$2,076
pledged of $11,000pledged of $11,000 goal
63
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Mon, November 3 2014 12:11 AM UTC +00:00
Jeremy BellBy Jeremy Bell
First created
Jeremy BellBy Jeremy Bell
First created
$2,076
pledged of $11,000pledged of $11,000 goal
63
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Mon, November 3 2014 12:11 AM UTC +00:00

About

If you've ever studied music history, you probably know that musical instruments don't simply spring forth from the music community fully formed. Much like people, musical instruments evolve over time. Sometimes these evolutions are the result of changes in musical styles, and sometimes they are the cause of them. And either way, it's hard to imagine an instrument that is more in need of a radical change than the DJ's turntable.

Yes, there have been some changes to the turntable since it started being used as a musical instrument, but these changes still adhere to the same basic design -- a design which, let's face it, was never meant for cutting and scratching. Turntables are fragile and sensitive; that delicate needle sits precariously in the groove and bounces around with the slightest jostling. Scratching is incredibly difficult and frustrating.  Now it's certainly true that the things that make musical instruments difficult are sometimes the very things that give them their signature sound. But in the case of turntablism, I think that an easier user interface could open up a galaxy of sonic possibilities. Imagine instantly alternating between parallel playlists, or creating layers of sound by using each of your hands to do the work of a separate DJ. Imagine routing a singer's microphone into a device that lets you scratch with live audio in near-real time!

Over the past few years, I've been developing the specifications for a more versatile and intuitive way to scratch, without the latency of digital or the fragility of vinyl. Your donations will be used to hire a product design firm to build a functional prototype of my device, which I'm calling The ScrubBoard. With The ScrubBoard, you scratch by moving a slider up and down a track, much like how you'd move the sliders on a standard mixing board. But the ScrubBoard's slider doesn't adjust volume levels; instead, it's internally attached to a movable tape head that makes contact with a strip of audio tape inside the device. As you move the slider, the tape head moves up and down the tape, thus generating a true analog scratch.

An important part of the turntable arts is the DJ’s use of a switch or fader to rhythmically mute and un-mute the audio from the turntable. This is commonly referred to as “cutting.” With the ScrubBoard, you achieve this effect by using a two-fingered push-button that sits atop the slider. I call it the Seesaw Killswitch, because pressing down on one side makes the other side come up. When either side is pressed down, the audio is un-muted. When it’s in the “halfway position” (with neither side all the way down) the audio is muted. Users can open and close the audio signal by alternately pressing with their index and middle fingers, and they can grasp the slider with their other fingers, thus allowing them to cut and scratch with the same hand.

Pressing either side of the Seesaw Killswitch all the way down un-mutes the audio.
Pressing either side of the Seesaw Killswitch all the way down un-mutes the audio.

So why would you want to cut and scratch with the same hand? Because you can use a second ScrubBoard with your other hand! With two ScrubBoards, a skilled scratcher could create a pretty impressive interlocking, polyphonic sound that would be impossible using traditional equipment, even with two people. After all, two musicians will never be as perfectly in sync as your own two hands are with each other.

While the Seesaw’s halfway position always has the effect of muting the audio, the effects of pressing down the right and left sides can be customized.  That's because the ScrubBoard uses the audio tape's four tracks to create two stereo playlists that run alongside each other, and it uses a dual crossfader system to route the audio to the two sides of the Seesaw.  Adjust Crossfader 1 to determine which playlist you’ll hear when pressing down the left side of the Seesaw.  Adjust Crossfader 2 to determine which playlist you’ll hear when pressing down the right side.  

Keeping both crossfaders on the same side allows you to double your cutting speed with one playlist. Keeping them on opposite sides allows you to instantly seesaw between the two playlists. 

At this point, you may have noticed a problem with all of this: Movable tape heads might be great for scratching, but turntablists do more than just scratch. A big part of turntablism is the controlled use of the turntable motor's automatic rotation. In other words, sometimes you need to just let the record spin.  So for straight playback, The ScrubBoard makes use of a motorized tape loop.  But unlike a standard tape loop, this loop uses a conveyor-belt design so that the play head is able to slide up and down the slider track without losing contact with the tape.

The "conveyor-belt" tape loop
The "conveyor-belt" tape loop

The audio tape is mounted to the center of a loop belt, which is held taught by two rubber rollers. The loop belt has a writable surface, so users can hand-label all the transient audio events and then follow their movement as the loop belt turns.

To preserve one-handed functionality, the controls for the loop belt transport are on the slider. While grasping the slider’s base with your pinky, ring finger, and thumb, you can control the loop belt transport by twisting the grips on the base. Twist them to the left, and the loop belt will roll forward. Twist to the right and the loop belt will roll backward.

Notice how the user is interacting with the orange grips on the slider's base.
Notice how the user is interacting with the orange grips on the slider's base.

The grips will snap back to a neutral position and the belt will stop rolling when you stop twisting them. You can change the speed at which the belt rolls by adjusting the IPS control, which is above the crossfaders.

Risks and challenges

If my fundraiser is successful, I'll be working with the Bay Area product design firm Connekt, LLC, which will handle the CAD modeling, electrical engineering, and the manufacture of a working prototype. Because the ScrubBoard has not yet been engineered, Connekt could not give me an exact estimate for the manufacturing phase, so instead they have given me a "not to exceed" figure, which is the basis for my fundraising goal. This means I'll likely have leftover funds to reinvest in the ScrubBoard after the prototype is complete. But it is also possible that manufacturing will cost more than expected. If this is the case, I will sacrifice some of the ScrubBoard's functionality to keep costs down. That being said, Connekt, LLC has a solid reputation for providing quality, cost-effective design services, and I have every confidence that they will be able to complete my project within the budget they've indicated.

This prototype is meant to demonstrate the core concepts of the ScrubBoard, and as such will not feature all of the functionality mentioned in the promotional materials, regardless of whether there are budget concerns. The "ScrubBoard Guitar" attachment (mentioned in the video) will probably not be included. Also, the loop belt will not be housed in a removable cart, but instead will be permanently built into the console.

For more info on Connekt, LLC:
http://connektllc.com/

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Get in the loop! For a buck, you'll be added to the ScrubBoard's "TapeHeads Mailing List," so you'll always get info on new developments as they happen, and you'll get a heads-up about special early-bird deals that may be coming in the next KS campaign. (If you ask nicely, I might also just add you for free, but come on, help me out!)

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    A "ScrubBoard" bumper sticker.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Digital download of the ScrubBoard CD.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    A t-shirt with the ScrubBoard logo, and graphics to be decided. Feel free to send suggestions!

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    12" x 18" glossy poster with pictures of the ScrubBoard factory model and the original handmade "alpha prototype."

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    I will use the ScrubBoard to produce a short CD (2 to 3 songs) that is made especially and exclusively for you, the backers. You will have the opportunity to provide me with the audio samples that I'll put on the ScrubBoard, and I pledge to use at least part of every donor's audio. You can email me a link or an mp3, or just suggest a scene from a movie, TV show, or whatever. You're also welcome to suggest a style of music, and I'll do my best to represent as many of your requests as I can. Your name will be included in the liner notes, along with what you contributed. The CD will include bonus video and pictures of the ScrubBoard prototype. If you're wondering whether a custom-made CD from me is worth 25 bucks, here's a link to some of my previous work: http://jeremyseanbell.com/portfolio/

    (Note: I will use every backer's audio contribution unless it is of very poor sound quality, or is blatantly offensive in some way. I don't mind a little profanity, but if you send me an mp3 of arian propaganda, you're going to be out of luck!)

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    The Deluxe Package: You get the t-shirt, poster, sticker, and the $25 reward (the ScrubBoard CD and the opportunity to provide audio for the CD). And when the factory ScrubBoard model becomes available, your name will be included in the manual's thank you list.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    You receive one of the original handmade "ScrubBoard Alpha," models, as shown in the video. You'll also get a copy of The ScrubBoard CD.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    One of the original handmade "ScrubBoard Alpha," models (same as above; I just expanded the shipping options).

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    For SF Bay Area residents: You'll get the opportunity to play with the new, factory-made ScrubBoard in a San Francisco recording studio. You also get the the t-shirt, bumper sticker, poster, and CD, and you'll get the opportunity to contribute to the ScrubBoard CD and your name in the liner notes.

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Funding period

- (30 days)