How to make a personal, portable soundtrack
May 8, 2006 10:23 AM   Subscribe

For all you sound designers: How can I make my own personal soundtrack? What kind of equipment could I mount on my own body? And what sounds would you use?

For the longest time I wanted to be able to surreptitiously play certain songs and sounds throughout my day that comically reflect on what's going on.

The sounds would come from some device on my person, preferably hidden.

For example, whenever I enter a room, I would like to have a certain song play - my song - like on a sitcom.

Also, the sound of angels singing would be great. The harlem globetrotters song I would have play whenever I'm doing something with finesse (happens quite often). Whenever someone says something sassy or devastating, I would like to play the "screechy record" sound you hear in trailers for romantic comedies. I think a cock rock song would be appropriate for some situations as well. And "where's the beef?" Oh - and, of course, the Wilhelm scream.

So, what kind of equipment should I get? I suppose I could just use an mp3 player and get some small speakers, but anyone have a better idea? Preferably something that allows me to conveniently - and surreptitiously - play the sounds on demand.

Also, what sounds/songs do you think would be routinely appropriate in your daily life?
posted by mammary16 to Media & Arts (19 answers total)
This has been a goal of mine too. I'm curious as to how this could be accomplished.

Suspenseful strings, an orchestra hit, a laughtrack, crickets straining to say something that begins with "zz," and all sorts of other audio bits would be so great to have on cue.

I imagine one of the smaller portable mp3 players would be a good start, but speakers and their placement was always the hurdle I could never get past.
posted by ktrey at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2006

Limiting it to "on-person" might be the hard part. Retro-fitting a backpack or some other constantly carried item might be better.
posted by ktrey at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2006

You'll need the "Mission: Impossible" theme.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2006

If I were doing it, most everything would be off-the-shelf, (mp3 player, miniature amplified battery speakers, etc). The interface would be the interesting bit. Perhaps you have a better idea, having thought about for more than the 10 seconds I have, but I'd want a button for each effect, ie possible a keypad in my pocket, so I can memorize which key triggers what, and just touch the right area of my jeans and it will trigger the sound. This means you want each key to trigger a series of keypresses on the mp3 player that will select the right sound and play it. (ie don't use an ipod - their wheel-based navigation is ill suited, you want something that can be navigated by keypresses. Then you solder wires to the button traces inside the mp3 player and connect them to whatever is between the keyboard and the mp3 player - which could be a hardwired sequence of timers for each key, or better, a microprocessor like a PIC or something, that can have the key->sound mapping uploaded to it, take the keyboard as input, and output at lightning speed the button sequence to play that sound.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:56 AM on May 8, 2006

I always dreamed of a "theme song belt" that would have a microcassette player as the buckle (now better suited to a small mp3 player) and curved speakers built into the sides of the belt. A press of a single button would announce my arrival with my theme song du jour.

Ah, sweet memories. You are not alone.
posted by NewGear at 10:56 AM on May 8, 2006

A cellphone that plays MP3's with a built-in speakerphone. Possibly something like a Treo where you can setup certain keys to run certain programs.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:12 AM on May 8, 2006

That1Guy uses midi controlled "pads" attached to his big pipe to play music. These pads are programmed to play specific sounds when he hits them.

A similar setup could be setup on your body... various pads located wherever (belt?) that you could press to play specific parts of songs.

The setup That1Guy uses isn't really portable, though... but it could be a step in the right direction.
posted by nitsuj at 11:20 AM on May 8, 2006

I've also thought about this in the past, but don't have any excellent ideas....but i did come up with this....say you want 10 different songs...or 10 of these, get some cheap 64mb memory for each, i would gut them to make more room, rewire the buttons, put it on a belt....wire it up to some small speakers, battery only 8.50 for the mp3 wouldn't cost too much....
posted by killyb at 11:25 AM on May 8, 2006

I've talked about this in the past. My personal pair of requirements would be both "Chariots of Fire" when I'm running, and when I'm sneaking somewhere, it should play the classic "duh duh duh duh dadaddadadadadada duh-duh-duh-duh".

What is the name of that, btw?
posted by adamwolf at 12:04 PM on May 8, 2006

Someone's been watching too many Family Guy reruns...

posted by dmd at 12:24 PM on May 8, 2006

I'd make an undershirt with this material woven into it. The iPod would be a convienent music player choice, as it's remote control protocol has been hacked, and I'd just whip up a microcontroller based system that would poll a few buttons and switch songs acoordingly. The buttons would be on a nice ergonomic thing that would sit in your pocket, a button for each finger. One button would halt the music, the others would be held down in various combinations to trigger various sounds/songs.

Nothing to it, if you really wanted to.
posted by phrontist at 1:20 PM on May 8, 2006

(four fingers for song switching means 16 combinations, which should be more than enough)
posted by phrontist at 1:21 PM on May 8, 2006

On preview: What harlequin sort of said...
posted by phrontist at 1:22 PM on May 8, 2006

I do like killyb's suggestion of buying a bunch of of $8 mp3 players, one for each sound.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:57 PM on May 8, 2006

Be sure to have Mozart's Requiem included as one of your options, because someone is certain to kill you for this.

It's a neat idea and all, and boy howdy, I wish I had a personal soundtrack (how useful would it be to have the evil foreboding music before going into your boss' office?).... but subjecting everyone else to this? I think it would get really old, really fast.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:03 PM on May 8, 2006

I'd be incredibly annoyed by you.

posted by Espoo2 at 3:25 PM on May 8, 2006

You really need to include the Six Million Dollar Man's "DaDaDadada" sound, it will come in handy anytime you need to lift anything very slowly.
Another option is the "Doink!Doink!" sound from Law and Order, a good way to announce your arrival whenever you enter a new location. Some kind of general fanfare could also be useful.
I would also include the Star Wars Imperial March, guaranteed to make people get out of your way as you stride purposefully down the street.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:50 PM on May 8, 2006

It's all fun and games until you wish your bones away.
posted by exhilaration at 7:37 PM on May 8, 2006

I would look at a PDA that can play MP3's then see if you can program so type of macro software to play the songs at the touch of a button with multible button on the pda touch screen. You could store alot of songs onto a SD card thats the PDA would use. I'd also look into some battery powered speakers. Good Luck! It sounds like a cool project.
posted by johnd101 at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2006

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