Whether you’re a graphics artist wanting to make music in new ways or just trying to rationalize the purchase of a shiny new Wacom tablet, graphics tablets are worth a look for music control. They’re highly sensitive, intuitive instruments, and they’re fairly cheap (US$100 and up). We’ve talked about doing this before, but new and updated software keeps making this easier.

Windows: Nicholas Fournel writes to tell us he’s just uploaded two new applications for Windows, for free. WMIDI converts tablet input to MIDI, with full support for Z angle and tilt; Theremin takes the next step and turns that into a musical instrument.

Nicholas has a lot of other fun stuff, including apps for painting with sound, granulating, glove using, and touch screen-inating. This is our kind of chap.

Mac: Tablet-to-music apps have a tendency to become vaporware. Not Music Unfolding’s µ midi controller. It appears they’ve updated the interface and features and have even made this a Universal app for Intel Macs. They’ve gone beyond just mapping the tablet input to MIDI: by providing computer keyboard control and lovely visual feedback, they’re really making the tablet into an instrument. Now go use the thing and prove this unusual application could have broader appeal!

The next challenge: make the tablet expressive as an instrument. I was once having lunch with Jon Appleton and talking about his work developing the Synclavier sampler, and he held up a salt shaker and said something to the effect of, as a musician/composer if you spent six months working with this, you would find a way to make it an instrument. Now I just need to re-teach myself to draw.

If you use any of these tools, do let us know how it goes — successes and frustrations alike.

[Updated:]
Loic Kessous stops by in comments to point to previous work with tablets over the past eight years, some of which I’ve mentioned here on CDM before, others I haven’t. Notably, his own site includes audio samples from a vocal synthesizer controlled by graphics tablet, as an example of some of the expressive possibilities of using tablet input.

Matt Wright, as interviewed for Cycling ’74′s site, has done a lot of work with tablets, including mapping tablet input to OSC (see paper with Adrian Freed et al, OSC site. OSC is able to maintain the structure of the data from the tablet at high resolutions, while still supported by apps like Max/MSP, Pd, and Reaktor (among others).

For Max/MSP, see the Max/MSP Wacom object for Mac, or a similar object for Windows.

SuperCollider has built-in Wacom support.

For Pd, see Moonix’s site for Moon Utils, wintablet (Windows-only), or Hans’ HID object for Linux. (There are others, too, I think, so a little Googlin’ / searching of the Pd community sites / experimentation might be in order.)

Have I missed anything?

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  • http://www.proemland.com proem

    theres also the stunning tablet2midi
    http://livelab.dk/tablet2midi.php
    drawable controllers

    granted its still in beta

    but you can pick it up for 50$

    which ive been using it since 0.5

    and its gotten progressively more feature packed

    and easy to use

    heres a screen grab of my partial tablet 2 midi setup
    http://www.placeguntohead.com/admitedly-i-am-cont

    i cant go on enough about tablet2midi

    seriously

    its that good
    :)

  • http://members.iinet.net.au/~jjt2005/Website3/ Travis

    Fantastic stuff, I've been hoping to dig up more tablet-midi controller stuff, as while tablet2midi is indeed a beautiful piece of software, I'm not quite willing to shell out the $100+ bucks it would cost me to order it (grr, Australian dollar), especially since it's still only in beta form. Thanks!

  • http://www.nicolasfournel.com Nicolas

    I just uploaded a new version (1.1) of Wmidi.

    Here are the changes:

    - added checkbox to enable / disable note generation.

    - added minimum and maximum values for the controller messages.

    - added mapping curves for controller messages.

    - added buttons to load / save a configuration.

    - added reset button.

    - added chromatic scale.

    It's available here in the midi section:
    http://www.nicolasfournel.com

    Nico-

  • http://www.arcuradio.com/ Josh

    Great scott this is an amazing idea.

  • http://loickessous.free.fr kessous

    about using wacom tablet for music….well it's not so new…

    richard dudas wrote the first object for max msp many years ago for mac os 9, matt wright wrote some a conference paper also using osc about it, I mayself made a singing voice instrument with it in 2000, and wrote some conferenc papers about it, I actually also done a wacom2midi that I talk about in a conference NIME03 in montreal in 2003, I used it to control Absynth or FM7, or external hardware DX7…and the max/msp community used the wacom object os X that has made jean-michel couturier since severals years on os X…so cool to have off-the-shelf apps but it's not a revolution…it was yet done at least 8 years ago

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Hi Kessous, yes, I'm familiar with your NIME paper though I hadn't written it up here … you'll find references to most of these other examples in the archives. I'll add those here; let me know if there are others I've missed.

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  • Stephane

    kessous, it seems interesting, but the links to the sound files seem to be broken, and I can't find any tablet application to download. Any help ?

  • http://www.musicunfolding.com Rob – Music Unfoldin

    Hi Folks,

    I wrote mu midi controller four or five years ago. I never suspected that it would have this much interest. When I first wrote it, it had no tablet support and none was planned. I just wanted a simple way to input MIDI directly from the keyboard. After discovering that the mouse didn't have the control I wanted, I went out and got a tablet and added the functionality. To cut this short, the tablet part of the app isn't central to the design.

    If I were to revisit this app, what would you like to see changed or added?

    Rob

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  • http://loickessous.free.fr loic kessous

    The Voicer is actually not available for download but you should keep a look on the 'blue yeti' website:
    http://www.blueyeti.fr/en/
    My friend Jean-Michel Couturier (who also made the os X version of the max external for wacom tablet) is working on a version of my Voicer that will be distributed.

    Loic Kessous

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  • http://www.sdamy.com Dam

    Very interesting!

    I've post in my italian blog:

    http://www.sdamy.com/creare-musica-con-tavoletta-

  • http://www.nicolasfournel.com Nicolas

    I just uploaded a new version (1.3) of Wmidi.

    The main new feature is the possibility to load a background picture and analyze it.

    From the doc:

    When moving the stylus on the tablet, the color of the pixel under the cursor will be analyzed. Control change messages can be sent for the hue, saturation and brightness, or for the red, green, and blue components. There is plenty of room for experimentation. For example, you could load a stone / rocky texture, and use the brightness to drive the friction parameter of a physical modelling synthesizer.

    It's also possible now to copy / paste MIDI settings between the 12 available configurations.

    Enjoy!

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  • http://decembered.livejournal.com decembered

    too bad WMIDI refused to work with my new Genius' G-Pen 450 Tablet, citing 'wacom tablet not installed'. Even though developer insists his software would work with any kind of tablets. :(

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  • http://tinyurl.com/a5sfeo Trerrarrifine

    How r u? your website is cute

    I have a new band and we just had a live gig u can see here:
    http://tinyurl.com/8b9p65

  • http://www.myspace.com/omuldetinichea Vanea

    no really, can you make it work with any kind of tablet?? I specially bought a tablet for stuff like that and when I got home and found out in doesn't work, I got sad.. I have a DigiPro WP4030 and for drawings and animation is perfect.

  • http://djdtmproductions.com Dan

    Yea, I got the µ midi. Its pretty sweet, and for the low price. I think I'll buy it.

  • http://www.myspace.com/komakzik komak

    komak tablette wacom to midi osx

    bonjour à tous.

    Je suis en train de créer un logiciel permettant de transformer le signal émis par une tablette graphique en midi (continuous controller)..

    Pour l'instant je teste tout ça, j'ai seulement une wacom bamboo je ne sais pas du tout comment se comporte le logiciel avec d'autres tablettes..

    Bon donc il y à 5 sorties xy selon le bouton utilisé sur le stylet, tout est encore très simple. Je travaille sur quelques fonctions très intéressantes en live comme un repeat et un looper midi..

    laisser vos commentaires pour que je puisse améliorer tout ça.. lien: http://www.filzup.com/download.php?id=CADD2D4F1