Generative music toys
October 27, 2009 11:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a generative music toy for my three year old autistic son.

Hunter has been responding to Bloom, Brian Eno's iPod app, enthusiastically. He is starting to learn note placement and understands shaking resets it, so I'm looking for something similar but more ruggedly built than my iPod for him to play with.
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh to Technology (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
rjdj is popular, and it is built with what was originally a desktop application, puredata. There are links online with kind of a nerd slant for making your own scenes, which implicitly includes running rjdj on a desktop computer or laptop (which would be potentially cheaper and less fragile than an iphone).
posted by idiopath at 11:35 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Wow – what a great toy, and what a wonderful game for an autistic child! That's really great. I love Eno, and this, as with so much of his stuff, seems quite unique.

I've been brainstorming and trying to think of a toy that does this sort of thing. I can't think of anything that would be directly analogous, but you know what I just realized might work? A theremin. A theremin is a neat electronic instrument that's generally just made up of an antenna that produces tones based on how close your hands are to it; so you 'play' it by moving your hands and even your body in the space around it. In that sense, it's sort of the three-dimensional equivalent of the iPhone app – instead of touching points on a screen to generate tones, you touch points in space. I'll bet a three-year-old could have a hell of a lot of fun playing one. has a great buying guide, and there are some good reviews here, too. It looks like you can buy a reasonable model for between $100 and $200.
posted by koeselitz at 11:57 PM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Electroplankton on the DS in kind of similar, if a bit more complex. Not a toy, but you could check out something like a Korg Kaossilator. Seems like it would be fun to interact for a kid and fairly sturdy, also offer a ton of potential for growth.
posted by sophist at 12:14 AM on October 28, 2009

I noticed when firing up Bloom last night that Eno & Co. have two new apps. One is like Bloom, but darker called Trope for like $4 and and a piano style app with less options called Air for like $3. I was thinking of getting Trope.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:49 AM on October 28, 2009

Sorry, I missed you were wanting to replace the iPhone. I've wanted a Korg Kaos 2 for quite some time. It's programmable, so might take a while to get presets that do what the kid wants, but also gives you lots of options.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:51 AM on October 28, 2009

Though I haven't used bloom, or even this, the Tenori-On seems to be a nice mixture of toy and instrument, with a playful interface for adding notes and interacting.
posted by CharlesV42 at 7:17 AM on October 28, 2009

Best answer: - Simon Says (now called Simon Trickster). It's more responsive than generative, but maybe interesting?
- A dance mat (like this). Toddler Cocoa has one where there's a different sound for each square you step on (snare, beep, clap, etc.) so you can jump around and make your own sounds, with or without accompanying music.
- Classic piano mat? (Not sure if you're looking to keep things hand-held size or not.)
posted by cocoagirl at 8:03 AM on October 28, 2009

Response by poster: all great ideas, we're going to try some of these and update in the next 30 days!
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 3:41 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just saw this device mentioned on a parenting site: Radica Ucreate Music. It's geared toward kids a little older, but it sounds like it has a lot of flexibility in creating and modifying music.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:50 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: we have found that hunter doesn't like theremins at all - no harm done there, i love it. we are searching for toys similar to the radica you've mentioned, cocoagirl, as well as the piano mat. in the mean time, i've bought a sturdier case for my iPod to keep it alive. thanks to you all for your recommendations!
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 2:48 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

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