Designing Physical Interactions for Music

Instructors: Sasha Leitman, Roger Linn

Dates: Tuesdays 9am - 5pm PST, June 29, July 6, 13, 20

Location: ONLINE!



Schedule and Online Format

Tools and Materials Required


Technology Used In Course



2020 Project Examples


In this practice-based workshop, we will give you the tools to build new tools for music creation and explore new methods of physically interacting with computers to make music.

Participants will design and build working prototypes with the aim of developing these for performance and exhibits. Further issues to be explored will include modes and mappings in computer music, exercises in invention, and applications of sensors and electronics to real-time music. The workshop will be augmented by a survey of existing controllers and pieces of interactive music.

This workshop is intended for: Musicians or composers interested in exploring new possibilities in interactive music in a hands on and technical way; Anyone looking to gain valuable skills in basic analog and digital electronics, with a focus on invention; OR Makers, engineers, computer scientists, or product designers interested in exploring artistic outlets for their talents and collaborating with performers and composers.

Alongside physical interaction design, the workshop integrates programming, electronics, audio, and interactive music. Participants will learn how to use some of the basic tools of Maker community, including the Arduino platform, Teensy Microcontrollers, sensor technologies, communication with MIDI and Open Sound Control (OSC), and physical interface design.

The workshop will cover industry-standard resistive, force-sensitive, capacitative, optical, ultrasound, magnetic, and acceleration sensors. We will also teach participants how to make their own sensors with custom geometries constructed out of materials such as conductive fabric, copper tape, piezoelectrics and everyday objects.

Schedule and Online Format:

This is the overall flow of the course:
Day 1: Get our basic tool chain working.
Day 2: Delve deeper into the toolchain and begin forming project ideas.
Day 3: Technology, guest lectures and start working on projects.
Day 4: Individual work with consultation.

  • The workshop will take place over four consecutive Tuesdays (June 29, July 6, 13, 20) 9am – 5pm Pacific Standard Time .
  • We will be using Zoom sessions to present lectures on the relevant technology AND help students one-on-one with their individual projects.
  • Sessions will be recorded and shared for those students who live in time zones that make full attendance difficult.

A work-in-progress schedule can be found here.

Tools and Materials Required:

A list of materials and tools that each student is encouraged to purchase or acquire can be found here: Parts/Tools List.

Our focus is on low-cost prototyping platforms such as the Teensy micro-controller, but students will be given suggestions of sensors and related electronics that will be useful for their particular projects.

Please order these parts on your own and do not hesitate to ask us any questions that you might have about parts or tools.


There are no strict prerequisites for this course. We are assuming a basic familiarity with computers, music and some music software. We assume that you will have some experience using a music production software that can take MIDI input such as Ableton Live, Garage Band, Ardour, Logic, SuperColider, FL Studio, Max/MSP etc. We will be asking attendees to bring their own computers with their preferred music software installed. We do not have any preference about which software you use.

There are no engineering or technical prerequisites. We assume no prior knowledge in electronics, computer coding or building.


While there are many different means of interacting physically with a computer or electronics for music, the toolchain that we will be teaching for this course is a Teensy microcontroller outputting MIDI messages to whatever sound producing software each student is comfortable using. Participants are more than welcome to substitute other systems or protocols for their workshop projects.

We will be focusing on physical interaction in this course. We will not be teaching sound synthesis or sound design but are happy to offer tips and point students in the direction of excellent online influences for self-study.


We are continuously updating this list of resources related to this workshop.


You can go to the CCRMA Workshop Page for more information.
For a direct link to the registration site, Click Here.

Previous Work from Course and Workshop:

Flex Effects Glove
Holly Jachowski

Yuval Adler

Ink Drop
Eric Rawn

Toe Candy
Ben Josie

David Grunzweig, Trijeet Mukhopadhyay, Alison Rush

Griffin Stoller, Ned Danyliw, Brian Bolze

Paul Batchelor