How it works

Tetris Shapes

Polyplayground has a synthesizer built in, with separate pitch bend for each finger, but is designed to be used as a MIDI controller via Camera Kit and MIDI interface. For live performance, the app takes MIDI input, allowing you to visualize what a jam partner is playing. You can also stream chords you have already played into the device so that you are never lost if you want to improvise.

This app is great for the producer, composer, music theorist, and student. It makes understanding music theory easier, because the spaces are ISOMORPHIC. This means that chords are the same in all keys. One only needs to learn a chord shape once to use it in any key

See it in Action!

"And what is a diagram? A representation of a musical system. And we use a diagram so that, for students of the subject, matters which are hard to grasp with the hearing may appear before their eyes." - (Bacchius, in Franklin, Diatonic Music in Ancient Greece.)



"Polyplayground is designed to make understanding music theory easier... This means that chords are the same in all keys, so, if you know the ‘shape’ of a chord in one key, you can immediately play it in any key."

the creators project

"Lucky for the rest of us, he’s got a knack for translating this technicality into an interface that’s not only usable by anyone, but one that helps you learn intuitively."


"Mike Gao’s Polyplayground achieves both goals with a synthesizer / MIDI controller that allows easy composition with horizontal and vertical movements across the iPad screen."


"It appears to be the kind of app that is fun enough on the surface, but has a larger breadth of discoverable possibilities for those willing to dive in."


"...un tanto avanzada, pero con nociones muy básicas de teoría musical y con algo de práctica, Polyplayground se vuelve una aplicación muy intuitiva."


"...a robust tool which makes writing music easy by helping its users apply and understand music theory through colors & shapes..."

The Author

Mike Gao

Mike Gao is a music technology researcher, holds a Masters degree in Music Technology from Stanford and is pursuing his PhD. After a career as underground Hip Hop producer/DJ in Chicago (working with such names as Qwel, Mestizo and Luckyiam) he began winning in numerous beat battles and playing at beat nights, Low End Theory being the most prominent one, making him one of the best kept secrets in the Los Angeles beat scene. He released music on labels such as All City with Tokimonsta, Galapagos4, Project: Mooncircle and many more…