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These are the Best Things at Musikmesse: CDM Best of Show Awards

What a week it’s been. Musikmesse in Frankfurt, one of the world’s largest gatherings of the music instruments industry, was host to a range of new gear, new technologies, and new revelations. I decided it’s finally time to crown my own picks as the most significant appearances at the show. Not because I have any particular right to do so, but I felt strongly enough about who was deserving. First, some honorable mentions:

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html5drummachine

808 Site Found: Five Drum Machines Now Live In Your Browser

It’s finally happened. The 808 is now a tab in your browser. And it’s brought friends. Sure, they’re called “hip hop, house, electro, techno, and acoustic” but – you’re not fooling anyone. (Least of all because some of those genres use the other machines.) That’s an acoustic kit, plus the Roland TR-808 and TR-909, Elektron Machinedrum, and Roger Linn’s Linndrum. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen drum machines emulated in a browser. But coding for the rich Web, and browsers in general, have each gotten a lot better, so the experience has improved. And, crucially, this isn’t just a …

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808movie

On the Eve of New 808 Film, Techno’s Roots Matter More Than Ever [Videos]

If rock music had the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster, hip hop and dance music have the TR-808. And if its sound seems sometimes overly familiar, even that is in some sense a hat-tip (pardon the pun) to its enduring ubiquity. Now, the Roland TR-808 gets its own full-length documentary, told primarily through the eyes of the people who repurposed its idiosyncratic sound to spin new musical genres and start a revolution. The film features extensive input from Arthur Baker, who acts as a centerpiece for the movie. Baker was the producer behind Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock,’ a record …

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microdrum

Robert Henke’s Free MicroDrum Will Take You Back to the 80s

Cue Huey Lewis and the News singing “Back in Time,” because we’re going back to the 80s. And where we’re going, we don’t need … stereo. Robert Henke (who has of late mostly shed the Monolake moniker) has a brilliant new Max for Live drum machine that borrows some of the limitations of vintage 80s drum machines. There’s a particular nod to drum machine pioneer Roger Linn (credited as such). But this isn’t just 80s nostalgia. MicroDrum’s restrictions, sound, and use of ideas from that hardware can bring new creative possibilities. Features: Zoom in on samples to 10 ms and …

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iMPC Pro Developing Fast, Shows Why Drum Machines Could be Essential on iPad

The sampling drum machine may have been born as hardware – as the Linn 9000 and MPC – but it’s looking perfectly at home on the iPad. And competition is heating up. In many ways, MPC/Linn-style workflows fit the touch tablet perfectly. They emphasize quick sampling and manipulation, with simple editing (in a minimum of taps). They keep sounds organized spatially – thank that 4×4 grid – rather than a complicated, mixer-style layout. Speed and immediacy win out, which is perfect for mobile. Mobile developer Retronyms is documenting progress as they go on the iMPC Pro for iPad, due out …

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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 …

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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 …

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Roger Linn’s Linnstrument Could Finally Make Grids Expressive for Music [Hands On]

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, …

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Oh, hello. That's not a Windows Phone.

Putting the PC in MPC: The Next Akai Drum Machine, Numark DJ Products, on Windows Embedded

The dedicated drum machine is at a crossroads. Computer hybrids are simply capable of more than dedicated hardware – and that, in turn, has changed user expectations. You can go retro, as analog machines have done. You can go small, as boxes like the volca beats and upcoming Akai Rhythm Wolf do. You can stay the course, as Elektron does with their boxes. You can go hybrid, as Native Instruments’ Maschine, Arturia’s Spark, and Akai’s Renaissance and MPC Fly do. Or, there’s one other option. You could put the soul of a computer – and the touchscreen interface – in …

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Photo (CC-BY-NC-ND) Magic Trax.

Loe Pesci Sings Love Song to MPC60; MPC Complains It Doesn’t Get Enough Love [Video]

Loe Pesci loves his sampler. No, really loves his sampler. (Video omits any NSFW parts, though; you only see smoking in bad afterward.) Lyrics in this number are — well, complex. It seems there was more sampling going on early in the relationship. That didn’t stop AKAI from sharing the video, even if there is a brief glimpse of Ableton. The music: http://www.OGHinduKush.bandcamp.com http://www.AGLisAGoodLook.com Montreal-based Loe Pesci also surely deserves credit for working “12-bit sampling engine” into a rap. That’s some nerdcore action, right there. A forum posted complains that they wish the tune were more serious, apparently because love …

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