The beat goes on

Kids’ music app Bandimal is easy to play – but was hard to create. Tap to read.


Music composer for kids


Bandimal is a 2018 Apple Design Award winner. This award celebrates the creative artistry and technical achievement of developers who set the standard for app design and innovation on Apple platforms.

Top of the priority list when toy company Yatatoy decided to make a music app was that it couldn’t annoy parents. Bandimal is a music composition app for children, in which you can combine looping sounds (each represented by an animal) to create a track. The music also had to sound good – no matter how children combined the sounds.

It succeeds. The app may have taken two years to build, but it is, without doubt, as fun for adults as it is for children. And, in line with Yatatoy’s other tech innovations, including Drawnimal and Miximal, it’s very intuitive.

The app’s software writer, Ilari Niitamo, explains how the team created Bandimal.

What problem were you trying to solve with your app?
We have Loopimal that’s a simple music sequencer. We wanted to do something a little more complex, yet still in music. Loopimal was supposed to be an open-ended plaything, but the biggest request from fans was, “How do we save our songs?”

What challenges did you overcome during development?
On the programming side, the biggest issue was keeping the audio in sync – to get samples to play at exactly the millisecond they were supposed to. It was a make-or-break kind of thing, because the music wouldn’t work if we couldn’t resolve that.

To create Bandimal,the team still started with pen and paper. Sketches—like the concepts for buttons, sliders, and switches shown here—were then transferred to the iPad, where some drawing and drafting happened with Apple Pencil.

Your team works remotely. Is that difficult?
From the beginning, each of us had a pretty clear role and set of responsibilities, so being apart wasn’t a great hurdle. We would work independently, then come together to bounce ideas off each other and give feedback. I actually haven’t ever physically met our audio guy, Ulrich Troyer.

What about creating Bandimal turned out to be easier than you expected?
We iterated fast. We would sort of discuss what could be cool and implement it for the next day.

For the app’s drum machine, rhythmical patterns were created with not only percussion instruments but also kitchen equipment like pots, spoons, and a cream beater. Bandimal’smusical concept is based off of ancient Greek scales, shown in the notebook here.

At what point did you realise that you could pull this off?
There were some rocky times, but for me the realisation came three months before release, when we got the synchronisation. Because, wow, it’s actually working.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
One of the issues I’ve had in my two previous projects is that I didn’t develop the most difficult technologies early. If I’d really put time into the audio syncing in the first two months, I could have relaxed for the remaining 10. I would tell myself, “Work on the most essential features first.”

Ilari Niitamo accepts Bandimals 2018 Apple Design Award.

Whats next for you?
We’re doing a new project that's an analogue collaborative play that’s trying to promote family unity. It’s an easier project – technically, at least – but I can’t make any estimations for when it will be finished. I personally have a Master’s thesis to write this summer.


    Music composer for kids