The Pen Challenge!

Every once in a while I come across (or create!) some cool little audio exercises, and I’ve got one today for you to take a crack at!

It’s called “The Pen Challenge”, and as the name would have you believe, it involves simply a pen (and a microphone, of course). I very much like restriction, so I’ve put a ton of them on this one. Every part of a pen makes noise, so let’s see what is in there!

Step 1) Record up to five minutes of any sounds you can make using your pen and your pen alone (don’t write or hit it on other things – things you do to it are fine though). Be creative – take it apart, find what makes it tick, blow across tubes, etc.  You cannot go back and record more later!

Step 2) Take your recording into a DAW (I used Audition), and cut it up into small little beats and patterns. Do not use any processing unless it’s room noise reduction.

Step 3) Organize your clicks and pops and sounds into…something. I chose to make a beat pattern out of them. Use panning, gain control, and bussing to affect the mix. YOU CANNOT USE ANY DSP HOWEVER (No reverb, distortion, compression, etc). I preferred working with a time limit so I took two hours.

Step 4) Upload it and show me the link! 🙂


  • Allow re-recording of additional sounds
  • You can only add sounds by overdubbing entirely new recordings – you cannot edit the recordings however once they are made.
  • Allow other objects to be incorporated (Write on paper, hit parts on different materials, etc)
  • Using VST’s
  • Avoid making patterns, so that you create some sort of soundscape.
  • Using several pens with different  tonal qualities to get different timbres.
  • Create a dry version with no DSP according to the instructions above, but then go back and make a DSP’d version without changing the placement or track bussing routes.
  • Anything else you can think of.

Here’s two of the ones I made:

In this first one, I focused on a short set of clicks which I used sort of like a drum pattern, then layered other stuff around it.

In this second one, I got a little more complex. I used a lot of the FFT filter that I discussed last week (that’s the chimes you’re hearing) and some other reverby and stretchy goodness.

Anyway – that’s what I got this week.