Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Sound intuition: This technology will turn your movements into music

  • Sound on Intuition by designer Pieter-Jan Pieters turns your body into a musical instrument
  • Sensors attach to your hands,feet and heart to produce music that responds to movement
  • His creation allows people of any background or skill-base to make music

Editor's note: Blueprint is a new series exploring the intersection between high-concept design and practical technology

(CNN) -- For Pieter-Jan Pieters, revenge has been both sweet and sonorous. When music schools refused to admit him because he could not read music, he went to a design school instead — and invented a way to make melodies not only without sheet music, but without traditional instruments either.

"It feels good," he says. "I like playing music, I like doing design and now designing musical instruments and playing your own design — it's kind of the ultimate happiness. In the end everybody can just play music that wants to play music and not have to learn a complex code."

When Pieters enrolled at the Design Academy Eindhoven he began to play around with electronic sensors that would allow musicians to control sound using only the movement of their own bodies. One of his tutors encouraged him to look at the way people move when they dance and incorporate those movements into his design.

Read this: Is this the world's weirdest instrument?

Can solar powered watercraft save lives?
Inventors, innovators manipulate light
'Earthquake table' made to save lives

The result is a collection of five instruments, which Pieters calls Sound on Intuition:

• A sensor that measures the position of the musician's hand, raising and lowering the pitch of the note with the rise and fall of the hand

• A collar that fits around the finger and converts tapping, bending and stretching movements into sound

• A heart rate monitor that produces rhythms based on the beating of the musician's heart

• A strap that wraps around the musician's foot and produces the sound of a bass drum in time with his or her foot-tapping

• A scanner that reads lines or dots drawn by the musician and represents them musically: "If you want to have a sound that goes up and down," Peters says, "you just draw a line that goes up and down."

Although electronic music is nothing new, Pieters says that abandoning instruments altogether in favor of computer programs can take some of the joy out of making music.

"Now everybody sits behind his computer and just types in commands to create a sound, but it's not that fun anymore," he says. "If we have instruments that you can move and kind of play the computer in a fun way, I think making music is more fun."

Hein Mevissen, a Dutch film director and designer of the radically simple John's Phone, praised the intuitive interface and said that he could imagine the approach spreading to other art forms.

"I really like it," he says. "I think it could be the future in everything, even with computers and with graphic programs, even film. Design is evolution or devolution. Devolving of design is something that I really like — you know, making products simple again."

I wanted to stop, go back to zero and think of how I could create sound in a new or easier way
Dutch designer Pieter-Jan Pieters

Mevissen urged Pieters to keep developing and improving his design until it was ready for a wider audience. "As long as his heart is in it and he keeps his heart in it then he will succeed," Mevissen says.

Read this: The brave new world of electric paint

Since Pieters had little experience working with electronics, he looked for ways of adapting sensors and other devices that were already on the market -- rather than starting from scratch. He was pleased to see that this adaptive approach was then adopted by the people who used his prototype, some of whom found new and unexpected uses for the device.

"It started as a music instrument project, but when I got to finish it, it opened up a lot more doors," he says. "For example a woman came up to me and she said to me: 'This would be perfect for autistic children. Autistic children would play with this for hours because they'd feel that the instrument understands them and they don't have to learn to play it.'"

For Pieters, that would be the ultimate vindication. The music schools that rejected him may not have seen his potential, but his musical instruments could help other to unleash theirs.

Part of complete coverage on
Liquidity lightbulbs at the Milan Furniture Show 2012
See the full coverage of CNN's Blueprint -- a new series exploring the very latest design and technology trends.
December 9, 2013 -- Updated 1901 GMT (0301 HKT)
A swat team assess risk before raiding a building
A baseball-sized shock absorbent camera that can be thrown into a disaster zone to assess risks posed to rescuers.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Astronauts wash and drink from the same continuously recycled source for years. So why do we not do the same on Earth?
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
The Titan Arm
A new strap-on external bicep called the Titan Arm allows humans to lift very heavy objects by giving them instant super strength.
October 11, 2013 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
See the origami kayak take shape in our 40-second time lapse video.
September 27, 2013 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
The Seaboard is a musical instrument like a keyboard that allows you to bend the pitch and volume of each note.
The 'Seaboard keyboard' is a tech forward interpretation of the piano, that reimagines what a keyboard can do.
September 19, 2013 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Phonebloks smartphone
What if you could build your own smartphone that would last you for the rest of your life?
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 0849 GMT (1649 HKT)
3D printed gun
Why did the Victoria and Albert Museum in London acquire two models of the world's first 3D-printed gun?
September 13, 2013 -- Updated 1009 GMT (1809 HKT)
It looks like a regular bike light, but one day Emily Brooke's Blaze light could save your life.
September 10, 2013 -- Updated 1001 GMT (1801 HKT)
After months of hype and speculation, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch arrived this week with a bang... followed by a whimper.
September 2, 2013 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
ARMAR is the ultimate sous chef. He'll bring you ingredients from the fridge and after you've made lots of mess he'll load the dishwasher and clean the surfaces. He's just one of a growing army of robo-chefs that are shaping the future of our kitchens.
Your cooking partner is a robot, your fridge can talk, and your plate is your own personal dietician. This is the kitchen of the future
August 21, 2013 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Sound on Intution: sensors attach to your hands,feet and heart to produce music that responds to movement
August 15, 2013 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
Not only did Unger have to contend with the typical design challenges of aesthetics and manufacturability, she also needed to become an expert in the reproductive habits of flies.
In 2050, when nine billion people are living on Earth, will high-protein insects be a part of our staple diet?
August 13, 2013 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
He's invented breathable food, flavor clouds and olfactory telephones. Now David Edwards is bringing edible food-packaging to the table.
August 13, 2013 -- Updated 1031 GMT (1831 HKT)
ASAP is a solar-powered life-saving machine that's cheaper, greener and more efficient than a traditional Jet Ski
August 5, 2013 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
Transparent dresses, vacuum shoes, shark-proof wetsuits and more. We imagine a day in the life of a wearable technology user in the year 2015.
July 29, 2013 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Europe spends $13 billion annually on fueling street lights. With a new system called 'Tvilight', streetlamps can sense the arrival of a person.
August 5, 2013 -- Updated 0919 GMT (1719 HKT)
The earthquake-proof table can combat a ton of falling debris and provides reliable protection for people taking shelter during an earthquake