Discover new sounds and explore the role of machine learning in music production and sound research with the NSynth Super, an ongoing project from Google’s Magenta research team that you can build at home.
What is the NSynth Super?
Part of the ongoing Magenta research project within Google, NSynth Super explores the ways in which machine learning tools help artists and musicians be creative.
“Technology has always played a role in creating new types of sounds that inspire musicians — from the sounds of distortion to the electronic sounds of synths,” explains the team behind the NSynth Super. “Today, advances in machine learning and neural networks have opened up new possibilities for sound generation.”
Using TensorFlow, the Magenta team builds tools and interfaces that let artists and musicians use machine learning in their work. The NSynth Super AI algorithm uses deep neural networking to investigate the character of sounds. It then builds new sounds based on these characteristics instead of simply mixing sounds together.
Using an autoencoder, it extracts 16 defining temporal features from each input. These features are then interpolated linearly to create new embeddings (mathematical representations of each sound). These new embeddings are then decoded into new sounds, which have the acoustic qualities of both inputs.
The team publishes all hardware designs and software that are part of their ongoing research under open-source licences, allowing you to build your own synth.
Build your own NSynth Super
Using these open-source tools, Andrew Black has produced his own NSynth Super, demoed in the video above. Andrew’s list of build materials includes a Raspberry Pi 3, potentiometers, rotary encoders, and the Adafruit 1.3″ OLED display. Magenta also provides Gerber files for you to fabricate your own PCB.
The build isn’t easy — it requires soldering skills or access to someone who can assemble PCBs. Take a look at Andrew’s blog post and the official NSynth GitHub repo to see whether you’re up to the challenge.
Music and Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi has been widely used for music production and music builds. Be it retrofitting a boombox, distributing music atop Table Mountain, or coding tracks with Sonic Pi, the Pi offers endless opportunities for musicians and music lovers to expand their repertoire of builds and instruments.
If you’d like to try more music-based projects using the Raspberry Pi, you can check out our free resources. And if you’ve used a Raspberry Pi in your own musical project, please share it with us in the comments or via our social network accounts.