We’ve lived so long with a musical world dominated by the piano keyboard that it can be hard to look beyond it. But for some time, musicians have desired a set of common requirements for what might replace it:

  • The ability to hit specific pitches in a convenient layout, perhaps one more convenient than the piano, but also…
  • The ability to express pitch between pitches (as most other instruments provide)
  • Continuous pressure for expression, not only when a note is struck, but as it is played (again, as on most other instruments)

I’ve been talking to Roger Linn for a year or two now about his interest in finding something new to develop in music technology. He’s been working on a multitouch instrument. Unlike most current multitouch technology, as on the iPad, the key ingredient really is expressive pressure sensitivity. There have been various attempts to build instruments that do this, but it’s been tough to find one that could be produced in cost-efficient, scalable ways, and not just impressive one-off, handmade constructions. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.)

Late last night, Roger decided to make some of this work public. Tim Thompson, himself a multi-touch guru (he plays live with the FingerWorks software, teamed up with Roger and Roger’s wife Ingrid to build support for OSC, TUIO, and (for sound output in this example), Max/MSP. (Ingrid, by the way, is Roger Linn Design’s best-kept secret; she’s a terrifically-talented electrical engineer who has done a lot of the actual EE for the Linn instruments, and when I last talked to her, was taking pilot lessons.)

It’s not immediately apparent, but there’s even additional control of timbre on the y axis.

The results look and sound great, particularly considering this is a prototype. I’ve already got some questions in mind, but have a look at what Roger has to say and let us know if there’s anything you’d like me to ask him.

Note that what you see above is just a prototype. The rendering below shows some of the polish that could be applied to a final design.

Click for full-sized version. Image courtesy Roger Linn Design

Is this a great design? I think so. Is this something talented musicians will want, and practice, and get good at? Absolutely. Do things like the iPad allow anything like this? No – not without pressure, period. Are there other ways of compensating, like adding accelerometers or other controls? Yes – but that doesn’t matter, because the act of applying extremely sensitive variations in pressure at the fingertips is more intuitive. It’s the evolutionary achievement that allows us to pick up a coffee cup without alternatively dropping or crushing it. (If you don’t think that’s significant, ask someone who makes robotic arms – perhaps over a coffee.)

No, there’s just one bit of bad news — we need a new multitouch vendor for this kind of innovation to happen. (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

The company that makes the tech Roger used, TouchCo, was bought by Amazon as part of the ongoing turf wars in multitouch technology. And that’s just the latest episode in a tech landscape that has brought a lot of bad news. Instead of multitouch research leading to the golden era of interaction innovation some (like myself) had been predicting, we instead face petty battles over who sells e-books and protracted patent wars over intellectual property, many of those waged by companies who produce nothing.

Stantum’s resistive (not capacitive) sensing, which I covered last month, does theoretically provide pressure, though I don’t know if it works as well as TouchCo’s or how it would even be licensed to a small instrument maker. One advantage versus the TouchCo surface above, of course, is that Stantum also adds a display. But that’s just one example.

So, somewhere, perhaps, there’s a vendor who’s a fan of Roger Linn. (Hey, you know he’s the father of the drum machine? The MPC? He’s kind of a big deal? Anyone?) Perhaps this will inspire our readers over at Stantum to do something. Perhaps a company we’ve never heard of who loves music or dreams of playing a solo with a multitouch square in their band.

Alternatively, perhaps there is a way to homebrew this kind of sensor without enormous cost. (There’s certainly quite a lot of research. I’d round that up, but … it’s a beautiful Saturday here in New York. Help me out.)

Whoever knows the answer: please, by the powers of the Internet, find this post. Find me. Find Roger. And by the almighty Zeus, don’t sell out to someone before we can make music.

Research Project: LinnStrument — A New Musical Instrument Concept

  • salamanderanagram

    very reminiscent of the kaossilator, no?

  • pt

    so roger linn "invented" a different form factor for the continuum?

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

    @pt: No. Read:

    "There have been various attempts to build instruments that do this, but it’s been tough to find one that could be produced in cost-efficient, scalable ways, and not just impressive one-off, handmade constructions."

    The Continuum is just one in a long … uh, continuum of similar instruments. The earliest commonly-known example I can think of is the capacitive touch plates on the early Buchla. But having something with a bit of tangible feedback that doesn't also cost a fortune, that's been more elusive.

    Also, it's a non-trivial detail that this uses a rectangular layout with clearly-differentiated keys, whereas the Continuum uses a linear layout. Changing the form factor in an instrument is sort of important — ask a cello.

  • http://andrew.hicox.com plurgid

    That is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

    I "grew up" as a musician on the piano and never really touched a guitar until a few years ago.

    When someone showed me how I could play the same scale in *every key* just by moving the same pattern up the fretboard I just went "oh my God, where has this instrument been all my life".

    There's the same 12 pitches on every instrument, but that's the power of looking at them through a different framework.

    I'd really like to see something like this combined with a layout something like the axiom-64.

    That or you know … there's always the ultra-minimalist approach. Make all the black keys white keys. Sure, it'll be hard to find your way around it, but it'll sure change the way you play it (LOL).

  • James Husted

    Isn't this the same as the "keyboard" of the Eigenharp? They have what they call "3D keys" that work in all axis also. In fact the rendering shown looks a lot like the Eigenharps layout as well. If it comes in at a lower price than the E-harp that would be cool for sure but the E-harp has the addition of the breath controller and some ribbon controllers too.

    -J

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

    Well, right, and I'll add one other thought: no popular instrument design has ever — *ever* — come out of the blue. If someone is "inventing" something that's entirely new, it's probably wrong. Think about fretted instruments, the piano keyboard, hole arrangements on winds – they've all evolved over time. So there's a whole vein of these basic notions. Being able to make something accessible, producible in scale would – as with the other examples here – would be a necessary prerequisite to a group of musicians really sinking their teeth into a particular playing technique.

    But, of course, mass production centuries ago required shared woodworking skills. Now, we need things like the ability to easily license touch surfaces, without being Apple or Amazon or Google, in order to build stuff ourselves. It'd be as if the forests were proprietary and only the kings could make violins from their wood.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve H

    Looks promising. It'll be nice to see affordable alternatives of this kind of controller.

  • http://www.fxpansion.com Angus F. Hewlett

    @ James – physically it's very different, in that this is a single surface, the Eigenharp is discrete keys. I suspect the Eigenharp is also capable of delivering somewhat higher resolution; they claim velocity as well as pressure tho it may be that velocity is a delta reading on the pressure axis.

    The oscillators in the patch (Max? PD? someone with sharper eyes will confirm) sound pretty terrible though, unless that clearly audible aliasing is an encoding artifact. Easily fixable though, in any case.

    Best of luck to Roger though, hope he manages to iron out the component sourcing issues.

  • Franz

    Lets hope this wont be vaporware. I would buy this instantly, very interested in the price.

  • http://keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    Great point about our evolved sense of pressure. Until we can have something like this, though, I would settle for a polyphonic iPad app that just uses the X axis for pitch and the Y axis for volume/filter. Instead of pressing down on the surface to increase volume and/or brightness, you could be "pushing" forward or "pulling" back. Does that exist as of yet?

  • http://madronalabs.com Randy Jones

    Nice demo. I was happy to see Linn talk up the importance of pressure-sensitive multitouch at NIME09.

    It's hard to see how much travel this device has in the z direction, but if it has any, that's a big deal. That little bit of movement is crucial to playability, changing the feel from toy to instrument. Besides the Continuum, the Tactex MTC (no longer made) has been the only commercial multitouch device with a deformable surface.

  • Stij

    I've always wanted an instrument like this… I actually thought about a design very similar to the one in the second rendering. But I have no technical expertise whatsoever, so it's awesome to see a professional designer like Linn exploring something similar.

    But like you said, good, affordable multitouch systems are hard to come by. The few multitouch instruments out there on the market right now (Continuum, Lemur, etc) are crazy expensive. But I remember a story you posted a while ago about a guy who made a very expressive controller that used capacitive sensing… maybe something like that would work?

  • http://madronalabs.com Randy Jones

    @ Stij, I'm the capacitive sensing guy. We are working on firmware for our upcoming instrument now. Check http://madronalabs.com for updates, and our DIY section if you want to build one yourself.

  • http://www.rogerlinndesign.com Roger Linn

    Thanks to all for your useful comments. Here are a few responses:

    PT– Regarding the Continuum, I think it's is a wonderful device and I've been trying to spread the word about it for a couple of years by showing it on my site's "New Musical Instruments" page:
    http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/other/new_instrume
    On that page, I explain why I prefer the grid layout but it's just a point of view. The thing that excites me is that more of these instruments are starting to appear, and hopefully one will emerge to enable new forms of music.

    James Hustead– Good point. On my site's page for this instrument, I mention that the key layout wasn't my idea and give credit to others:
    http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/products/linnstrum
    The Eigenharp is the best new instrument design I'm aware of and is also prominently mentioned on my "New Instruments" page on my site. (See the response to PT above for the URL.) I prefer the continuous sliding between notes to the separate keys of the Eigenharp, but I must admit that the tactile feedback of separate keys is probably easier to feel your way around. I still haven't played an Eigenharp but I'd love to. If you have the chance, please read my thoughts about why I like this key layout on my site.

    Keith Handy– great comment about the iPad, and I'm looking forward to some creative apps for it. One thing I was disappointed about was that Apple doesn't include sensing of finger surface area–a pretty good substitute for true finger pressure– in the iPad toolkit. This is especially surprising because Apple bought Fingerworks about 3 years ago in order to get their multitouch and gesture technology, and Fingerworks' iGesture tablet product (taken off the market when Apple bought them and shut them down, but not before I got one) had multitouch input with sensing of finger surface area, independent for each finger in real time. I'm hoping Apple will add surface area sensing to the iPhone/iPad, which will enable some great music apps.

    Thanks again to all.

  • Emu

    As I have mentioned once before the Unmousepad (http://unmousepad.org/Home.html) is cheap, pressure sensitive, and multi-touch. I would also recommend moving away from a rectangular grid in favor of a more natural (but less known) hexagonal grid like that of the AXiS-49 (http://www.c-thru-music.com/cgi/?page=prod_axis-49). The hexagonal grid lends to a more natural approach to music theory and can be seen on most accordions.

  • Yl

    ehm… did he try contacting Amazon and asking them nicely to use the patent?

    ..becuase it's not competing in the same market as the kindle.

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

    Roger, I don't think it's as easy as providing an API to touch size. For instance, the Android SDK does have the finger surface area sensing, and on my Droid, I even get a reading. The problem is, on these surfaces, it's not very accurate; an iPad and the iGesture have basically nothing in common. So you can get that measurement, but it's pretty inconsistent. I suspect that's why it was omitted from the iPad SDK, with good reason, and I've actually asked a couple of people at Google to do a better job of warning developers in the documentation that some of these APIs aren't useful.

    @Keith Handy: I've tried mechanisms like that. They're horribly unsatisfying, not least because you have no tactile feedback for your position of the fingers, making them exceptionally hard to play accurately. Maybe someone else likes this, but I've just found it useless.

    @YI: Amazon hasn't announced any licensing program. It's not the patent that's at issue; it's being able to license the actual surface as an OEM and taking advantage of someone else's manufacturing process. I do expect this situation will improve, generally, with demand, though it seems it's tending more to displays than sensing surfaces per se. And it's possible (perhaps likely) that Amazon will do what Apple did with TouchWorks: hang onto the people and the patent portfolio, but throw out the tech.

    @Emu: here, here, hexagonal grids. Oh, and don't forget triangular grids as an additional option. (Ask your neighborhood Klingon.)

    And the UnMousepad looks like a good candidate, again from NYU. I might have to go pay them a visit. ;)

  • josh

    why would you post this?? Now I'm sad because I can't buy one right now :(

  • http://keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    One thing I would like as a variation on this: instead of abruptly jumping up and down fourths when you get too close to the line, why not morph/crossfade, since the neighboring pitches have a nearly exact 3:4 ratio. Crossfading would be easiest, but I'd also like to hear the weird distortion and sub-harmonic that would happen if each block of three wave cycles squeezed down to make room for an emerging fourth wave cycle (like people making more room on a bus seat – or like a wisdom tooth growing in).

    Some musicians might also like an option to have rows set to fifths or octaves, instead of just fourths.

  • http://www.rogerlinndesign.com Roger Linn

    @Emu: Actually, TouchCo IS the UnMouse pad. Ilya Rosenberg's work on the UnMouse pad eventually became TouchCo. Also, I like the hex keyboard layouts and mention the C-Thru and the Thummer on my New Musical Instruments page. I just prefer the grid layout I find it easier to play chromatics and because I like sliding between notes, perhaps because as a guitarist I always envied the violinists. :)

    @Yi: I'm trying a few channels but not yet getting through. I've seen Jeff Bezos on Charlie Rose and he seems like a good guy, so I wouldn't guess he'd mind.

    @Keith Handy: That video is 4 months old. Since then, I've put added a die-cut overlay that puts a slight border around each note square, in order to better feel the note squares. In a real product, I had planned on ridges between the rows to keep your fingers from crossing over and maybe smaller ridges between adjacent notes. Another option would be to sculpt little valleys centered at each note square, again to guide your fingers to the notes. It's tricky because I also don't want to hamper the ability to slide between notes like a violin. But your idea– crossfading between adjacent squares on the y axis– is an interesting one I hadn't considered. Maybe it's a problem that should turn into a feature. Thanks for your thoughts.

    @Peter: I didn't realize that Android provides finger surface area sensing. I'll have to check that out. You're right– surface area sensing doesn't work very well unless you've got a pretty high-resolution sensing grid to start with. But even if the grid resolution is low, I figure it's better than nothing. I haven't yet looked into what the spacing of the iPad's touch sense lines are. Anyone know? Anyone? Bueller? :)

  • http://www.rogerlinndesign.com Roger Linn

    @Keith Handy– I forgot to respond to your comment about being able to set the interval between rows to 5ths or whatever you want, which I'd definitely include in such a product. That would also allow guitarists to set the rows to guitar tuning if they prefer.

  • kevin

    @randy, glad to see you in this thread. i was just about to drop your name and a link to the madrona labs diy page re: peter's last paragraph in the post.

    also, the z-throw of these dev kits is next to nothing, but the pressure sensitivity is remarkable.. i think it's somewhere around 16 bits of resolution. so, i tried throwing a mouse pad on top of the surface, and ta-da! still insanely responsive, and now with some better haptics.

    oh, and touchco's api provided touch area as well as pressure. for… well, maybe just for kicks?

    @peter, i really hope they don't throw out the tech. it would be (imho) remarkably stupid. the most logical thing for them to do would be to release a kindle with the eInk display on top of the touchco surface (both are thin and flexible, pressure will probably make it's way through just fine). suddenly you have a low power, low cost, pressure sensitive, multi touch tablet.

  • bar|none

    Great article and cool prototype.

    I'm very interested in these types of controllers. I own Monomes, an Eigenharp and a Manta. I write software for the monome and manta and I would for the eigenharp too once they open source it.

    I would add that having the ability to have leds under the pad squares adds some very interesting capabilities, ala the ability to have innovative applications that give vital feedback such as the monome has rather than fixed interpretations. The breakthrough with the monome is a decouple protocol between key press data and lighting of leds. This allows software to make any interpretation imagined.

    The Manta is extremely promising, since it not only has leds under each touch plate like the Monome, it also has high resolution surface area information available. The processor in the Manta responds fast enough that it does a very good velocity computation based on the change in surface area when a finger hits it. It is extremely realistic. So I feel that the Manta has really three controls happening, pad press, pad velocity and per pad pressure (area). The pressure levels are @200 levels which is quite expressive. The expressivity of the Manta is really wonderful with gear such as analog synths etc.

    Eigenharp of course has quite a bit more. X,Y,Z at very high resolution. Although they still haven't implemented OSC which hampers integration with other environments at full resolution.

    I could imagine eigenlabs licensing their key technology, although I'm sure it would not be cost effective or possible until the software is open source. I'd like to see an Eigenharp that was a table top model like the monome. This would be ideal as a keyboard replacement for the studio or for electronic musicians that are working multiple pieces of kit at once.

    One more interesting controller, this time a multi-touch pressure plate. The Madrona soundplane. http://www.madronalabs.com/hardware Never seen or played one but the technology is interesting. The one drawback I've heard is that there is a lower resolution when distinguishing finger position on the plane which may not lend itself well to notes. Worth a look.

  • Emu

    Damn you Amazon! May the loggers make you barren!

  • http://abletonlife.com Ryan

    Roger Linn is a visionary, I'm happy to see him get involved in this revolution.

    -Ryan

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    The Novation Launchpad has a nice note distribution in the User1 mode. I has let me be much more creative when making melodies. I guess it's about time to let go the old black&white..

  • simon

    I think the Madrona site was slashd- ahem, CDM’d. :)

  • vinayk

    @bar|none:

    Does the eigenharp decouple the LEDs from the keypressess? I've seen it being used as a drum map – but from what I could tell it was more for just an indication of what note is being hit at a time?

    I have a Ztar – which lacks the "vibrato" axis that this prototype and the eigenharp has, ut does a good job of implementing it nearby via a ribbon controller operated with the same hand. The part I like most however is the very discernable keys on the that allow you to know where you are with your eyes closed, they are quite short, so sliding around is pretty easy, but again I lack the ability to do a violin like vibrato which this device is definately able to.

  • http://keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    @Roger Linn: Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to our comments!

    I think the valleys could work if the upper edges are rounded enough to easily slide your fingers across multiple squares. For me, sliding horizontally without any breaks or hiccups would be essential.

    The ability to slide vertically with crossfades would be less essential and more experimental, because it wouldn't mimic a known playing technique, though I'd imagine it might vaguely resemble doing something with harmonics or feedback.

  • Pingback: Apple iPod touch 8 GB | nossral.org

  • Damon

    I want one with the built in mustache and beard trimmer. A self cleaning ability would be nice as well.

  • http://www.cuckoo.no CUCKOO

    Nice concept! Great work! I'd be interested in something like this.

    That's so typical corporate to buy a company in order to shut down competition. It's not healthy for anything, it's just pure greed. It's like if Apple would decide to buy Intel and then shut down distribution of their processors to halt competition. I'm sure there are competing pressure multi touch technology around the planet somewhere that could be adjusted to work with this.

    I think multi touch musical instruments needs some physical feel to it, like blind writing or a physical grid or something – gently bump mapped into the surface – that you can feel when touching it that will help you navigate and adjust your fingers without looking at your fingers. Then this could become as fluent as a violin!

    Keep it up! Find a new touch partner and make version 1 of this thing!

  • Ronan

    Nice. But I'm not sure his reinvention of "polyphonic aftertouch" works without keys that move, and here's why:

    When I'm playing a chord on a piano, I need to play every key with the right loudness or it will sound muddled. I need to consistently hit a range of ~80dB ±3dB. That's actually quite easy on a real piano with weighted keys. But on a board where nothing moves, I cannot imagine that this is possible.

  • cobb

    yay! randy jones, what a super-hero. love the soundplane, can't wait to touch them.

    hey randy: howsabout releasing your wave-guide mesh code? i'd like my computer to create organic, nuanced percussion as well.

  • booml

    @Ronan:

    This is obviously not meant to replace the piano. It's another instrument, and as such it comes as no surprise to me that it works differently. I'll agree that high-precision velocity control seems unlikely on this, it makes up for it in other expressive abilities. I've always wanted to do vibrato on keyboards as he does for example :)

  • Yl

    hey Peter ..

    send them a link to this page ! they'll get it..

    and Roger..

    would there be 'microtonal'/acoustic properties implemented..(like in unfretted string instruments..) ?

    cuz I've been dreaming about a controller that'll allow me to 'glide' that way..

    the 'LaunchPad' allowed me to interact with notes in very intersting ways..

    and it was really a breath of fresh air for me..

    this is the future for computer expressiveness

    I really hope this manages to get into production

    sign me up for two!

    and btw .. what happened to the LDii project ?! was waiting on that..

  • http://sileary.com Si Leary

    This looks fantastic. There has been a steady flow of new, innovative instruments over the last few years. I hope it continues – traditional instrument design is not suited to modern computer based music performance.

    The vibrato looks amazing – a nice fusion of piano and guitar playing techniques.

    Its also great to see Roger posting in the comments and taking an interest in the community.

    Thanks guys :D

  • Yl

    ..also I like the concept of an instrument that can be played differently /set-up in different ways by different players.. (unlike the 'Manta' and the oh so Euro 'EigenHarp')

    not tied down to playing conventions and Technique

    nothing like a 'clean slate' for that !

    it leaves everything open.

    no 2 players will play this the same way.

    that's the exicting bit for me

  • Radiophobic
  • Charlie Lesoine

    All of these new instruments where you use your fingers to touch a flat surface in areas designated for specific pitches…there is only so much revolutionizing that can be achieved within these confines. Multitouch is great, but for me the drum and sound effect presets settings on the KORG kaossilator are far more "revolutionary" to the creation of new musical forms than any boring grid layout for choosing notes. All those glides, swells and vibratos that Roger is achieving could also be done with a standard keyboard layout on the same multitouch surface, which would be awesome. My point is I believe Multitouch WILL be revolutionary for all aspects of music creation, but inventing new grid type layouts for picking the notes you want to play, will not be what revolutionizes it, it will be the ability to articulate previously unavailable levels of expression as Roger is demonstrating. I would be FAR more interested to se his take on a multitouch surface for controlling rhythm i.e. a drum machine, with the same amount of nuance and expression capabilities as in the video.

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

    Randy, love your stuff.

    Isn't it funny that Gizmodo picks up on the 80s synth thing, struggling to come up with an angle they think will appeal to their mass-market tech gadget audience?

    I've actually heard readers say this here, but we have to find a blow their socks off sonically, somehow. ;)

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

    @Charlie: There's no reason, once you have the controller working, that you couldn't also set something up for alternative tuning maps, free tuning between positions, untuned percussion, whatever. I'm not sure this will work as well as a drum, because with a drum you want quicker impacts, not continuous pressure, but there are controllers built as percussion controllers.

  • Nesdnuma

    I think Stantum devices do not directly sense pressure but guess it through the surface of the fingers's blobs.

  • Charlie Lesoine

    @Peter

    For a drum machine I was thinking more along the lines of having a finger position dictate what rhythm is played, not actually tapping the rhythm. Each touch area/finger would be in control of a specific percussive sound. Think an arpeggiator for drum beats where moving your fingers on one axis would alter the beat and moving on other axises would alter velocity, pitch tuning, or any other aspect of the sound.

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

    Actually, I take that back — TouchCo had a demo of this used for percussion. So yes, that should be utterly doable.

  • http://rfieldin.appspot.com rrr00bb

    I just built this instrument for iPad – except it's heavy metal oriented, and it's waiting for approval from Apple. Here's an older video of it before I finally got the sound right:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN7sjPYz-aI

    :-) not sure if previous post was removed. de-duplicate me if necessary. cheers!

  • http://tagmagic.wordpress.com Jaime Munarriz

    Good playing on any instruments needs muscle tension. So the instrument must accept violent confrontation. Expressiveness needs muscle force.

  • http://madronalabs.com Randy Jones

    @kevin thanks for the TouchCo info. I gather there is no way to buy one of these anymore? Also, any idea what the sampling rate is? The resolution looks great, but at the kind of sampling rates needed for playing music would represent an incredible amount of bandwidth.

    @cobb there was really nothing too special about my waveguide mesh implementation. One could get similar results from Mesh2D in STK, which I think has been compiled as an MSP object by someone.

    @peter, In addition to the Soundplane instrument, I am working on something very exciting sonically that will actually come out as a VST / AU this summer. Mass appeal? dunno. But I like it…

  • Philippe LeSaux

    wow, fantastic!

    The only thing I could see as an improvement would be to adjust the attack of each note depending on how hard you hit it. At least when I play an instrument, I feel I get the most expression from the attack of the notes I play.

    But the vibrato is crazy cool! Some sort of physical edge, as you mentioned, would be monumental.

    I'm crazy excited to see where this goes, nice work Roger!

  • kevin

    @randy, the sampling rate is prreeettty high. i vaguelly recall seeing something like 2ms refresh rate in debug printing.

    they were doing some fancy tricks with the firmware too. to interface with the driver, you could either provide a callback function to handle new presses, or poll data every frame.

    with either method, the data you're getting is an array of touch structs, which meant that they were doing blob detection and touch point distinction in firmware before hitting usb. i'm sure that's at least part of how they kept the thing so responsive.

    re: using the touchco thing for drums — it totally made me want to sell my mpd. insanely expressive and intuitive.

  • Dave

    The working prototype looks intuitive enough .

    The Mock up looks way to much like the eigenharp's main body .

    Why would I compare this to an iPad ? After all it's a controller the other is a mutant netbook with awesome apps for music creation content .

    I think adding this and a few good ol' knobs would be great together .

    Any way you slice it … it's great to see Roger back in the game .

  • Stij

    @Randy Jones: That's awesome! thank you.

  • http://www.rogerlinndesign.com Roger Linn

    If any of you happen to be in San Francisco and attending SF Music Tech tomorrow (Monday), I'll be demoing the instrument during a panel discussion I'm moderating at 3:30. The panel also includes Ge Wang, Max Mathews, John Chowning and David Wessel, who are all brilliant minds in computer music.

    @ Randy Jones– it's a pleasure to virtually meet you. I had seen early videos of your multitouch design on the web but wasn't aware that you were making a production product. I saw your site and it looks great. If you don't mind, I'd like to add a link to our site on to my site's New Musical Instruments page. There are quite a few great products coming out; I hope interest in new musical instruments may be reaching the tipping point.

    Regarding the TouchCo surface, the unit I have samples at only 8 ms currently, so my velocity mode works OK but not great. They were working on speedup tricks when they were shut down. By the way, one of the best things about TouchCo's technology is their use of what they call "drone lines", which along with their interpolation algorithm provide 100+ points per inch resolution from a 6mm resolution scan matrix, making it very cheap to manufacture.

    @Kevin– It's nice to meet another person who has experience with the TouchCo technology. If you don't mind my asking, what were you doing with it? You're welcome respond offline if you'd prefer, using any address you find at http://www.rogerlinndesign.com.

  • J. Phoenix

    Ah, its moments like these that make CDM a must-read. Not only do you get great information, sometimes you can even watch some history being made on it.

    Best of luck on your project Roger! It will be interesting to see how this develops further!

    (oh, and er, while I'm here, as an aside to Peter & Roger–uh could we have a follow up on the LinnDrum II on CDM? Or is this project going to take precedence?)

  • http://www.keatshandwriting.com Keats' Handwrit

    I did my part. I was in Barnes and Noble today and there was this MONSTER display for B & N's Nook. The clerk asked me if I wanted a demo and I yelled at him that his silly turf wars were destroying the future of music and that he killed the father of the drum machine. He was speechless, probably thought I was crazy.

    Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure this is THE turning point for the Linnstrument. ;)

  • http://earsmack.com Earsmack Music

    As someone into alternate hardware controllers as well as enjoying the iPad's flexibility in creating new types of controllers and instruments I think this is a wonderful idea.

    I'm currently mainly a monomer but this looks like a really nice concept and something that could be extremely expressive. As an electronic musician I am always looking to expand on my ability to be as expressive as I can be.

    Thanks Roger – please continue down this path…

    http://earsmack.com/chipPadForiPad

  • cobalt

    I welcome this news. I was reading something by Schoenberg about how he felt that the new, electronic instruments of his time had too many technical flaws or were too difficult to play to be worth the trade off compared to acoustic instruments. (To be fair to acoustic instruments, Schoenberg had definite opinions about each of them in comparison to one another.) Anyway, some of the latest developments like this and the bassoon thing are pretty exciting from that standpoint.

  • Polite

    Awesome. If this comes out at the right price point, I will absolutely need to have one.

  • http://www.rogerlinndesign.com Roger Linn

    Thanks to all for your comments and encouraging words. To be candid, with 15,000+ hits on my YouTube video after posting it only late Friday night, plus new postings on Engadget and Gismodo, I'm a little overwhelmed. That said, I must respond to one post here:

    @Keats' Handwriting: Yours is my favorite post. I will never walk straight-faced into Barnes & Noble again. :)

  • http://twitter.com/mrtunes mr. tunes

    this concept is great! thanks for posting it. i have nothing to add to the conversation except for encouragement :)

  • Damon

    Roger Linn is on the boards. I'm star struck…

  • Damon

    ps.

    And I'm not kidding. I actually am star struck. I once met Alan Holdsworth, turned into a ghost and traveled to a distant country. He was standing there looking at my empty head like "dude (british accent), I'm over here." My friend had to get the autograph for me.

  • Damon

    PsPs.

    Sorry if I weirded out the room.

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  • David

    I loooove it.

    The render of the prototype looks dangerously close to the Eigenharp Pico though if you keep the mouthpiece. Might want to drop that as a standard feature before/if you go commercial (or get their approval if they're cool about it). Smooth note transition might not be that objectively distinguishing and there's no point it two innovators fighting over design copyrights.

    I fear an insane price tag.

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  • http://mediawestpost.com mediawest

    very cool. needs to be a bit more tactile. sort of so you can feel and dig into the interface, a silicon rubber capacitance type thing. also, it would be cool if there was a corresponding screen that would show you what you are hitting and how on the screen…..

    rubbery buttons kind of like what they were trying on the linn9000.

  • andrew zero

    as someone else stated i would prefer to be able to feel the different key areas. even some kind of removable vinyl grid to lay over the touch surface would be nice. dont forget us tactiles :)

    also would resizing the touch areas be possible with this kind of design? could i toggle between having 8 big touch areas and 128 small ones?

  • http://www.jordancolburn.com Jordan Colburn

    Great design! I also love the continuous pitch control compared to discrete buttons, but could there be some way of adding a touch feedback like a raised or indented setion. Kind of like the lines on 'f' and 'j' keyboard keys to help you keep your place. The asymetrical layout and discrete keys of a piano and the frets on a guitar help you find your place without having to look.

  • s ford

    @ Roger Linn

    You're a hero thank you for everything. The Leo Fender of the drum machine. Without the MPC some of my favourite music wouldn't be around, eg Premier, Shadow and Prefuse 73 to name a few.

    Once again man, thanks for everything and best of luck with ventures to come.

  • Ronan

    @booml: Actually, I think this applies to synths as well as pianos.

    When you listen to Roger, at 0:34-0:39 he is really struggling with the lack of loudness resolution, which creates quite a mess. Training will improve that somewhat, increasing the pressure resolution of the board will improve it as well. But nothing replaces the touch resolution against something that gives way.

    I'm hoping for an instrument that combines the 2-dimensionality of this with the haptics of the Continuum Fingerboard.

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  • alan

    how about linn & co don't get anything else covered until they put out the linndrumm2..how can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

  • http://www.sonicpal.com Ed Christensen

    A little late to comment but I have to do a little self-promotion as my controller is finally ready, and is quite similar in concept.

    http://www.sonicpalette.com

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  • Emu

    @Roger I did forget to mention that with a hex grid you can still slide between notes just as easily if you rotate the grid 90 degrees ;)

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  • http://www.PatternMusic.com RichardL@PatternMusi

    I had the pleasure of seeing Roger Linn perform on his pad today at a session on the future of musical instruments at the SF MusicTech Summit. Roger hosted a panel that included John Chowning, Max Mathews, Dave Wessel and Ge Wang. Sitting right next to me in the audience was Dave Smith, Don Buchla and Tom Oberheim. It was literally the synth hall of fame. I kept having to pinch myself.

    One thing that came up was the need for pressure and more expression. It will be interesting to see how that works out as it seems like the iPad and other devices based on similar technology will clearly drive the design of touch interfaces for the near term.

  • Brandon

    some of their stuff looks pretty good:

    http://infusionsystems.com/catalog/product_info.p

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  • Chad

    Just wanted to reiterate someone's previous comment about hexagonal vs grid-based layouts. As both a guitarist (grid-based) and accordionist (hexagonal, in the left hand), both have their advantages, but I suspect that hexagonal has more advantages overall. Tactile ridges and such notwithstanding, I'd love to see a device that supports both formats.

    More on hexagonal layouts:

    http://www.c-thru-music.com/cgi/?page=layout

    Single-finger triggering an entire triad is *so* nice:

    http://www.c-thru-music.com/images/chord_shapes.g

    iPad apps with hexagonal keyboards: HaKeypad and Hex OSC Full.

  • Steve Elbows

    Im obsessed with these sorts of things, even though Ive never taken the time to learn any traditional instrument properly.

    I love the flexibility of the Lemur, but as Ive mentioned before Im not very impressed by their multi-touch technology, although it may have improved for all I know.

    I look forward to getting an ipad in just over a week to see what it can do.

    I have the Eigenharp Pico. Its hard for me to overstate how amazing the keys are, its the only thing that has made me realise quite what I am missing out on using controllers that dont detect velocity/pitch at all or very well, especially as I never learnt a traditional instrument well enough to understand how expressive a good instrument can be. I dont find myself using the x/y wiggling anywhere near as much as I thought I might, although thats partly due to frustrations with their software and what software instruments I am trying to control with it. The potential of the hardware is not close to being fully tapped by software yet, not least because of a lack of soft instruments that can handle note-independant pitch etc.

    So right now the perfect thing for me would be a big grid of eigenharp keys, or even keys that didnt do y. Some visual feedback would be a nice bonus and would open up some interesting possibilities but is not essential. I imagine cost of manufacture is not easy to keep a lid on when so many separate physical controllers are involved, but Im not getting my hopes up that any pressure-sensitive multitouch surfaces will come close to matching the eigenharp stuff when it comes to sensitivity.

    In the meantime I may try nailing the Eigenharp & ipad to a plank of wood & seeing if I can get any mileage from having one hand do pressure sensitive stuff and the other one multitouch in the ipad way.

    Good luck and warm wishes to anyone involved with this stuff, exciting but frustrating times indeed, so near and yet so far.

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  • http://www.madronalabs.com/ Brian Willoughby

    @Roger Linn

    Please do add a link to the Soundplane A on your site, and thank you so much for the offer and interest. The NIME community can only benefit from more awareness.

    For my part, I've been deep into the process of designing the analog circuits, DSP hardware and firmware necessary for the product, so it's nice to poke my head up for a moment and see interest on this site, as well as to hear about other engineers trying new things and inspiring ideas.

  • eZe

    It looks very much like a modern, touch version of c-thru music AXIS. Which have aweful keys and overall design form the 80's.

    Anyway, the Axis design makes more sens. PLEASE use the harmonic table. This Roger Linn prototype with the harmonic table layout would be a must buy for me.

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  • Jack

    hey Roger

    you are headed in the right direction!

    you have my support and i will buy one for sure

    synths have been evolving at light speed but instruments and controllers for them have been growing at a snails pace

    i really like the ingird design

    it would be really nice to allow for any tuning one desires though

    i would tune mine diatonically with rows of fifths or fourths

    then load up some nice just intonations for omnisphere

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