app comes with a bunch of sounds and controls you can set up. You can record loops, overdub more sounds and of course then impose your beats on all your friends via the sharing utility. That is about it. Bounce – kick, bounce – snare, bounce-bounce – clap-clap and so on. You can add more balls if your juggling skills are up to it.
MIDI Ball Control
What’s perhaps more interesting to me is that it’s also a MIDI controller. You can wireless it up to Ableton and map bounces and intensity to various MIDI parameters. For instance, you could control cut-off or fire an envelope, trigger samples or whatever you like. I think this gives it some potential use in the studio in a collaborative and engaging way and there aren’t many controllers that use physics like this.
Honestly, it looks like fun and I can see how you could generate some interesting rhythms this way. You’re using gravity and speed and human interaction in creative ways which could produce different results to finger drumming or step programming. But you’re also standing around bouncing a ball in one hand while trying to thumb an app on your phone in the other. It looks a little awkward. But for performers and extroverts then this could be a really cool thing, until you accidentally throw your technology away. In the studio it has potential like lots of other gesture-controlled technology that has a go at introducing a new way to interact with music – but I’m not convinced many of these become serious creative tools. Great for kids, great for creating beat infused games of catch, and I’m sure there’s a load of other possibilities.
Oddball – fun, odd, sort of ridiculous but with potential in the right hands. £49 will get you an early bird ball, £59 if you miss out on the early bird and the retail is going to be £85 – check it out below.