Someone made an Excel drum machine, and it’s amazing

Best of 2019: If you spend your working days slaving over spreadsheets, using one to make music might be the last thing you want to do, but you surely can’t fail to be impressed by Dylan Tallchief’s remarkable ‘Excel drum machine’.

As Dylan explains, there are similarities between the cell-based spreadsheet format and musical step sequencers. In his drum machine, steps can be triggered by dropping an X in the relevant cell, and you can open up further rows to adjust velocity and pitch.

The spreadsheet doesn’t generate any sound, but can send MIDI data wherever you want. By default, it goes to the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth that’s built into Windows (you can’t run this on Mac, sadly), but you can trigger any device you like.

It might not be the most intuitive piece of music-making software in the world, but Dylan’s efforts are undeniably impressive. Theoretically, you could use the spreadsheet to make a complete song, though you might have to work some long hours in the office to do so.

Check out the video above for a full explanation of how this thing works and what you can do with it. Dylan has made the drum machine available for anyone to download and it’s been tested in Excel 2019/Office 365. If you like it, you might consider supporting him via Patreon.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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