All posts by Steve Chab

War Water by Mutian, Jake, Steve

Our idea is to trigger MIDI notes with audio using ( We use contact mics on floor tom, snare and kick drum. Steve shared his guitar sample and Jake added a lot effects on it. We spent some time figuring out the best threshold for each mic, so when Steve plays kick drum the sound won’t trigger MIDI note for snare drum. We were inspired by Little Flowers.

The general idea is: War about to happen -> really intense fight -> war ends, silence. Based on the idea we decided the order of how we gonna perform this piece: start -> Modulation sound from light tracking -> pad sound triggered by snare -> pad sound fade out -> floor tom -> guitar sound -> kick tom and more guitar sound -> modulation on guitar sound and pad sound fade in -> speed up -> end.

Technologies used:
Max for Live

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First block at the left is plugin and we can use that to adjust the threshold. ‘Altered Scale’ block in the middle is used for designing pitch pattern. We use guitar sample that Steve recorded and pad as our source sound.

We tried put mics on ride cymbal and hi-hat, but they all have a very long decay time and hard to control. So we decided to use only tom, snare and kick.

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Jake also uses Brainwash plugin to trigger the video. Video image changes with overall volume.

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We tried different sound effects and modulation. Jake connects Ableton with MIDI controller so he can manipulate those sounds while Steve is playing.

We discussed about adding some interactive part and Steve talked about the idea of using flash light to control sound effects. Steve worked on Processing program for light tracking. It plays FM synthesizer developed by Roger Dannenberg. Download the code.

Mutian also worked on max patch for light tracking and track the position of flash light. It works well.


Watch light tracking test video (Max). We decided use Steve’s program for light tracking because it generates some really cool sound.

After setting everything up and our first practice we found tom drum and guitar sound like a ‘War theme’. So we tried different sound effects and modulation to fit in our theme. Jake connects Ableton with MIDI controller so he can manipulate sounds while Steve is playing.

First rehearsal video.

Team Roles


  • Light Tracking & FM Synth w/ Processing
  • Drums


  • Audio & Video Effects
  • Music Production Controller (MPC)


  • Flashlight
  • Light Tracking w/ Max
  • Research
  • Song Arc / Order
  • Documentation

What’s Cooking? Potbot.

Potbot is a percussion instrument by Zhiwan Cheung, Steve Chab, Mutian Fu, and Jack Taylor.

It sounds like a sick lawnmower.

Two motors and two solenoids placed inside the pot (on the bottom, sides, and lid) produced a variety of crazy pitches.

We built the instrument together. Zhiwan was able to connect MIDI and a drumpad to the pot using Maxuino. Steve made the final composition in Ableton Live.

Originally, we wanted to explore both string instruments and percussion. Steve showed the rest of the group some instruments that he had at his house, and we tried to incorporate a harp into our project. But it was too laborious.

Guitar/harp: connect picks to motors and fire solenoids which push metal balls up the strings. Percussion: Connect ‘magnetic’ thing . Push it forward and backward to generate some rhythm. Or just hit the drum, add some fancy LED around, flash with rhythm.

Make MIDI Notes from Audio Peaks – Max for Live

With these devices, you can trigger a MIDI instrument with audio input. It might be useful with those clip-on mics. :)

Ableton Certified Trainer Yehezkel Raz presents a set of two Max for Live devices. Peaks responds to incoming audio transients, and can be mapped to any parameter in Live. Notes, meanwhile, translates velocity data from its main knob into MIDI note messages. Use transients instead of peaks for more accuracy.

Download here.

Explorations in an Elevator by Jack Taylor, Amber Jones, & Steve Chab

Explorations in an Elevator is meant to be an ambisonic journey through nature while in an elevator. Here’s a stereo mix:


Jack Taylor (Experience Director / Visionary)

Jack was inspired by the nature soundscapes we listened to in class and the elevator voice in CMU’s Hunt Library. His vision was to have a piece of sound art that started in an elevator then journeyed through nature.

Amber Jones (Sound Designer / Recording Engineer)

Amber recorded all the sounds: doors squeaking, floorboards creaking, glass breaking, elevator noises, footsteps in snow, water pouring out of a water bottle, faucets, window blinds, a stapler spring, etc.

Steve Chab (Editor / Composer)

Using Ableton Live, I interpreted Jack’s vision using Amber’s sounds to compose the final piece of music.

Below are some pictures from the creation process. Find more details in our project notes.

Steve Chab
Music Artist


Ableton Live
Drum Machines from Glass Breaking Sounds and a Stapler