May 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Tunetrace Lets You ‘Draw’ Music on iOS, Works Great


We all have different strengths, and for too many of us, they do not include computer programming. By converting drawings into programs that play music, Tunetrace (iOS; free) makes computer programming a touch (get it?) more accessible to the right-brained among us.

From QApps, an app venture from researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, Tunetrace for iOS highlights the whimsy of coding in a way we’ve never seen before, haven’t since, and might not see again.

Once you input a drawing by taking a photograph of it within the app, Tunetrace analyzes each skeletal line and configuration in your drawing and turns it into code. Afterwards, twinkling lights fill the screen as they move along each pathway in the drawing, interpreting the code and playing corresponding music as they go. You just programmed a song, and you thought you were doodling.

Ed Burton, a digital artist part of the team responsible for Tunetrace’s creation, told that “[he] wanted to emphasize that programming has a playful quality.” The app emulates the magic and mystery of coding by allowing anyone capable of doodling the ability to experiment with making music by a similar method of trial and error. Sometimes, surprising results are better than what was expected. If you don’t like the tune you have created, you can add to the drawing to change it.


Tunetrace analyzing a drawing. Photo by Aarti Kelapure.

While the app was created with young people in mind (the developers also made classroom activities to use with Tunetrace), I had a lot of fun playing with it myself. The demo video (below) shows Tunetrace working with a fairly simple drawing, I decided to test it out on an incredibly intricate drawing — a reproduction of an etching by Francisco Goya I did in an art class thirteen years ago. On my first attempt, the app seemed to analyze the lines and crossings just fine, but once the twinkling lights started going, no sound actually came out. I restarted the app and tried again. This time, a seemingly endless and unrepeated series of notes and percussion began playing.

The experience did not really give me any further insight into programming, but watching something that I created over a decade ago turn into music was pretty cool. I can only imagine how exciting it would be for a child to turn his or her drawings into music.

Eventually, people will be able to showcase their techno-audiovisual creations online. While Tunetrace offers a good amount of entertainment as is, this upcoming feature will definitely bring it to a new level.

In the meantime, we definitely recommend that iOS crowd check it out, especially because it’s available at everyone’s favorite price: free.