Google - Song Maker Charleston East Kids Zone (and Chelsea Space)
Creating an ultra-modern online environment that breaks down barriers between songs and those who love them
Redefining Music Creation: Our Collaborative Journey with Google
The arts are a celebration of humanity, so why do they so often feel like a walled-off world? Shouldn’t making music be more about the individual and less about the expertise? Together with Google, we imagined a world where anyone with a song inside them can let it out and have fun doing it, even if they aren’t an inherently creative person.
Democratizing Music Production: Google's Vision for Accessible Song Making
The act of making music can often feel like it’s reserved for professionals.
Google had a family of tools for song creation, primarily for schools. They wanted to make creating music as easy as possible, ensuring that anyone with access to a computer could make their musical ideas a reality.
They called on us to create a browser-based music-making experience, and Song Maker came to life. It’s a free sequencer that allows users to program loops for different instruments. Users can then save and send their creation to someone else for collaboration.
Building on the foundation of our previous work, Google reached back out to extend the Song Maker experience in 2023, broadening both its footprint and its mission. This time, our team was tasked with translating the technology into a touchscreen experience to help celebrate the opening of the brand new Kids’ Zone at Google’s ambitious and innovative Charleston East building in Mountain View.
Innovative Design Meets Music: Crafting Google’s Song Maker Experience
When Google approached us to work on this project, Song Maker was a prototype that prominent experimental electronic musician and theorist Yotam Mann was looking to put into action. We got it ready for production.
Our team worked to determine Song Maker’s potential by developing a series of sounds and instruments users could easily access. We divided the interface into two sections: melody and rhythm. Users chose between a piano, strings, woodwinds, a synth and a marimba and used their mouse, keyboard, or finger to draw shapes and set them to music. We also devised a bespoke tech solution so that users could plug their MIDI controllers directly into their computer to create inputs for Song Maker.
No matter the device, be it a laptop, tablet or iPhone, our team made sure this process was seamless, fun, and effective.
As part of our 2023 update, Song Maker focused on touchscreen technology to increase the usability of the interface for kids. Again, accessibility was a primary objective, and we worked tirelessly with the Google team to ensure that this was an experience all could enjoy. From the addition of interactive sound effects and QR code share features, to a clever nod to the famed “I’m Feeling Lucky” of Google search in the form of pre-configured songs that served as a starting point, we made sure that the experience was as simple as it was fun.
Our team visited in-person to guide install and implementation in Mountain View. We also designed and developed original software to facilitate the adaptation of the experience to Google’s Chelsea storefront, where LED screens were installed specifically to create immersive, high-touch installations like this one.
Award-Winning Impact: Song Maker's Rise in Schools and Social Media
Not only has Song Maker been incorporated into school curricula, but it also received an incredible amount of praise and social media attention, including a FWA for its innovative approach to engaging with children and helping them act on their creative impulses. Song Maker is an ongoing collaboration between Use All Five and Google, and we’re steadily growing the platform and adding new schools to the lineup.
To maximize impact and guarantee success, our 2023 extension of Song Maker included an interactive how-to guide for Google employees who would be facilitating the experience for users. Through directly consulting and interfacing with our Google clients, we were able to make what was already a remarkable and noteworthy tool into something even more entertaining and enriching. From Mountain View to Chelsea, Song Maker has been so well-received, and it’s been a joy to watch the positive reviews (and chart-topping songs of our young audience) roll in!