Musical toy startup Playtime Engineering wants to make electronic music-making easier for kids | Tech Crunch

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Troy Sheets began making music in his home studio at age 15 with a keyboard synthesizer, drum machine and four-track cassette recorder — an impressive setup for a high school sophomore. However, young, up-and-coming musicians rarely have access to advanced devices (other than a free app on their phone). And most teenagers can't afford it. Additionally, for beginners, the synthesizer can be confusing to use.

That's why Sheets decided to develop the $199 BlipBlox, an affordable kid-friendly synthesizer designed for ages three and up.

“I thought there was an opportunity to create a simplified toy-like instrument that more people could enjoy using these instruments, which were previously reserved for professional musicians because of their cost and complexity,” Sheets told TechCrunch.

Now, Playtime Engineering — the parent company of Blipblox — is ready to release its latest product. Called MyTracks, the new “toy-like device” (as the company calls it) is essentially a groovebox or electronic music production device, fully decked out with a built-in microphone for a drum machine, synthesizer, audio sampler and sequencer. device. With its chunky control knobs and levers and easy-to-use randomize feature, Mytrax aims to encourage musical exploration and simplify beatmaking for kids. The company announced Tuesday that its Kickstarter campaign for Mytrax will begin April 9 for backers estimated at $249 to $299, and the first round of products is expected in November. Estimated retail price is $349.

The product is first and foremost designed to be child-friendly. According to the company, all Blipblox devices undergo “rigorous” testing to ensure they are BPA-free and meet toy safety standards. To prevent choking hazards, the plastic knobs lock into the device so children cannot remove them. Additionally, the batteries are secured inside a screw-down compartment.

The company claims that its products are the only synthesizers fully certified to international child safety standards.

In terms of its design, the flashing lights and colorful buttons are sure to attract children. The sheets add that the levers are one of the most popular features because they feel like a “spaceship control panel.”

But Blipblox wants adult musicians to take it seriously.

“These are real musical instruments, and not just something that looks like a (toy) guitar when you press a button and plays the same sound every time. It really engages adults in the same way it engages kids,” says co-founder Kate Sheets.

The layout of the MyTracks machine resembles a traditional groovebox or MPC (music production center) with two effects (FX) processors, five tracks, 25 pads and over 50 acoustic, electronic and percussive instrument sounds. Additionally, it has the ability to layer, record and save songs.

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

Image Credits: Playtime Engineering

A child's toy can cost upwards of $300, and most parents aren't willing to cough up that much cash. However, the company argues that it can be a great tool for children to learn how to create music, manipulate sounds and experiment. Blipblox has also been used by music teachers to help children with special needs express their creativity in a non-verbal way.

“(Blipblox devices) are adjustable, so you can adjust (the volume) for different sensitivities. So, neurodiverse students really enjoy using our products,” Kate Sheets tells us.

The company previously won SBO (School Band and Orchestra) Best Teaching Tool for Preschool Students.

Image Credits: Playtime Engineering

“We got a lot of weird looks from parents,” says Kate Sheets, describing how people reacted to the first Blipblox synthesizer in 2018. “I thought, 'The musical instrument industry looked at us and thought of us as a toy, and the toy industry looked at us and we didn't even know what that was.'

Despite the initial reactions, Blipblox has managed to sell over 15,000 products and has raised more than $300,000 in crowdfunding to date.

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