Make music with algorithms!


In code-music-studio, you make music with a language called javascript. javascript is a computer programming language that your web browser understands.

Computer programming is

If you press ctrl+shift+j in chrome or ctrl+shift+k in firefox, you will open up a debugger. The debugger is like a calculator: when you type an expression like 3+4, on the next like you get the answer: 7:

> 3+4

The debugger is a good way to test out small snippets of code to make sure they do what you want them to do before you put those snippets into your music.

Try things and see what happens!


To store a value in a variable you can do:

var x = 5 + 2


The arithmetic in javascript works similarly but slightly different from mathematical notation or some calculators.

The arithmetic operators you might already be familiar with should all mostly work:

Unlike mathematical notation, you can't use parenthesis to mean multiplication:

(x + 1)(x)

You will need to use * instead:

(x + 1) * x

Modulo is like division, but only returns the remainder as an integer. For example:

> 9 % 4
> 6 % 3
> 5006 % 10

Modulo is very useful for generating procedural music.


These built-ins functions will be useful for making music:

learn more is a great friendly resource for learning more about javascript.


Music is just made of waves!

In code-music-studio, you write a function in javascript that takes a parameter t, time in seconds, and returns an amplitude of a wave between -1 and 1.

For example, this program will play a sine wave at 440 Hz, or middle A:

return function (t) {
  return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * 440);

Copy paste this snippet into the editor and try it out! Make changes to see what happens.

Try some other musical note frequencies instead of 440.

sine waves

In the previous example, we created a sine wave. Sine waves fluctuate smoothly over time but aren't very loud.

You'll probably want to make a function so you can do sin(440) instead of writing out Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * 440) every time.

return function (t) {
  return sin(440);
  function sin (x) { return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * x) }

square waves

Square waves are like sine waves but they change abruptly instead of smoothly. A square wave can be defined in terms of a sine wave by checking whether the sine result is above or below 0 and returning 1 or -1 only.

return function (t) {
  return square(440);
  function sin (x) { return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * x) }
  function square (x) { return sin(x) > 0 ? 1 : -1 }

sawtooth waves

Sawtooth waves are a jagged-looking wave like the teeth of a saw. Here is a function that can generate a sawtooth wave:

return function (t) {
  return saw(440);
  function saw (x) { return 1-2*(t%(1/x))*x }

composing sounds

Now that we have some types of waves, we can compose them together with +!

For example to hear a medium and a high sound together, just add the waves together in the output:

return function (t) {
  return (sin(441)+sin(5000))/2;
  function sin (x) { return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * x) }

You'll want to divide by 2 because otherwise your sine waves will start to clip and more resemble square waves as they transition more abruptly and less smoothly.

You can chain together as many sounds as you want at a time using just addition!


To generate a melody, you can create an array outside of your main program with a list of frequencies and then index that array with the floor of the time modulo the melody length to create a repeating melody:

var melody = [ 200, 240, 360, 340, 180, 190 ];
return function (t) {
  var m = melody[Math.floor(t*2) % melody.length];
  return sin(m)*2;
  function sin (x) { return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * x) }

Another trick you can do is instead of encoding frequencies manually, you can use how western music works on 12-tone tonality on powers of 2 to just encode note integers instead:

var melody = [ 0, 3, 10, 9, -2, -1 ];

return function (t) {
  var m = Math.pow(2, melody[Math.floor(t*2) % melody.length] / 12);
  return sin(m * 200)*2;
  function sin (x) { return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * x) }


There are many tricks to create repeating patterns to set a rhythm for your music.


If you have two sine waves that close together in frequency, they will create a beat that repeats at the inverse of their difference. For example:

return function (t) {
  return (sin(800) + sin(801)) / 2;
  function sin (x) { return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * x) }

will repeat every second: 1 / (801 - 800) = 1

Waves at 800 and 804 will pulse 4 times per second.

Try it out for yourself!


One trick for a simple frequency is to multiply a sine wave times another sine wave with a much lower frequency. For example, this program pulses a sine wave at middle A 4 times per second:

return function (t) {
  return sin(441) * sin(4);
  function sin (x) { return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * x) }

or you can create neat patterns by adding sine waves together, creating interference patterns:

return function (t) {
  return sin(441) * (sin(3) + sin(4)) / 2;
  function sin (x) { return Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * x) }


Another way to create simple beats is to turn on a noise function at a regular interval.

You can obtain random values between 0 and -1 with Math.random(). Random noise sounds like static on a pre-digital radio or old television set:

return function (t) {
  return 2*Math.random()-1

You can chop up those segments

return function (t) {
  return drums();
  function drums () { return t % (1/2) < 1/16 ? 2*Math.random()-1 : 0 }

more examples


This example is a simple repeating baseline that plucks a string twice a second.

return function (t, i) {
  return pluck(t % 0.5, 100, 10, 10);

function pluck (t, freq, duration, steps) {
    var n = duration;
    var scalar = Math.max(0, 0.95 - (t * n) / ((t * n) + 1));
    var sum = 0;
    for (var i = 0; i < steps; i++) {
        sum += Math.sin(2 * Math.PI * t * (freq + i * freq));
    return scalar * sum / 6;

Here are some more: