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January 26, 2009

want to try something hard? voice drawing....

here is an early test of a voice-based drawing toy I made today (you need an active or built-in mic) :: low volume curves counterclockwise, medium volume is straight, high volume curves clockwise :: pretty tough to control :: below are some screen grabs of faces i tried to draw-hum (click to enlarge).

Send me what you come up with, or better yet send me a video of you "drawing" and the final result!...(PS - the file is 1000x1000 pixels, and blank when you start - drawing begins from the center - so you may have to scroll if you have a tiny screen - also, click to reset)

NOTE : although it is perhaps the most accessible to the public, this is by no means the first toy to play with the relationship between sound and drawing. Messa di Voce (below), by Golan Levin, Zachary Lieberman, remains the gold standard for this type of work, and i was reminded that my voice drawing app resembles a portion of their application. They have a line guided by pitch (360 degree mapping) and are more focused on expressive drawings (i spoke with Golan about this), while I am still in search of a tool that can be used to draw representational forms...although I'm sure with a bit of tweaking Golan and Zach could produce something that did just that.

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Comments (95)

Very cool, but impossible in a loud room!

Posted by: sean at January 26, 2009 8:43 PM

better yet send videos of making this :) awesome toy!

Posted by: aaron wormus at January 26, 2009 8:44 PM

I look like a huge idiot right now. This is great.

Posted by: Judson Collier at January 26, 2009 8:45 PM

Just give me 12 hours.

Posted by: Mike at January 26, 2009 8:48 PM

That is amazing! Have you tried to see what pictures songs will produce?

Posted by: Tara at January 26, 2009 8:49 PM

This is the most recent episode of House: http://www.flickr.com/photos/butterbeano/3229614969/

Posted by: Ryan at January 26, 2009 9:15 PM

My husband and I playing with this was very traumatic for our dog. She eventually joined our noise-making! Super fun, Ze.

Posted by: Kristina B at January 26, 2009 9:21 PM

turns out I stink at drawing with it. However, playing music while it's running is pretty cool. Here's "Kick in the door" by Biggie:

Posted by: Erik Kastner at January 26, 2009 9:22 PM

very cool.
I made a similar thing in processing. the difference is that the direction is based on the pitch.

Posted by: Dubi at January 26, 2009 9:23 PM

Hahaha! This is awesome. My mic is horrible, so my drawings are pathetic. And I also don't have a very good lung capacity. Will definitely send some of mine in!

Posted by: valerie2776 at January 26, 2009 9:25 PM

One more. This is my map of "Nothing Compares 2 U"

Posted by: Erik Kastner at January 26, 2009 9:29 PM

This is one of those things that is impossible to do without smiling. Anytime that happens, you've found something special.

I'm smiling ear to ear and humming incoherently. If my co-workers were here they would be a little nervous about my sanity. But I wouldn't care.

Posted by: David Stewart at January 26, 2009 9:36 PM

Brilliant work Ze.

Posted by: Christopher Vigliotti at January 26, 2009 9:43 PM

That's what I was able to do, bit hard to control, but I like what it turned out like :)

Posted by: Chibit at January 26, 2009 9:48 PM

Posted by: CharlesV at January 26, 2009 10:08 PM

Hey! I like the one on the bottom left, he's wearing a sombrero with dangly felt balls. And he's vomiting.

Posted by: Beez at January 26, 2009 10:18 PM

These are awesome Ze! Very inspired, love it

Posted by: Jake at January 26, 2009 10:35 PM

Very cool. I just played music and let it do its drawing.

Posted by: Jon at January 26, 2009 10:40 PM

Pure. Genius. Here's mine: http://blogs.sun.com/lskrocki/entry/have_you_ever_drawn_with

I'll be speaking less in my conference calls tomorrow for two reasons: 1. I've worn out my voice drawing and 2. Screw meeting notes...bring on the meeting drawings! :-D

Posted by: Skrocki at January 26, 2009 10:51 PM

awesome. I don't know if I'm more impressed with the idea and application or your drawings. this thing is tough. Probably pretty good for practicing your 'ol voice box to. bravo zefrank.

Posted by: Mike at January 26, 2009 10:56 PM

I'm just thinking of the application of this for the disabled. Imagine a quadraplegic being able to develop their own "handwriting" or drawings with their voice. Or just being able to play Win, Lose or Draw for the first time! It's a pretty amazing toy!

Posted by: Valerie at January 26, 2009 11:09 PM

It's like a vocal etch-a-sketch!

Posted by: jeremy at January 26, 2009 11:19 PM

result here

Posted by: Justin at January 26, 2009 11:22 PM

It is beautiful!

Posted by: Jonas Brandon at January 26, 2009 11:24 PM

you should have recorded the audio that created these faces :P

Posted by: acd at January 26, 2009 11:45 PM

FUcking awesome, Ze. With Flash, eh? I recently did some experiments with using a webcam to interact with web sites using processing.org. You might like: http://vimeo.com/2382875

Also: http://vimeo.com/2381394

Posted by: kadavy at January 26, 2009 11:49 PM

Very cool - I couldn't do much with my voice, so I simply played a little NIN ditty (Right Where It Belongs from With Teeth) as my experiment . . . art making art . . .

Posted by: Hank Lambert at January 26, 2009 11:52 PM

Hi! I tried to play with your drawing tool, but it didn't work. I even tried starting the camera/mic myself and it still just did a spinning dot that wouldn't move or change direcctions. :(

Posted by: Lolli at January 27, 2009 12:19 AM


It's fun to use with music too - voice drawing is going to be the new backwards-playback

Posted by: EtotheZ at January 27, 2009 12:23 AM

Oh man I felt incredibly dumb yelling at my computer doing that. But it was really fun.

Posted by: PowerLlama at January 27, 2009 1:45 AM


Posted by: Nevan at January 27, 2009 1:59 AM

result here

Posted by: Justin at January 27, 2009 8:10 AM

Thank for proving to me what I already knew. I am an idiot who is easily entertained. I think I'll stay home and play with this all day.

Posted by: Keith at January 27, 2009 8:28 AM

Oh Ze. How cool. I would love to be able to direct future art appreciation students to this tool. We talk about the 5 senses being involved in art making, and I think they'd have a ball playing with it. May I talk about it in my classes?

~Sue Anne Rische

Oh by the way - if you go to my website, you can see a funny art appreciation video I made, and you are one of my inspirations.

Posted by: Sue Anne Rische at January 27, 2009 9:39 AM

I actually used it to make some sketches of music: http://schweblog.com/2009/01/visualizing-music/

Pretty cool. It's fascinating to watch it draw out some of your favorite songs. Some work far better than others.

Posted by: Jesse at January 27, 2009 11:34 AM

The RSL Remix of Anita O'Day's version of "Sing, Sing, Sing" - http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomben/3231909040/

Posted by: Tom Benninger at January 27, 2009 11:48 AM

I found this strangely meditative? I kinda ended up in my own little place doing Gregorian chant kinda stuff. (No offense to true lovers of the chant.)

I never did manage to get much of a sense of control. How you did your images that resemble faces I have no idea. But I totally loved it anyway. :)

:P here are my whirls and squirrls...

Posted by: ingrid at January 27, 2009 2:25 PM

Very cool. I sucked at drawing using my voice so decided to give it a try with some music.

The best results so far was with "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles.

Check it out here!

Posted by: Dylan Parker at January 27, 2009 2:39 PM

amazing. i love it. can you do it for notes? that would be the best thing ever maybe...

Posted by: toshi at January 27, 2009 4:32 PM

You will always be my internet hero <3

Posted by: JenUnderscore_ at January 27, 2009 4:59 PM

This is perfect for Guqin music.

Youlan by David Mingyue Liang: http://img522.imageshack.us/img522/1838/youlanvb2.png

Posted by: jyoti at January 27, 2009 5:30 PM

Wow, so cool. Will you ever give the source code of this?

Anyway I was playing with some random musics from Guns and Roses, U2 and Interpol and posted my results at http://www.beedigital.net/blog/2009/01/voice-based-drawing-toy/

Take a look.

Good Job!

Posted by: MJorge at January 27, 2009 6:09 PM

Posted by: Miss Jecka at January 27, 2009 7:25 PM

I tried to play a song twice under the exact same conditions, and the curves look quite different at first. But if I look more closely I can see that the second curve is just a little bit louder (more clockwise) than the first. Maybe my computer's fan came on, or I was sitting and reflecting the sound differently. It'd be interesting to see a continuously varying sequence of end curves produced by the same sound file with tiny, well-controlled volume change. We could see kind of an unwinding and winding from one extreme (all clockwise) to another (all counterclockwise).

Posted by: Gilliss at January 28, 2009 12:05 AM

Ze, I hope you always work for the good guys....

Posted by: Matan at January 28, 2009 4:48 AM

Awesome! -- But how did you manage to draw FACES?!? (How about posting the corresponding soundfiles? :)

Mine looked like illustrations for a reissue of 'Les Fleurs du Mal'…

Posted by: Kryz at January 28, 2009 5:34 AM

GREAT! I love sound art experiments like this. I did one before playing with color and size, I'd love to see pitch connected to color or something like that.


Posted by: Evan Mullins at January 28, 2009 12:14 PM

I love it! It's so simple I almost feel stupid not for coming up with this myself :)
Really brilliant idea, although I have no clue how you get to those nice drawings. You must have lots of patience. I tried with a tone generator and my volume button,

Posted by: moenen at January 28, 2009 4:48 PM


If you can get the highs and lows to correspond with the pitch, and just make loudness with brush size.

Also, great to see what " a song looks like".

Posted by: Judson Collier at January 28, 2009 10:06 PM

The noises I make to operate this seem to get my dog really interested.

Posted by: Mojojo Jojo at January 30, 2009 2:00 PM

I would suggest that you have two separate controls: volume for line direction and pitch for line thickness. That might take a lot more work, but it's certainly within the realm of feasibility.

Posted by: Alex at January 31, 2009 7:06 PM

I'm no good at drawing things, but it's quite fun to play music to and watch what happens...


Posted by: Abby at February 1, 2009 1:55 PM

Absolutely amazing! I too would love to see it connected to pitch, so that you could "sing" a drawing. Volume isn't quite as fun to play with as pitch.

Posted by: Amy Stewart at February 2, 2009 3:24 PM

Try it with a guitar or harmonica.

Posted by: Rajeev Dhar at February 2, 2009 3:50 PM

Posted by: nick at February 2, 2009 5:33 PM

Hey, Ze --

Cool idea.

But I think it would be better (and easier to use)
if the line responded to pitch rather than to loudness...

A rising pitch would make the line rise,
a falling pitch would make the line sink...
Maybe the loudness could modify the line weight.

(From Ze: Yes - it is certainly easy to think that pitch would be better - but i am not so sure. based on a few accounts this is not the case...and perhaps more to the point - Flash doesn't allow that sort of manipulation...i would have to go over to a Java based app)

Posted by: Paul Iams at February 2, 2009 6:20 PM

What fun! Thanks, Ze!

A suggestion for a future interation: record the artist's voice as he or she draws. Upon playback, make the line light up when the sound that created it is played.

Posted by: Christopher Rasch at February 3, 2009 4:39 AM

hahah, that's genius :)

Posted by: ShavenLunatic at February 3, 2009 7:27 AM

Christian Bale losing his temper on the set of T4.


Posted by: topherchris at February 3, 2009 7:30 AM

Try it with music.

Posted by: MattL at February 3, 2009 1:56 PM

We implemented the pitch-based version in 2003 for our project "Messa di Voce" -- you can see YouTube videos here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STRMcmj-gHc (last section)

Golan Levin & Zachary Lieberman (Tmema.org)

Posted by: Golan Levin at February 3, 2009 3:54 PM

Awe. Some.

Posted by: Robyn at February 3, 2009 5:51 PM

Tough to get the hang of it, but pretty cool!

Posted by: Pieter at February 3, 2009 6:07 PM

Hey Ze. Excellent app! I approve of anything that invites people to look ridiculous in the name of art. Here's my gecko:


Posted by: jere7my at February 3, 2009 6:49 PM

My apartment took 24 hours to draw this:


Posted by: John at February 5, 2009 9:52 AM

Posted by: rdrb at February 6, 2009 5:41 AM

Very interesting! Some related work:

Non-verbal sounds key to controlling computers
(Takeo Igarashi)

Generating 'Oohs' And 'Aahs': Vocal Joystick Uses Voice To Surf the Internet

One could imagine working backwards:
("Sketch a Tune" by Ohio Art)

Posted by: 0rison at February 10, 2009 10:36 PM

Awesome! But could you have it so that it doesn't reset if you click the entire screen? It sucks when I get a really cool sound drawing and then accidentally delete it. :[

Also, here's James Venable's "Jack in the Club".


Posted by: Maz at February 11, 2009 7:41 PM

I drew a face.

Would like o draw something more!

People should try "draw" things, rather than just let it run to other people's sounds. Try create something.

Posted by: Julia at February 15, 2009 6:25 AM

I love this, Ze, I didn't have an end objective on this first try but it was wonderful to see what my song drew -

Will explore further, you're a super*

Posted by: Emilicon at February 16, 2009 8:55 PM

Very cool indeed. Being the creative geologists we are we plugged a seismometer (the simple old fashioned type) in and we were able to control the line by jumping up and down on the other side of the room, as well as by tapping or leaning on the desk or even just breathing on the geophone. A lorry reversing outside the window also drew a lovely straight line. I'm wondering what a real earthquake would draw...

Posted by: Nets at February 17, 2009 11:38 AM


Posted by: asha at February 17, 2009 9:15 PM

Quite impressive - and different! :)

Posted by: daria369 at February 18, 2009 5:45 PM

Posted by: irkopupirko at February 23, 2009 7:37 PM

I only got a circle that kept going around and and around.....

Posted by: Kathleen Pearlman at February 25, 2009 12:07 PM

What is the goodest to begin own blog by free?

Posted by: Pordka at February 26, 2009 3:58 AM

Send it to Stephen Hawking

Posted by: dinahmow at February 26, 2009 5:02 PM

WOW, that took for flippin' ever. :( Sometimes, HD video is awesome! Others (like setting it up online) can be a real pain. Anyhow...

Here's the image: http://tr.im/h65K
Here's the video: http://tr.im/h65T

So fun to be silly! And a very cool app!

Posted by: thecolor at March 6, 2009 3:44 PM

this looks very very fake but the people look funny making the weird sounds

Posted by: sam at March 21, 2009 2:39 PM

its cool

Posted by: ell at March 30, 2009 7:01 AM

love it! is it done with Flash AS2?
how you get the default sound volume?

Posted by: Tom at May 16, 2009 10:01 PM

Sweet blog. I never know what I am going to come across next. I think you should do more posting as you have some pretty intelligent stuff to say.

I'll be watching you . :)

Posted by: roxrortwifiax at June 4, 2009 12:11 AM

Great job. Really nice

Posted by: cartoon comics at November 15, 2009 8:02 AM

fuck off

Posted by: Fucker at November 16, 2009 8:20 AM

Wow, I never seen anything like this before.


Posted by: salvy at March 5, 2010 1:10 PM

Interesting. Not everybody can synchronize the mouth with the voice. Great job, very original.

Posted by: Muscle man at July 31, 2010 11:00 PM

Hahaha! This is awesome. My mic is horrible, so my drawings are pathetic. And I also don't have a very good lung capacity. Will definitely send some of mine in!

Posted by: altın çilek at January 22, 2011 12:54 PM

I think it ended up looking like Wendell Borton:

Posted by: altın çilek at January 24, 2011 9:20 AM

Wow, I never seen anything like this before.

Posted by: altın çilek at January 27, 2011 5:39 AM

Good example of minimal design, well done.

Posted by: Tütüneson at March 11, 2011 10:26 PM

This is very cool.

Posted by: Salvync at June 13, 2011 5:15 PM

My mic doesn't seem to be working on this. Although its working for everything else :/

Posted by: Andreascyu at July 27, 2011 10:44 PM

its very funny

Posted by: frederique at August 14, 2011 4:11 PM

Wow, I never seen anything like this before.

Posted by: klavis at December 1, 2011 10:03 AM

Wow, I never seen anything like this before.

Posted by: Moliva at December 12, 2011 9:49 AM

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