Note Pad from Charlie North on Vimeo.

This charming music video from Charlie North imagines creating your own simple music controllers with a piece of paper and a marker. (There’s some similarity to M-Audio pieces there, too.) Of course, that raises another question: could this actually be done?

Computer vision isn’t quite intelligent enough to work out automatically what’s going on here, but it seems to me that you could get a little closer. Another alternative would be using conductive ink or graphite to make the drawing itself a sensor. I’m going to leave you to puzzle out the rest.

It’s technically still a holiday weekend here in the U.S. of A., so I’m going to keep with the whimsical inspiration for the rest of the day.

  • Randy Jones

    Check out Kellum and Crevoisier's 2008 paper Transforming Ordinary Surfaces into Multi-touch

    Controllers. More at

  • Like this?

    Conductive ink is what I used, painted on as traces on the non-printed side of the paper.

  • Simon Lacelle

    In a pad controller I'm making using a HUGE Staples calculator, I'm using strips of aluminium foil separated by a sheet of paper with holes at each button as switches merely a milimeter thick, and these are quite responsive.

  • this is an interesting topic!

  • dyscode


    check this out:

    I wet my pants watching!!

    even more reading the comments.

  • dyscode


    btw. that´s a phrase from Tori Amos' "Silent all these years".

    now back to the regular programm… 😀

  • @dyscode

    Yes, and I've shamelessly ripped it off in my music one way or another "all these years". Glad someone noticed, though.

    Also, you can make a paper thin fader in much the same way, but it requires a magnet. Cut a slot in a piece of paper, color around the slot with conductive ink (I use the "trace repair" pens sold at electronics supply places… it has a very fine tip), and glue some SVHS tape (resistive side up) under it. Put a thin piece of metal beneath the SHVS tape & use a magnet to conduct between the SVHS tape & the conductive ink. The magnet will stay in position due to the metal (I use package banding) under it, and aside from the magnet, it is roughly the thickness of a couple sheets of paper.

  • dyscode


    you´re welcome. I´ve been a Tori fan myself since Earthquakes.

    I am kind of hooked with the fader-thingy –


    I love such stuff.


  • Damon

    And you don't critique songs made with paper and ink midi controllers, you grade them.

    In red ink – XX? xX ? A- "Excellent Job, but next time please record on an 8.5 / 11 double spaced rig."

  • Ah, Randy mentioned it first — yes this is totally doable with laser light plane techniques!

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Paper, Drawing as Musical Controller: A Round-Up()

  • Samurai

    Oops! Chinese will not like this idea..^_^

    Paper models only use for dead man…

  • fsoup

    keyboard controller looks funny – wrong keys and weird ADSR knobs )

  • Rotten Owl Sheep

    I love this video and it's concept! To me it's plain and simply "making beats". And that's what I do in my spare time. I haven't seen more videos of this kind. Has anyone else? If so, let me know. Thanks!!

  • jjerett