I like to think I’m pretty decent with Excel. I know my way around a pivot table, I love automating anything and everything with formulas and conditional formatting, and I am as skilled with a vlookup as the awesome new xlookup. Excel macros, however, are an entirely new ball game, and I only wish I could do what Dylan Tallchief does with them.
Tallchief took to YouTube the other day to post his latest creation, this insane spreadsheet that doubles as a drum machine. It’s like having a newbie version or Ableton—or some web-based tool for creating simple beats—right on your desktop.
It’s generally a very good security practice to not download and use spreadsheets from that are full of macros from unknown creators. We’ll give Tallchief a pass this time around, however, because this is awesome. (And if you’re worried you can always run Excel in a sandbox if you really want.)
To get started, grab his spreadsheet and open it. He tested it in Excel 2019, and it remains to be seen how well it’ll work in older versions. It’s only 147KB or so, which is surprising given what you’re able to do in this macro-filled spreadsheet.
Once you’ve pulled it up, it’s time to get drumming. First, make sure you’ve enabled macros in the spreadsheet. (You should see a notification below Excel’s Ribbon.) Click on “Play Sequence” to get a sense of how the sequencer works and, more importantly, what each instrument sounds like.
Once you’re ready to start creating a loop of your own, drop an “x” in the cell where (and when) you want the instrument to play. It’s as easy as that.
If you want to kick on advanced mode, click on the “2″ in the upper-left corner of your screen (to the left of the “A” column name), which will then allow you to edit each instrument’s volume (velocity) or type (pitch). If you don’t feel like typing in random numbers to see what instrument you get, you can always consult this simple wavetable.
You can also create multiple patterns of notes (which you open by typing a pattern’s number next to the “open” button and clicking it), and then play these patterns in a sequence (by clicking on an available sequence and typing the pattern numbers into row 57). You can also enter in “l” at the end of a sequence to loop it, for convenience.
Is this a bit confusing? Sure, but you’ll get the hang of it. Again, you’re building drum loops in Excel of all things. Given how absurd that is, a little complexity is warranted. Thank me in your liner notes once you’ve created the next EDM hit.