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Musical toy startup Playtime Engineering wants to simplify electronic music production for children

Troy Sheets started making music at age 15 in his home studio, equipped with a keyboard synthesizer, drum machine, and 4-track cassette recorder, an impressive setup for a high school sophomore. However, for young, budding musicians, there are few opportunities to use advanced equipment (other than free apps on your phone). Most teenagers can’t afford it. Also, using synthesizers can be confusing for people who are just starting out.

That’s why Sheets decided to develop the $199 Blipbox, an affordable, kid-friendly synthesizer designed for kids ages 3 and up.

“I thought there was an opportunity to create a toy-like device and simplify it so that more people could have fun using these tools that had previously been reserved for professional musicians due to cost and complexity,” Sheets told TechCrunch .

Now, Playtime Engineering, the parent company of Blipbox, is ready to release its latest product. The new “toy-like instrument” (as the company calls it) is called MyTracks and is essentially a groovebox, or electronic music production device, equipped with a drum machine, synthesizer, built-in microphone for audio sampling, and a sequencer. All this in one device. With chunky control knobs, levers and easy-to-use shuffle functions, MyTracks is designed to encourage kids to explore music and simplify beat making. The company announced on Tuesday that a Kickstarter campaign for MyTracks will launch on April 9, with an expected backer price of $249-$299, with the first round of products expected to launch in November. Estimated retail price is $349.

This product is designed to be child-friendly first and foremost. According to the company, all Blipbox devices undergo “rigorous” testing to ensure they are BPA-free and meet toy safety standards. To avoid a choking hazard, the plastic knob is locked into the device so kids can’t remove it. Additionally, the battery is secured inside a screw-in compartment.

The company says its product is the only synthesizer on the market that is fully certified to international child safety standards.

As far as its design goes, the gorgeous lights and colorful buttons are meant to appeal to kids. Sheets added that the levers are one of the most popular features because it feels like a “spaceship control panel.”

But Blipbox hopes adult musicians will take the issue seriously, too.

“These are real instruments, not just ones that look like [toy] With a guitar, you press a button and it makes the same sound every time. It really appeals to adults as much as it does to kids,” Kate said.

The MyTracks machine is laid out like a traditional Groovebox or MPC (Music Production Center), with two effects (FX) processors, five tracks, 25 pads and more than 50 acoustic, electronic and percussion sounds. Additionally, it has the ability to layer, record and save songs.

The MyTracks device has a MIDI output on the back, so professional musicians who want a fun new toy to play with can use it with other equipment in the studio. It also includes a stereo audio output and a USB-C for adding more tracks. Future updates will include more sound packs to provide new music styles such as classical, hip-hop and EDM.

Image Source: playtime project

More than $300 is indeed an expensive price for a children’s toy, and not many parents are willing to spend that much money. However, the company believes it could be a great tool for kids to learn how to make music, manipulate sounds and experiment. Blipbox is even used by music teachers, including to help children with special needs express their creativity non-verbally.

“[Blipbox devices] is adjustable so you can adjust [the volume] For different sensitivities. So neurodiverse students really enjoy using our products,” co-founder Kate Sheets told us.

The company has previously won the SBO (School Bands and Orchestras) Award for Best Teaching Tool for Preschool.

Image Source: playtime project

“We got a lot of weird looks from parents,” Kate said, describing the reaction to the first Blipbox synthesizer in 2018. “The music equipment industry looked at us and thought we were a toy, and the toy industry looked at us and thought we were a toy.” Thinking, “We don’t even know what that is.” We straddled the two for a while. a market. Now, all these years later, we have discovered that there is indeed a market for our product. “

Despite the initial overwhelming response, Blipbox has successfully sold 15,000 products and raised more than $300,000 in crowdfunding to date.

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