I'm happy to announce that drawtunes is now available for public use. It's a free website where you can compose your own songs just by drawing them.
The input is incredibly simple: the higher you draw vertically on the canvas, the higher the pitch of the note that comes out. And the longer you make the line horizontally, the more time that note takes up. Volume is represented by the thickness of the line. Any empty space is a rest, which you can create by leaving it blank or by erasing notes you've already drawn. Change colors to change octaves, where warmer colors are higher and cooler colors are lower. It's all very easy to use and understand just by glancing at the page.
The output, in contrast, is infinitely complex. You can have as many tracks in a song as you want, and each track has its own instrument. Instead of having a band in your garage, you now have one online.
The best part is that you don't need any music theory or experience to use drawtunes. The concept is concise and elegant: if you can finger paint, you can make music. There's no need to "read" music or remember what those strange symbols mean. Of course, being a classical student doesn't stop you from using this tool either.
Some History, for the Heck of It
This project was a long time coming, dating back over a year at this point. It all started on a random day in November of 2010 when I was working on a video game and I thought to myself: "How would I make music for this? Surely a computer could do it easily. Maybe a website already exists that solves this problem." Although some searches did yield results, none of the sites I found were very useable. Often they were limited to a single instrument, or an input system that exactly mimicked sheet music, an idea which hasn't been improved upon in over 500 years.
So I spent the rest of a day programming a very simple sine wave generator that I could give instructions like "play C4 for 1 second" and it would do it. I was satisfied with the proof of concept and tabled the idea.
Months later, in March of 2011, I saw a survey online that asked, "What one skill do you regret not learning?" The number one answer was "another language," but right behind that in the number two spot was "a musical instrument." And I realized that there were a lot of people who wanted to make music, but just didn't know how, or thought they lacked the talent. I came back to the simple script I had written and started developing a website around it, complete with an interface that required no prior skill to use to its full capacity. By the beginning of summer I was pretty much done, but there was one problem: I couldn't find a good name.
Seasons changed, I got a new job, and the project just sat there, untouched. I came up with dozens of clever plays on "drawing", "sketching", and "painting" combined with "song", "music", or "band", but none of the good ones had a corresponding domain that was available. I was stuck.
Thankfully, I realized that I needed some more brainpower to overcome this hurdle and enlisted the aid of some friends. That eventually lead to a great domain name and logo. After that it was a simple matter of putting the final product online. And now drawtunes is ready for you to make some music!