Lam
Microsoft
x
Linkin Park
Surface Music Kit
Role
Product Thinking
Interaction Design
Platform
Tablet
Target User
Music Producers (Beginner to Intermediate)
About
Surface Music Kit (SMK) is a music production app that makes creating music more intuitive for beginner musicians.

My goal was to design the quantization feature so that it would be more quick and intuitive to use when producing music.
Role
Product Thinking
Interaction Design
Platform
Tablet
Target User
Music Producers (Beginner to Intermediate)
About
Surface Music Kit (SMK) is a music production app that makes creating music more intuitive for beginner musicians.

My goal was to design the quantization feature so that it would be more quick and intuitive to use when producing music.
By reducing the learning curve in music production, beginners can focus more on what they are creating rather than how they are creating it.
Business Goals
Surface Music Kit
1
Minimize the learning curve in music production.
2
Make the music production process more enjoyable.
3
Stand out from other music production tools.
Quantization
1
Quantize a selection of recorded notes.
2
Support multiple tempos to quantize to.
3
Visually indicate where notes are shifted when selecting a tempo.
The quantization feature was already decided to be added when I joined the project.
What is Quantization?
Quantization is the music production process of correcting the timing of notes or samples in order to more clearly define the underlying rhythm of a song.
How is this currently used?
Quantization is currently implemented in music production tools as a dropdown menu where the user can select which beat to shift a preselected group of notes.

Music production tools that use this dropdown approach include:
Garageband, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Pro Tools, Cubase and Ableton Live.
Pain Points
Beginners
Didn’t know what quantization was.
Felt it wasn’t enjoyable enough to use.
Corrected the timing of notes by manually shifting each note one at a time.
More Experienced
Experienced with the dropdown approach for quantization.
Recalled difficulty learning quantization in the beginning.
Learned through trial and error.
Based on interviews with ~20 particpants, from hobbyists to DJ’s, responses were split between beginner and more experienced musicians.
How can we make quantization easier to learn and more delightful to use for beginner musicians?
Touch Gesture Approach
Instead of using a dropdown menu, I used a touch gesture approach to extend the existing design system of interacting with notes directly on the screen.

A widening gesture widens the space between notes.

A pinching gesture shortens the space between notes.
Quantization Mode
To enable quantization mode, the user selects a group of notes and double taps the track.

When quantization mode is on, a quantization indicator appears at the top. At this point, pinching/widening gestures are quantization actions.
Automatically Turns off
Once the user completes the gesture, quantization mode automatically turns off.

The quantization indicator will disappear.

Pinching/widening gestures will continue as zooming actions for the tracks.
Touch Gesture Approach
Instead of using a dropdown menu, I used a touch gesture approach to extend the existing design system of interacting with notes directly on the screen.

A widening gesture widens the space between notes.

A pinching gesture shortens the space between notes.
Quantization Mode
To enable quantization mode, the user selects a group of notes and double taps the track.

When quantization mode is on, a quantization indicator appears at the top. At this point, pinching/widening gestures are quantization actions.
Automatically Turns off
Once the user completes the gesture, quantization mode automatically turns off.

The quantization indicator will disappear.

Pinching/widening gestures will continue as zooming actions for the tracks.
How did Musicians like it?
Beginners
Felt interacting directly with the notes on the screen was more intuitive than using a dropdown.
Did not initially know double tapping a group of notes on a track enabled quantization mode, but had no problem quantizing notes afterwards.
Enjoyed seeing in real-time how notes would be laid out on the track after quantization.
More Experienced
Thought that feature may be limiting since it couldn't translate on a desktop platform, where most music production is worked on.
Felt directly quantizing notes on the screen was fun and easy to use.
Based on interviews with ~10 particpants, from hobbyists to DJ’s, responses were be split between beginner and more experienced musicians.
Conclusion
The design solution met business goals and feature requirements.
Given more time, more usability testing needs to be conducted to confirm and iterate on designs.
I was only involved in the project up until the point of handing off the quantization feature to the development team.