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A team of students built an app that allows anyone to easily record and layer musical loops. The app, LoopJam, allows users to create up to six audio loops of variable speed, which synchronize automatically. It also includes a visualizer that allows users to intuitively understand how their loops are working together.
“I personally found that this software makes it incredibly easy to prototype music,” says Marc Balaban, who built LoopJam with Fahd Sheikh, Kuni Natsuki and SungMin Chang. Balaban plays guitar, harmonica and drums and Sheikh is a practiced beatboxer. “Beta testing this was the greatest,” Balaban adds.
The group wanted to make the app experience as streamlined as possible, so that the user’s focus could be on the music itself.
“We wanted it to be as utilitarian as possible. We were depending on people to use it and find something for themselves,” Sheikh explains. “I learned the beauty of minimalism and the sheer importance of UX. Until you build something from the ground up, you don’t really have that appreciation.”
The group had to wrestle with challenges unique to music, namely the issue of timing. The team worked to ensure that loops synchronized perfectly.
“If it’s off by a couple milliseconds, for music, that really messes it up,” says Natsuki.
Similarly, the visualizations derive their value from accurately representing the loops, and so those had to be exact as well.
“It looks like the loops and the visualizers are part of the same program, but they were built completely separate,” says Chang.
The team demoed their app at our most recent Hiring Day. Balaban was brave enough to sing in front of 40 potential employers.
The group was using several technologies that they did not have previous experience with, including the Web Audio API. This meant that much of the work was outside their coding comfort zone, but the group had each other’s backs. Literally.
“My favorite metaphor is everyone leaning on each other,” says Sheikh. “So we did four-man push ups, where we had our feet on each other’s backs. There were points when no one’s feet were on the floor. It was all just arms.”
The symbolism translated over to the team’s coding work.
“It’s a lot quicker to prototype and build software than I ever imagined,” says Balaban. “If you have good communication, good teamwork, you can come up with something great really quickly.”
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