Please note: this post was originally published in August 2012. I’m not sure how or why, but the original post disappeared completely (!). Thanks to the magic of the Wayback Machine I was able to grab a copy of the text and re-do the whole thing. I took the opportunity to revise it a little as well!

What is Incredibox?

Incredibox is a online music arranging and remixing tool that looks great, is easy to use and is free. It also happens to work really well on an interactive whiteboard.

The concept is simple: drag an icon to one of the “dudes” (as I like to call them!) on the screen and he’ll start beatboxing, singing or whistling. You can use 7 dudes at once and with a total of 20 sounds in 5 different categories to choose from, there’s a wide range of combinations possible.

Incredibox version 3

Novelty value only?

When using fun, free resources such as Incredibox, many think they have novelty value only, but I think Incredibox has quite a bit to offer if student use of the tool is framed with specific outcomes in mind.

Which musical concepts can Incredibox teach or reinforce?

  • Arranging or remixing skills
  • Layering
  • Solo and tutti
  • Rhythm
  • Texture and timbre
  • A cappella part-singing and beat boxing
  • Conducting skills
  • Timing

Three versions of Incredibox

Over the years, the original 2009 version of Incredibox has been refreshed a couple of times. A new version was released in 2012 and then another “Draft Punk” style version in 2013. All three versions are still accessible – just make a selection when you first land on the website.

It’s important to note that the original version – Version 1 – of Incredibox has no record button. When they added that functionality into version 2, it made all the difference from an educational point of view because it meant that students could put together a meaningful remix and record what they had done. For me, that really helped move Incredibox beyond novelty status, so bear that in mind when choosing which version you will use in class.

Lesson: create and record an interesting 30-second Incredibox remix

How To Play

First, spend some time experimenting with the sounds available. Drag one of the icons across the bottom of the screen to an empty (undressed!) dude to start playback of a sound. A new dude will appear and you can add another rhythmic or melodic layer by dragging an icon on to the new dude.

Deleting dudes

Single-dude-with-solo-muteYou can fit a maximum of 7 dudes on the screen at once. To remove or change one a sound, hover your mouse over the dude and then click on the cross (the other two buttons allow you to mute or solo the dude). That dude will disappear and a new dude will appear at the end of the line.

Effects 3Exploring texture and timbre

Allow students to spend time listening to different combinations of dudes, then ask them to choose 7 sounds that cover a variety of rhythmic and melodic patterns.

This shortlist of 7 will form the basis of their remix recording. Students could keep a record of their choices by writing down the sound/icon numbers in each group. For instance, I have used sound number 3 in the Effects group of sounds in the image on the right. Another option is to take a screenshot (a “photo” of the screen) of their chosen dudes.

Step-by-step lesson details

1. Line up your dudes!

Ask students to fill up the Incredibox screen with their 7 chosen sounds (see Exploring Texture and Timbre above). They can then experiment with the mute and solo buttons to test out different combinations of dudes in varying-sized groups. Make a note of any effective combinations so that they can remember them easily during the “recording session”.

2. Arranging skills: plan your remix

Plan your arrangement so that it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Make sure that your remix incorporates some layering, plus the use of solo and tutti. A typical remix might be structured as follows:

  • Beginning – use layering to bring in all or some of the parts
  • Middle – create some interest by using the solo and/or mute buttons to vary texture
  • End – layer the parts out at the end

3. Rehearse your conducting skills

By clicking on a dude at the right time (ie. on a down-beat) you can bring sounds in and out quite cleanly when performing your remix. Practice clicking on each dude at the right time.

You can also try this: solo one dude by clicking on his headphone icon (all the others will be muted automatically), and then gradually bring in other dudes by clicking on their speaker icons one by one.

4. Get ready to “perform” your remix

Mute all of the dudes so that they become your silent ensemble waiting to perform. The quickest way is to solo one dude (this mutes all the other dudes) and then click the final dude’s mute button.

Incredibox Record button

5. Record your remix

Hit the record button (top left) and perform your arrangement! Keep an eye on the timeline at the top of the screen and remember that you only have a total of 30 seconds for your performance. Having all the dudes muted to start with gives you control on how you conduct them. You can layer them in any order and solo or mute as you like.

6. Share your remix

When finished, students can email their arrangement to you or copy and save link.

In cooking-show style, here’s an example I prepared earlier

Assessment and feedback

Students can each play their remix for the class and offer one another constructive feedback. They should comment on the choice of sounds, the use of layering, the use of solo and tutti sections and the structure of the piece.

Extra tips

Here are a few extra Incredibox tips:

  • Double-click on a dude to delete him
  • Click once anywhere on a dude to mute him
  • Do a long click on a dude to solo him (the solo occurs on release of mouse button)

Do you use Incredibox?

Do you use Incredibox in the classroom already? How do you use it? Do the students enjoy using it? Let me know in the comments below.