I was first introduced to the concept of a musical calculator when I watched a YouTuber who goes by the name “It’s a Small World” covering the Super Mario theme song with four calculators. Each numbered button corresponded to a musical note, and the mysterious musician (just watch her “face reveal“ video, she takes the genre to new heights like she’s the Bjork of YouTube) somehow memorized them all to create an 8-bit symphony.
I found myself still thinking about the calculators several months later, and was delighted to find that I could buy my own online. There’s a couple of different models of musical calculators out there, but the most accessible was the AR-7778, which is available on Amazon and AliExpress. I ordered two from AliExpress and received my new musical instruments (?) in the mail three weeks later.
Now, I don’t have the brainpower to master playing four calculators at a time. But all it takes to play one is a rudimentary understanding of the major scale, and brushing up on your do-re-mis. I labeled the buttons with their corresponding keys (it’s cheating, but you have to start somewhere) and the rest was just like playing the piano.
I brought the calculators onto Circuit Breaker Live this week, and played my heart out with a rousing rendition of “All Star”. I also surprised myself by fulfilling a fan request of “Sandstorm” by Darude, and I guess this is my official announcement that I’m quitting The Verge to be a professional calculator player. You can watch the full episode of Circuit Breaker Live below, and catch us on YouTube every Tuesday at 4PM ET.