Look at a music software interface – particularly a tracker-style interface – and you might easily see something resembling a spreadsheet.

So, why not gaze into the cells of a spreadsheet and begin to imagine music?

Karlsruhe-based electronic artist and programmer Patrick, cappel:nord, had just such a flight of fancy about office software. He explains:

A spreadsheet could be used as a music sequencer. If you know your spreadsheet software well, the built-in functions can be used. I don’t! I also struggle with the interface 🙂 The last time I used spreadsheets is 10 years ago or so.

This was the second time trying this, so I make a lot of mistakes. It’s more a proof of concept. This was a 3-hour hack so don’t expect much from the source code. But here it is:


You have to figure out how it works for yourself. I don’t give any support :-).

I did it for the lulz.

Lots of similar brilliance, sounds, and geekery – like a pixel matrix for Processing, audio players, code, and music – at his blog (not recently updated, but worth plumbing anyway):


Thanks to headchant for the tip!

As it happens, in the first few months of CDM’s existence, I wrote up a little story on what people were doing with Microsoft Excel:
Microsoft Excel for Music: Applications Bizarre and Useful

Applications: building a drum set, a drum machine with sequencer, databases of music, music library tracking, and even a tuning calculator. I’m sure there are more.

I hear these spreadsheets also do something with numbers and finance, but where’s the fun in that?

  • I love unusual use of things.
    It is just named "hacking"

  • mntlfloz

    I wrote music this way for 10+ years using music "trackers", publishing it as .MOD or .ST3 files among others. (IT/XM/669/ULT)  This technology predates MP3s by many, many years.  Grid composition was simple and powerful once you learned what needed to be entered.  Early game music was written this way as well.

    There's more info on "tracking" here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracker_(music_softw

    – Mental Floss [ KFMF / Kosmic Free Music Foundation / http://www.kosmic.org ]

  • crixmadine

    This gives a whole new meaning to the old adage of "he must be checking his email on stage". "No, actually he is creating some spreadsheets".

  • Brian Tuley

    I use Visual Basic scripting to automate complex semiconductor tests all the time.  Don't see why a spreadsheet wouldn't work as a sequencer control GUI.  The real magic is happening in the code associated with the spreadsheet.  Look behind the scenes.  That's where it's all happening.  

  • Fid The Fosh


    More proof of concept than anything,from my perspective.There's nothing here that change the actual music making paradigms essentially .Much the same results can be achieved via conventional daws,and sequencers,with a great deal more ease.However it's still pretty clever.

    That being said,does anybody have a excel template for making/manipulating single cycle waves?
    I've tried exporting csv files from Alchemy and using various program that convert wavs to that format,and haven't been able to get anything good out of it.So some help here would be much appreciated.

    Also I have a few apps that can take a line drawing of a wave and give me the mathematical equation that describes it.So far I've used some of the equations in Fruity Formula Controller to create unusual modulation sources.
    I'd like to go further than this and use excel to create midi cc 's using these equations.Now I'm no mathematician,so I have no idea how to process the data to create midi cc lfos that one can be divided into musically meaningful values like quarter notes etc ,or even have a specific bpm,and also how to create the discrete 128 values that would represent that wave.So again,if anybody has a template that can do this,or failing that point me in the right direction, I'd be very thankful.

  • You could just as easily make a piano roll editor in a spreadsheet.. using colors instead of #'s. That would full of lulz too.

  • There's also this: http://sunsite.univie.ac.at/Spreadsite/fourier/fo

    and this:

    Combine those two with the one posted here, all you need to make a whole track 😀

  • Patrick
  • James

    Would you think of Ableton as a Tracker? Because when I think of cells organized in  Row/Column I first think of Session View. If ableton 9 came out with any surprises, it wouldn't be all the things on the typical producer Wish Lists. It would be "formulas", Search Filters, and sort: the mundane things you'd find in a spread sheet. Then say, you could take a bunch of clips and sort a column of them in order of clip bpm, or select a cluster, and have an automatic addition formula tell you how long, in conventional time, your selection is (the the current tempo) or filter out Every 10 minutes and choose a different color for each cluster of clips, who knows?