Steinberg Update: Studio Case II; HALion String Edition; The Grand 2

Okay, I’m behind on Steinberg. But the summer lineup from them is just making me yawn, I’m afraid: Steinberg Studio Case II: Status: just announced. US$299, Windows/Mac September, watered-down versions of everything Steinberg makes. For entry level users, this could be a decent deal: Reason, by comparison, costs $450 and has a lousy sequencer and no audio recording. Ableton Live costs around $400 and doesn’t have as many instruments. But there’s nothing here to write home about: stripped-down versions of everything? Spend the extra couple of hundred bucks and get what you really need. HALion String Edition: Status: just started …

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The Violin That Plays Itself

“The dream of a violin that can play itself has tantalized inventors for over a century.” Well . . . mad scientist inventors, maybe, along with dreams of self-cleaning carrots and ironing boards that can go into battle. Nonetheless, here it is: I give you the Gulbransen Virtuoso Violin, a QRS Pianomation Player Violin. Put on a violin piece, and it sounds like the violin is really there — because it is. Ain’t no digital samples here, just a MIDI-controlled bow hacking away at a real violin. List price, $20,000, but for some reason it’s at a fire sale bargain-basement …

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Rope and Sound: Tensegrity as Musical Instrument [Updated]

Rope and Sound is an installation that uses rope tension to control sound. Pull on a cord, and the change in tension triggers electronic thuds and mellow chimes. The trick is conductive fibers braided into the rope; as the tension changes, the conduction of the rope changes, as well. I got a chance to try out the installation at New York’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The show is up through October 30 and well worth a visit if you’re passing through town. The installation is beautiful and the concept brilliant, but the sound aspect was somewhat disappointing. The sounds themselves …

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String Thing: “Fretless” Cello-like Music Controller

Ben Dove’s String Thing is a cello-like instrument with four metal bars that can be struck or stroked. Like a fretless instrument, pitch is continuous. Building String Thing: Laser Pointers and Vibrating Rods: What’s great about the String Thing is two-fold: first, it’s an ingenious design, and second, Ben rigorously documents how he did it, including some false starts. The steel rods are a “stroke” of genius: using magnets, the rods “vibrate” as you play them for physical feedback, while a sophisticated combination of laser pointers and webcams calculate your finger position. There’s plenty of expressive control, as well, though …

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