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Roger Linn is largely to blame for the fact that so many instruments have grids of pads on them. He was the first to use custom touch-sensitive drum pads on drum machines as we now know them, and the rectangular arrays of pads – first on the Linn9000, but particularly on Akai’s break-out hit, the 4×4 MPC60 – became an iconic and popular interface. But now, he has a design that might change the way you think about grids.

The problem is, input methods for digital instruments are still famously limited. Our computers themselves can produce astounding ranges of sound, but our physical connection to those vast realms is primitive. Pitch wheels and aftertouch are clumsy hacks for the absence of greater pitch control on keyboards. Grids have the same problem; some, like the influential monome, lack velocity entirely. Musicians have found ways of being virtuosic within those constraints, but that doesn’t eliminate the desire for something other than a big panel full of on/off buttons. Certain musical ideas require more of a gesture.

The Linnstrument is something Roger has been teasing for a while, but now, it’s nearing a finished form. I got a chance to try one out with Roger at Moogfest. Here’s the scoop on what the Linnstrument should offer.

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25 x 8 layout. The first clever twist is the grid itself. Like devices such as Ableton’s Push, the grid can be mapped to pitch layouts. But by extending the horizontal to 25 spaces, you can easily reach the octave of a keyboard – even with the Linnstrument’s horizontal access mapped to chromatic steps. (That is, you get two octaves, plus one, which can also map to a 24-fret guitar.

For more portability, Roger is pondering a 16 x 8 version that more easily fits in a backpack for mobile musicians (and should be available at a lower price). That still retains the octave layout, which repeated eight times should give at least complete one-handed musical possibilities. With 25 x 8, you can play with two hands – either as a split or playing two different registers.

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Expressive touch. The banner feature here is the ability to get not only velocity, but other expression out of your contact with the pads. You can slide your finger along a row of spaces for continuous control, as on something like the Haken Continuum. You can coax delicate pitch bends or timbral changes with nuances of your finger. And you can do all of this with a single gesture, as you would on another instrument, rather than disconnecting the expression with an additional controller (as a ribbon or pitch/mod wheel does).

By default, pitch is mapped on the x-axis; y-axis control is timbre. (This could be remapped if you like.) Crucially, though the sensing is independent for each axis and each pad. (You’ll want to use a host that has channel-per-note capability; Apple’s own Logic Pro X is one such example and what Roger used in the demo.)

Beneath the hood, Roger has built his own (patent-pending) technique for using force-sensing resistors for the job. Roger says he’s still working on tuning the defaults, but already the results feel terrific. My only gripe is that the silicon overlay, while it works well, is a bit sticky if your primary application is continuous pitch – at least compared to the fabric on the Haken Continuum. You don’t get the depth of pressure on the Continuum, either. But the Linnstrument is on balance far more practical: more portable and affordable by an enormous margin, and also more competent when trying to find discrete pitches, thanks to the added tactile feedback of the grid.

And the grid here shines: it’s like having eight Continuums stacked on top of one another (or, put another way, like folding a piano keyboard in on itself so it can take up less space).

Roger at his creation. Photo courtesy Roger Linn Designs.

Roger at his creation. Photo courtesy Roger Linn Designs.

Various pitch mappings. Pitch is a focus, too. In addition to chromatic mappings on the horizontal and fourths on the vertical, you can try options like guitar tunings – and the Linnstrument will dutifully send out the correct pitch values via MIDI.

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Connectivity. MIDI over USB is an option, but so, too, is MIDI DIN for standalone operation without a computer. There are also jacks for pedal inputs. Roger has passed on including OSC (OpenSoundControl) – cue protests on that from OSC advocates.

Incredibly, even with all these superbright LEDs, the whole device can be run off USB bus power.

Quick access to performance presets. The default mode is already hugely useful, but there are loads of additional options, too. They’re being hashed out now in firmware – Roger said the panels pictured here are preliminary, and he’s already adjusted the feature set. But you get push-button access to various options as you play.

You can adjust lighting feedback, performance sensitivity (to pressure and velocity), and bend range, for instance. With RGB lights under each of the 200 pads, you can independently set color values both for primary and secondary states. There are octave controls – even with this many buttons – and customizable presets. You can also set up splits, especially useful as it divides the large Linnstrument into, say, 12 and 13 (or at any other split point you like — 8 and 17, etc.).

For more advanced control, there are options for strumming and trilling and sending specialized control messages. We didn’t get to delve into these too deeply, but it’s clear this is an instrument dedicated to providing a range of playing techniques.

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Playing it as an instrument. Form factor is a big part of what makes the Linnstrument compelling to play. The metal frame keeps it steady as a desktop instrument – and the smaller version should fit snugly into live rigs – but there are also unique options once you add the strap. Roger modeled some of these, including holding the device against the chest and playing it in a posture similar to what you’d use with a washboard. I’m resistant to tacked-on wood as superficial in some cases, but here, it’s functional: the rounded wooden edges mean you can comfortably rest the instrument against your legs.

Looking to the future. I’m keen to see the Linnstrument completed and shipping. There may even be options for customization and hacking: Roger says the entire platform is Arduino-compatible. He hasn’t committed yet to opening up the firmware, but there’s a chance that could happen. I could imagine intrepid hackers augmenting the instrumental modes with pages for controlling Ableton Live, for instance, or building standalone step sequencers to exploit those MIDI ports. As with Push, you could toggle between instrumental and control modes.

But all in all, the Linnstrument could finally be a controller that rivals the ubiquitous MIDI keyboard for versatility. It won’t come cheap – those custom sensors aren’t inexpensive to manufacture. But it seems we can expect something in the more accessible MacBook Air price range, rather than the “small used car” price point of boutique devices like the Continuum.

Stay tuned here to see how this pans out. And Roger, I really do want one.

Rivals. The Linnstrument is, of course, one of many would-be solutions to expressive input, too numerous to mention. Of those, several commercial offerings stand out. The Haken Continuum I mention above as there were some particular points of reference to compare.

Another good comparison, as noted in comments, is the Eigenharp. Those, two, offer discrete control on each key. The differing actuation mechanisms yield different playing styles, however: the Eigenharp uses separate keys, whereas the force-sensing resistors on the Linnstrument make it practical to treat the entire surface of the grid continuously. The Eigenharp adds a breath pipe to that equation, which the Linnstrument lacks – but then, as seen below, you also have different playing positions when you hold the instrument.

In that sense, it’s best to think of these as distinct instruments with their own playing styles. The Linnstrument has two clear advantages over the Eigenharp, though: Linn’s device works as a standalone controller, and RGB LEDs provide more visual feedback.

In addition, there’s the Madrona Labs Soundplane by Randy Jones. While the Linnstrument is still just a prototype, a 30-unit run of Soundplanes is due later this week – the Model A for $1,895. And this device appeared specifically in the Amon Tobin video we saw recently. As with the Linnstrument, the underlying technology is force sensing, fundamentally. But the Soundplane uses capacitive force sensing rather than the Linnstrument’s Force Sensing Resistor (FSR) technology. Both systems are patented, and both systems sense force and X and Y position for three-dimensional input. This differentiates them from devices like the iPad, which uses capacitive touch but is incapable of measuring force.

The major claim of the Soundplane is accuracy and speed. Its communication is USB only – no MIDI. And it has a beautiful wooden body and surface, whereas the Linnstrument looks like a more conventional drum controller. The smaller Linnstrument, though, does afford some different playing styles and greater portability than the Model A. The big question to me is which is more expressive to play, and whether the Madrona piece offers substantially greater precision. For now, you can’t buy a Linnstrument, but when it’s available a shoot-out almost seems in order.

The Roli Seaboard is another recent option. It’s in the form factor of an upright instrument, piano style, and even shares piano-like key layout. But it can be played continuously, and pressing into the foam adds expression and pitch bend with tactile feedback. My only issue with it was, I felt like I was playing a mattress pad, and the stickiness of the surface made it less comfortable than the Continuum or Linnstrument. I had little desire to play it, but maybe others felt differently?

http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/preview-linnstrument.html [now partially outdated, but the principle is sound]

http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/

This hardware was far more refined, but here’s a playlist of performances (and one presentation) of the instrument from earlier:

Updated: This story now includes a couple of clarifications and corrections. Most notably, I was incorrect in saying Roger Linn didn’t invent the drum pad – as far as touch-sensitive pads as we now know them on drum machines, he did. That actually could be an entirely separate story. Also, I’ve clarified the description of some of the device’s functions.

  • dhjdhj

    What about a comparison with the Eigenharp?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Good point, added to the article – and see the discussion below.

  • Nathanaël

    I have an Eigenharp Pico and I have to say this looks very tempting. The biggest drawback of the pico is that you can’t use it standalone, you need a computer. With all the nice synths on tablets now plugging a device directly to an ipad to jam would be wonderful (similar to the qunexus)
    The eigenharps are very nice instruments but getting up and running isn’t the smoothest experience there is….

    Pretty eager to see more video demos of this, especially with more percussive sounds…

  • Anders

    Hey, one should not forget the awesome Soundplane from Madronalabs
    Smaller than both the Haken and the Linninstrument + it has OSC
    http://madronalabs.com/hardware
    I find it a little bit strange that the Soundplane was not mentioned in the article actually.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I was focused mainly on the Linnstrument; I added a little bit at the bottom on the rivals in this category. Roger had previously mentioned Madrona.

    • Rob Fielding

      Where did information about what *kind* of MIDI Linnstrument has come from? (Specifically, note-per-channel – a *very* good thing if it’s true – as long as there is a trend to fix synths to finally handle this properly). Is there anything detailed that we can read?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Heh, no, this is still a design getting finished – full documentation isn’t there yet. ;) But yes, it is definitely note per channel if you desire that.

    • GovernorSilver

      Does it really send 14-bit MIDI messages/NRPN? Some people here seem to be assuming that.

      And does it send polyphonic aftertouch?

    • Samuele Cornell

      The ROLI Seaboard too looks interesting , even if it comes in the more traditional keyboard factor …is there any chance to have a review of it here ?

  • nesnduma

    This ubiquituous grid+LED meme is becoming the plague of the 2010s. But the worst choice is to drop OSC in favor of MIDI. As long as controllers will stick to this 7-bits antique standard, they will remain short-term tech gadgets instead of becoming long-term instruments. Let’s see if the price and the “options for hacking” make it stand in the crowd.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Look at the size of the squares. Do you need greater resolution for each of those spaces, for each of your ten fingers, in each of three dimensions? Maybe, but I’m not convinced you do.

      At the very least, while there are many, many arguments against MIDI, I’m not sure *longevity* is a category in which OSC beats MIDI. Isn’t the whole point that the long-term protocol has remained MIDI – for better or for worse? (And, as I say, there’s plenty to say in the “for worse” category.)

      And, as Roger pointed out, it was his meme in 1984 (minus the LEDs, but that’s practically just decoration). So, if you want to blame the plague on someone, we’ve got your man.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      actually, we had Roger and Dave together in the same room quite a bit, so you’ve got both your culprits. ;)

    • nesnduma

      I have nothing to say about the square’s size, the point is about the squares themselves. Since the introduction of Live and its hardware heirs, it seems that squares have become the sole paradigm for controllers. Continuous interfaces are really more interesting than those packs of squares. Actually I hadn’t realized this new version of the Linnstrument was continuous, which preserves the spirit of the previous prototype using a touch screen technology but I’d love it even more if the squares could disappear. As some people commented, Madrona Lab’s Soundplane has this continuous spirit but yes the price tag might not be the same.

      OSC vs MIDI: It’s strange to see that every aspect of computer music has evolved quite a lot since 1982 except the MIDI, which is really not up to the task for sensitive control. The main drawback of OSC is the latency and unreliability of wi-fi communications. Serial ports have proven to be suitable interfaces for OSC too so I see no reason not to develop OSC-over-USB. Moreoever this doesn’t prevent parallel OSC and MIDI communications (see what Lemur and TouchOSC programs offer).

    • xora.dghs67-c

      kontinuous kontrollers lead 2 terr!ble masturbatory wank muzak.

      ikk++

    • Rob Fielding

      discrete ones keep you from doing that? :-)

    • wetterberg

      You’re right, the squares of the Linnstrument don’t exist on the Soundplane.
      …on the Soundplane they’re rectangles. Completely different.

    • nesnduma

      :-)

    • Rob Fielding

      On soundplane, fingers need to be a wholetone or more apart to be distinguishable; so basic gestures like trill EFEFEF don’t work right. Other than that, soundplane is actually pretty good competition.

    • Devin Mooers

      Randy Jones mentioned a while back that he was working on getting adjacent touches working in the Soundplane software – I might chip in to that effort since I just put in a pre-order for one, and seems like a tough problem but very worth the effort to solve.

    • Rob Fielding

      OSC is just a trivial packet syntax. In order to really work right, OSC protocol definitions need to be designed to handle packet loss. Given that, you can use UDP packets and avoid the latency and jitter that a TCP transport would give you. The only problem with tunneling OSC over MIDI is that it would give the OSC packets a ridiculous bloated encoding; while still being totally incompatible with both existing OSC synths like SuperCollider/ChucK, etc, and also with existing MIDI.

      It’s a very hard corner to be painted to. I am overjoyed to see that it’s Dave Smith who is now faced with this problem; as I think it is now impossible to ignore the problem and hope that everybody wants to keep playing keyboard controllers.

    • nesnduma

      Why would you want to “tunnel” OSC over MIDI ?

    • Rob Fielding

      because people want to use the MIDI wire for transporting things that aren’t MIDI data at all.

      since OSC is just a simple remote procedure call format, it’s really common to have the client inject a synthesizer script into the head of the synth, and that script interprets OSC packets thereafter. (Think about how SuperCollider works – inject an entire sequencer definition into synth and you only send messages to change control on the synth rather than sending every note to it). MIDI on the other hand actually requires both sides to agree to a hard coded definition of what messages exist; and if you want to play 1000 notes, that’s at least 1000 messages.

    • nesnduma

      I certainely do not want to use MIDI wire to transport OSC messages. You could transport OSC over USB without using MIDI.

      I understand that OSC might lack some normalization when it comes to the function of the messages but I prefer this to the normalizes messages used in MIDI, much too restrictive and corresponding to really old musical aesthetics (seems that the MMA has never heard about any music built from units different than notes – many currents of 20th century music, from both oral and written traditions).

    • Rob Fielding

      Actually… Audiobus was tunneling audio packets over MIDI in the first prototypes. The problem was that it was the wire connected A to B and A wanted to send B audio. If Apple had denied Audiobus for the technique it now uses, I’m certain that Audiobus would tunnel over MIDI if that was approved instead.

      Trust me, nobody wants it. :-) It’s a horrible idea demanded by constrained situations. This is why MIDI is so twisted now. MIDI HD better fix the escape hatches for when this kind of thing has to happen.

    • Nathanaël

      Also MIDI can easily transmit 14 bit messages…

    • nesnduma

      That’s the theory from the MMA. You won’t find so much hardware able to use 14 bit messages and not so much software able to receive it neither.

    • Nathanaël

      Well the same is true for OSC ;)

    • nesnduma

      That’s right therefore I choose the system with highest resolution.

    • Rob Fielding

      The problem is what exists in practice. Send 0×90 messages, and it’s 100% certain to work. Send bend messages, and it usually works. Most stuff assumes that there is only 1 midi channel. Just about nothing respects any of the various tuning specs (which don’t work right for fretless instruments anyhow).

      It isn’t what’s in the MIDI spec that causes it to work. It’s what’s in the critical path to the getting the simplest possible scenario (keyboards) that determines what works in practice; because people just get it to work with piano keyboards and ship it. As an example of this principle, imagine that MIDI was frequency rather than note oriented, and took streams of messages of the form: (finger, freq, amplitude, timbre1, timbre2) …. and when the stream of those stops, the amplitude goes to 0. In this scenario, all piano controllers figure out the note pitch for themselves. It just happens to be that the simplest possible thing that will make a piano controller work, necessarily *has* to work correctly for guitar. There is nothing to miss in this scenario. No bend messages, no timbre updates, no stuck notes in any scenario, etc.

    • GovernorSilver

      14-bit messages is in the MIDI spec but we don’t know if Linn implemented it here. I tried asking Peter elsewhere in this comment section – let’s see if he answers my question.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      So yes, as confirmed in the separate story – 14-bit pitch bend messages.

      That’s a standard pitch bend message, so everything responds to it. Now they may not easily allow note-per-channel, though; that’s the challenge. But that’s a separate issue.

    • gbevin

      Sadly almost nothing responds to 14-bit MIDI. The Eigenharp sends it, but I yet have to find any software synth that can properly leverage it.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      14-bit pitch bend. ;)

      That’s why Roger is sending the pitch information using standard bend messages – every MIDI instrument that responds to pitch bend responds to the 14-bit standard already specified for it. Solved. ;)

    • gbevin

      Only if they implement voice-per-channel MIDI (VPC), since otherwise the 14-bit will only be used globally and not for per-note expression. Still this only gives you one axis (pitch), while the LinnStrument has three expression axis independently for each key. It’s practically not possible nowadays to just use MIDI and get the expressive resolution out of any device with per-note expression. If synths would support VPC and 14-bit MIDI CC then things would be a bit better, but currently VPC is very scarce and 14-bit CC even scarcer.

    • Robin Parmar

      256 increments is nowhere near enough, even for a small square. This limit should not exist in any next-gen product. I like everything else about this product.

  • dhjdhj

    Getting the Eigenharp to be actually usable for my needs was an absolute headache until someone (two years after I bought it) created a mechanism where the Eigenharp just produces raw OSC data that can be sent to another application via UDP. Once you’ve got that you can use a tool like Max to process the raw OSC data to do anything you want in an environment that’s much easier to understand without a deep programming background. I’ve been on tour with that environment and it’s rock solid. Below is a link to a recent tour where I’m using an Eigenharp to produce pads, power guitar chords and a bagpipe solo (yeah, how many songs are there with that combo -:)

    http://youtu.be/DjOCaL-rmOM

    • Nathanaël

      I’m a programmer myself, but the point is that when I come home and want to play I don’t want to deal with something complicated. I actually bought a clarinet to fix this problem :) I think Eigenlabs made a big mistake not to support a more simple MIDI mode out of the box. Sadly with the current state of the software and the fact they don’t really have programmers anymore I don’t see it getting better. Open sourcing helped a little bit but things are still pretty slow.

    • dhjdhj

      I felt the same way. However, if anyone is interested, I made the basic objects that receive OSC data from an Eigenharp into Max available through a website called max4eigenharp,com. I haven’t done anything with it lately but the objects there should work. Although I haven’t tested it, it should be possible to minorly modify them so that they will work with Max4Live, which I think would be attractive for the Ableton Live community

    • Nathanaël

      Thanks for this ! I’ll have a look. I did a fingerer for the pico in max a while back but it would be easier using theses !

    • Rob Fielding

      The problem with MIDI is that you have to make the correct/simple tradeoff. It’s either ridiculously wrong in the presence of very common things that happen on string instruments all the time, or the MIDI setup is very baroque because MIDI doesn’t have a standardized capabilities negotiation. In MIDI, I think it’s safe to say that the only message that you can rely on is 0×90 message, and *sort* of the bend message. Everything else is highly variable in a way that is specifically problematic for instruments that are not a box of notes that get bent up or down by a pitch wheel. Even the presence of multiple channels in an instrument isn’t universal.

      (A guitar is really a fretless instrument that snaps to nearest fret, and is full of multiple copies of exact same note, notes not multiples of 100 cents apart, and all kinds of stuff the defies the whole MIDI world view). Go play a state of the art MIDI guitar some time. MIDI just does not work on a single channel for these kinds of controllers; and must be channel per string at the very least to be playable at all.

    • gbevin

      There is a simple MIDI mode out of the box, just load the appropriate setup. What I think you’re talking about though is that you want it without a computer, with everything built in. That was simply not possible for many reasons, that I think you’re very well aware of.

    • Nathanaël

      That’s true, I think my expectations were higher. I still think it’s an incredible instrument. The feeling and responsiveness of the keys is fantastic.
      I’m also grateful for all the MIDI work you have done it does make things much easier. I’m still sad about the subscription model. I’d love to play with workbench and especially the fingerer, but 250$ for 6 months of upgrade (where we pretty much know there won’t be an update within 6 months) is steep in my opinion.

    • gbevin

      FYI, there’s soon going to be news about that. John, Mark and I have been working on ways to make all this better for every Eigenharp player and the community.

    • Nathanaël

      Nice to hear !

    • Mister PIckle

      Wow, I never realized an Eigenharp looks so cool in the dark!

      I love the Eigenharp concept – but it seems to have *sooo* much flexibility that I’m pretty sure I’d never get anywhere with actually using it for music. I’ve got a Yamaha EZ-EG – it’s no Eigenharp, but it’s really, really simple.

    • gbevin

      dhjdhj, it would be cool if you would better qualify your statements. You wanted to do things outside of the Eigenharp world and customize it in ways that were not intended even though the MIDI output was already far beyond was anything other controller allows. Then Eigenlabs (not ‘someone’), with me and Jim doing the work, gave you eventually OSC output and later control also over the lights. You would have had similar problems with any other controller when not using the built-in mechanisms. The LinnStrument is not going to be supporting OSC out of the box, even though there might possibly be ways to build a custom firmware yourself. That is not going to be much different than what you went through with the Eigenharp.

    • dhjdhj

      Geert, not sure what you want qualified. I continue to believe that the Eigenharp controller is THE premier controller available. I also continue to believe that it is not suitable for those who are not strong software developers nor those who do not view the Eigenharp as the center of the universe.

      You are absolutely correct that I wanted to do things that were not originally intended. Any good marketer will tell you that a GREAT measure of the potential for success of any product is people wanting to use it beyond its original designers’ goals. The MIDI capabilities would still have not allowed me to do the kinds of processing that I’m able to do with OSC and would have still required me to do EigenD stuff. I don’t WANT to have to use TWO software environments to get my (musical) work done.

      The addition of OSC meant that I could load EigenD (really quickly) and then completely forget about it. I apologize that I could not remember at the time of posting who exactly implemented it (hence “someone”) so glad you told everyone it was you!

      I don’t know why you keep commenting about my being the only customer asking for the capability. Frankly some would call it forward thinking! Even in this small discussion, someone else has already commented that the Eigenharp (but really EigenD) is too complicated. I maintain my position that if Eigenlaps provided support for Max (and in particular Max4Live) out of the box, they could sell a shitload of instruments to the Ableton Live community.

      Now, to be really blunt, I have no real interest in the LinnStrument as I don’t see how it could come close to the Eigenharp controller as an expressive instrument. My original question was really an excuse to introduce the Eigenharp into the conversation, because, as I said, I’m one of its biggest fans. But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished!

      I’m a strong advocate for the Eigenharp. The publicity and brochure photos for our band feature it. We often get standing ovations when it gets used in a song. I even put together a website so that others who wanted to try and use the Eigenharp with Max could do so. I’m not getting paid for doing such things.

      Why is it necessary to beat me up for being honest about its strengths and weaknesses?

    • gbevin

      I don’t beat you up for that, I just stated that it would be nice to be correct about the factual history when saying what happened, who did what and in which context.

      Fact of the matter is that you bought a product in its early adopter phase that didn’t do what you wanted, asked for changes that only you contacted us about, had to wait, and eventually what you wanted was developed for you by the company that already had its resources several stretched (not just ‘someone’, nor me, Eigenlabs, they paid for the time). It’s cool to consider of yourself that you’re forward thinking regarding the Max integration, but maybe not everyone agrees on that, still you got your wish granted.

      Not being paid for putting your Max objects out there is besides the point, really. I haven’t been paid for Eigenharp work for a long time and still continue to advocate, travel, speak and develop the software further. Likewise for Mark, Jim, Antonio, Duncan and many others.

      You know the market is super small and that there’s always a ton of things that could be done better. Resources are in general very scarce, certainly in the current economic context. Most companies that I know of would just have let you hanging dry and not add what was needed for you to do things entirely different from what the intended design was.

    • dhjdhj

      Actually, as an early adopter of what was (still is) an extremely expensive instrument, I think it actually was to be expected to get that kind of support, never mind having to pay extra to stay up to date with the software. From my perspective, it was astonishing that OSC (say) wasn’t there from the very beginning. Early adopters tend to know more, not less, about the potential of whatever it is they’re early adopting :-)

      The market is not that small and I think that the Eigenharp (particularly the Pico) could have been much more successful if it was trivial to integrate with Ableton Live (and now Bigwig, Propellerhead, etc)

    • gbevin

      Well, none of the other ‘expensive’ electronic instruments provide that level of support. The Soundplane for instance still doesn’t work on Windows at all, let alone any other changes that people are asking for, which is normal since the resources are also too thinly stretched. The price is not indicative of any entitlement, you paid for the quality received, in a similar way that any high quality instrument does so. We’ve had this discussion before and you know that the Eigenharp is sold with very small margins, it just costs that much to make. Sure, you asked for OSC from the very beginning, and after several years, you’re still the only one using it that I know of even though most Eigenharp players are quite technically skilled.

      Yes, the market is small for that price range. Most people that want a controller for Live, Reason, Bitwig don’t want to pay $700 for 18 keys, 1 strip, 1 breath pipe and 4 switches and Eigenlabs can’t make the Pico much cheaper. Everyone that I talked to finds $100 already a lot for their controller needs in this segment of the market.

  • GovernorSilver

    Can you confirm whether or not Linnstrument transmits polyphonic aftertouch?

  • dbell

    You also might enjoy the z-tar; they’ve been doing “grid type” musical instruments for decades now, albeit styled as guitars.They have a new version w/mult-colored LEDs under the buttons that’s apparently designed to work with Ableton.

    • GovernorSilver

      Z-tars are great but you cannot slide from key to key for continuous control like you can on Linnstrument (as Peter claims).

    • Alessandro Automageddon

      Rather than the z-tar I’d look at the Misa Tri-Bass, cheaper, can slide and can control 4 channels…

    • disqus_ZYLCpRQBGX

      the Misa Tri-Bass just uses synth glide functions to slide, it’s not a continuous control. I was one of the first people to receive a Misa Kitara and found the owner of the company to be really difficult, he ended up shutting down the Misa forums because people wanted to take its functionality further and it conflicted with his own views of how people should use his instrument. He ghosted for a year or so promising a Kitara v2 then released a 3 string bass that had none of the complexity of the original and a completely cosmetic headstock…

      I ended up buying the z-tar that dbell mentioned and haven’t looked back, the fingerboard generally feels a lot more comfortable to play and is more customizable than I could ever need (including as many channels as you want). I sometimes miss the touchscreen of the Kitara but even with that I had to put the CCs and pitchbends through smoothing algorithms to sound convincing since they step in 5 or so increments depending on the axis… Also if you don’t want your screen to be red or blue you’re screwed.

  • Casimir Crunch

    Why is it that none of these designs include 12-hour rechargeable batteries and wireless transmission? They have tantalizing pictures of guitar straps and playing from a standing position, but… tethered by a USB or midi cable?

    • griotspeak

      Latency is the big issue with wifi controllers, I think. Cutting down on latency would probably mean lower accuracy since you would have to cut down on validation of the everything coming in.

  • angstrom

    You say it’s more affordable than the Continuum, but do we know what the cost of this will be? I’m guessing : what I can afford + 100%

  • interested

    we need video!

  • Matthew Battaglia

    To me personally it all comes down to price, practicality, and availability.. The greatest potential soundplane or eiganharp music or performances will probably never happen due to price and availability. In my opinion, (practical) instrument design it’s all about finding the balance of quality, usefulness, and reasonable availability. Guitar is a great modern example of this, whereas something like piano, always felt like an instrument for the elite and privileged, because of it’s extravagent design.

  • raytube

    It was really cool getting to see him demo it at Moogfest!

  • gbevin

    For those interested, here’s the video recording of Roger’s entire talk at Moogfest:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74H91iPZp7U

  • Devin Mooers

    Soundplane is available for orders now. Just put in my pre-order – I’m hoping it will be flexible enough to replace my 88-key master keyboard which is a behemoth of a monster on my desk, and pales in comparison to the expressive potential the Soundplane. After reading this article I’m also quite curious to see how the Linnstrument turns out. I do miss the hex key layout option of some earlier prototype photos but I’m guessing that was just one too many features to build in. It’s an exciting time for some fresh non-keyboard controller options! Interesting to hear all the opinions on MIDI vs. OSC. Per-voice control seems critically important for these kinds of controllers, for getting any real kind of expression out of them. To that end, I’m working on my own GPU-based physical modeling synth that will handle per-voice pitch/timbre/etc. Aalto handles that already, I’m pretty sure (provided you’ve got a Soundplane), and I bet Kaivo does too.