A new ROLI instrument wants to make expressive control mainstream

We are all slaves to the piano. Two or three centuries after the instrument rose to dominance, and well over a half century after it became intertwined with the synthesizer (hello Minimoog!), it’s still something of a challenge to work out some alternative. And I love the piano. One of my great frustrations with some advocates of expressive new interfaces is their disregard for my favorite instrument. But let’s look at it this way: we’ve got beef. Beef is fantastic. We still really ought to have some chicken, some duck, and some vegan options. The formula for solving this in …


Wave Your Hands or Draw to Make Sounds, with OWOW – Kickstarter Deadline Approaches

“Instead of going to music school, I studied design.” Wiggle, wob, drum, pads, and scan are new gestural instruments that seek to cut the distance between an idea, making a move with your body, and a sound. Think you could draw a doodle that expresses a sound? Wish you could just air-drum in that percussion line? Easier to wave your hand to describe a noise? These modular components let you do just that. OWOW, the startup behind it, is nearing a funding goal on Kickstarter – but it’s not quite there, five days until the deadline. So now is the …


Inside the 18€ Lunchbox Synthesizer Kit with Unit Unlikely

18€ buys you this lunchbox-style synthesizer kit – and it’s just the thing to put together on your lunch break. Unit Unlikely is a hardware startup working with simple parts to make accessible, fun instruments. And its founder joins our resident Dutch design expert to talk about what it’s like diving into the synth business for the first time – and where he might go. It all continues our series from Eindhoven, NL. From the edge of the Netherlands’ slick design scene, industrial designer and music technologist Arvid Jense joins CDM for a series of interviews with Eindhoven Music Startups. …


Mold Sound with Tingle, a Music Controller That Looks Like Pin Art

It looks like Pin Art or Pinscreens – those moldable frames full of pins popularized in the 80s. But the result is something that lets you dig your hands into sound and musical structures in new ways. It looks expressive and, let’s be honest, really fun. (For the research minded, there’s also a NIME report below.) From the edge of the Netherlands’ slick design scene, industrial designer and music technologist Arvid Jense joins CDM for a series of interviews with Eindhoven Music Startups. Here’s his encounter with Nupky. Eindhoven Music Startups: Nupky Rhys Duindam is a graduated Industrial Designer from …


Hand Pan Percussion, Reimagined as Futuristic Musical Instrument

It looks either like a hand pan (if you know your percussion instruments) or a flying saucer sitting in someone’s lap. But Oval is actually a digital instrument, a physical object that connects to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and then produces any sound you want. It’s also emblematic of how the scene in alternative instrumental controllers have changed. A few short years ago, something like this most likely would have seen a one-off prototype. Its natural habitat would be an academic conference (hello, NIME). Maybe you’d see it onstage, maybe you’d read about it. Nowadays, things are different. Just …


Watch A Candy and Rubber Duck Synth and Animation Visualize Music

Sometimes, the best ideas come from raw imagination. The Knuckle Visualizer is the work of a Korean animation house. It doesn’t actually produce sound. The only functioning part of the hardware you see here is a USB cable that powers an LED lamp. But there are fascinating ideas here. And, actually, you could build this. We can often get stuck in our repetitive music world and forget what’s possible. So let’s watch the animators run wild with our sounds. Rubber ducks and toy nesting dolls and and jelly beans make up the controls. Buchla-styled colored patch cords are actually organized …


Watch the Wonders of Grids, as monome Makers Defend Minimal Design

As electronic musical instruments have evolved, it’s been surprisingly easy to point to specific designs that lead others. Creators do often reach the same cluster of ideas at about the same time. But the specifics of how those ideas catch on have very often coalesced around one iconic instrument. Bill Hemsath’s layout, with Bob Moog, for the Minimoog became the standard for monosynth keyboards with knobs. Roger Linn’s design for velocity-sensitive pads, and eventually the MPC 4×4 grid, became the standard for drum machines. And Brian Crabtree and Kelli Cain I think deserve credit for making the 8×8 grid the …


How MIDI Works on the Linnstrument, or “Sometimes 14 Bits is Enough”

“How can an instrument be truly expressive if it only supports MIDI?” This seemed to be a frequently-asked question in our coverage of the upcoming Roger Linn Linnstrument. While OSC certainly has its merits, however, it is possible to get higher-resolution data via MIDI. You’re likely most familiar with MIDI’s standard 0-127 values, or the 7-bit data, as used in simple Control Change messages. A 14-bit message, by contrast, gives you over 16,000 levels of resolution – most for most tasks. The way the Linnstrument works is to send that higher-resolution data for pitch, via standard pitch bend messages. And …


Watch a Haken Continuum Rival String Instruments for Expression

Enough of cheesy MIDI keyboards faking instruments. Yes, it looks embarrassing. Here’s something entirely different. On the subject of the Haken Continuum, a single, touch-sensitive, continuous-pitch instrumental controller, we can see in a video just how expressive it can be. The Continuum Fingerboard consists of a large, soft playing surface. Press in with your fingers, and three-dimensional sensing responds in pitch and timbre. The range is even greater than an 88-key keyboard in the full-sized model; an optional stand holds it steady (and would look at home on the deck of a Klingon warbird). The instrument, full of carefully-crafted custom …


Video Teaser: Lemur on iPad About to Get Way More Awesome

Yeah, yeah, fake knobs and faders. A video teaser reveals what Lemur developer Liine is about to announce, and … whoa. Via Dr. Nick at Liine on Vine. As always, we’ll be on top of it. (Actually, not always. This time, we’ll be on top of it. Check in some time in the next 24 hours or so, I’m guessing.)