Steinway Model D. Photo courtesy Steinway & Sons.

These piano breakthroughs changed music forever

Yesterday was Piano Day – a day recently christened by composer/pianist Nils Frahm in order to celebrate that ubiquitous keyboard instrument. (It’s held on the eighty-eighth day of the year.) There are concerts, marathons, project, releases – and unlike Record Store Day, this event won’t clog the ability to produce piano music. With that day as inspiration, I thought it was a good moment to look at some of the technology of and around the piano, to understand what has made this instrument special. That includes both strictly acoustic innovations as well as design features and breakthroughs that either inspired …

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loopsite

Ableton Does an Event: Loop to be “Summit for Music Makers”

They moved from one flagship software product to adding one piece of flagship hardware. Now there’s a flagship event, too. It’s called “Loop,” and it will be held 30 October – 1 November in Ableton’s headquarter city of Berlin. It’s clearly in part a summit for the Ableton Live community. But just as their recent book covered the creative process rather than Live per se, the event is pitched a convergence of creativity and technology generally. It’s not just talks or demos, either. The event organizers are combining hands-on workshops and invites educators. There’s also a collaboration with CTM Festival …

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applead

For Apple, Music Making is For Everybody: New Holiday Ad

We face a challenge in the music technology community. Underlined by a century in which music creation was seen by some as the privilege of a few, in the studio world, and mass music was about records and radio, people might claim music making is niche. It’s seen by those onlookers as the domain of specialists, techies – a weird overlap of superstars and nerds. But some of us believe that musical expression as as essential as singing, and the tools matter just as much. You don’t see much music technology in Apple’s latest ad. I think it might be …

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Watch a Short Film on the Play Between Musicians and Instruments, Design and Technology

From Rush to the classical clarinet to rethinking the keyboard interface, a lovely new film by Michael Shane explores the relationship between music and technology, and the philosophy behind new musical inventions. Two New York-based characters figure prominently in that investigation. There’s Martin Yee, the drum tech, who talks about humans and drums. (Sadly, we don’t get into the question of acoustic technology – that’s something I hope to cover in upcoming reports, both in transforming and augmenting the drum kit, and re-designing the acoustic piano.) Then, there’s the ubiquitous keyboardist Jordan Rudess, whom I think puts on one of …

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Tools and Music Production, as Explained Unwittingly by Chefs

The center of the macular portion of your eye is called the fovea; it’s the portion of your retina that most nearly represents what you’re looking at directly. I adopted from my father the phrase “thinking off the fovea.” It means tackling a problem not by focusing directly on it, but what’s at the periphery. And in any creative question, that can be a great tool for harnessing different ways of thinking. In music production, it’s doubly true: by necessity, working on music production can take large amounts of time and effort, and the more effort you spend, the further …

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cdmstories

2011 in Review: CDM’s Top 30 Most Popular Stories – The Envelope, Or Analytics, Please!

2011 has seen sweeping changes in technology and music, alongside the loss of titans Max Mathews and Tsutomu Katoh, two pioneers of our world. Some of these stories passed quietly; some with great fanfare. Here, we reveal those stories that attracted the greatest number of Internet eyeballs, a metric not necessarily of importance but certainly of what reached the widest audience on this site. And there are definite trends: a hunger for mobile, both the explosive growth of iOS and tablets, but also a resurgent interest in MIDI (not to give away the end) and a desire by owners of …

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PC120612

A Reader in Electronic Dance Music’s History and Creation, Now Available

I had the pleasure this year of working on a book that draws from over 30 years of coverage of Electronic Dance Music’s evolution. Collecting pages primarily from Keyboard, with additional content from Remix, we retrace the relationship of machines and music, technology and movement, in producing the sounds to which people dance. It’s impossible to be encyclopedic in such an endeavor, but part of what I enjoyed about working on the project was getting to see through the eyes of the artists. You hear them talk in astounding detail about how they actual craft what they make. They curse …

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Celemony Unveils New Plug-in Tech That Goes Beyond Audio Signal and Control

Integrated Melodyne pitch correction in PreSonus’ Studio One is made more interesting by the technology behind it. Celemony this week describes a new technology they call ARA, or “Audio Random Access.” The notion is this: rather than just receiving or generating audio signal, the plug-in gets access to audio data. That means you can actually write a plug-in that rewrites the audio content in a recorded DAW track, as Melodyne does in Studio One. As developer Celemony describes it, “ARA opens an additional channel of communication through which the DAW and plug-in can exchange information about the audio file, tempo, …

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plekstation_1

The Machine-Augmented Luthier: Robots Helping Make Guitars at Plek Technology

We focus primarily on new machines and technology that make music directly, but of course, these tools make instruments that make music, too. Having seen an image of a guitar string vibrating from German firm Plek A+D Gitarrentechnologie earlier this week, reader Brian Turley observes that the work that company is doing is impressive. We’re not necessarily talking mass-manufactured, machine-made guitars, either. The device in this case augments more traditional techniques, and can be put in the hands of an expert luthier. Plek’s technique scans guitar necks in multiple dimensions, creates a virtual fretboard in which you can adjust frets, …

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gibsontuning

Auto-Tune for Guitars Doesn’t Have to be Like Auto-Tune for Vocals; The Digital Guitar Future?

Auto-Tuning a guitar is coming, say Antares. But if that seems frightening, it may be worth a closer look. Photo of the (classic) guitar (CC-BY) John W. Tuggle. A new tool could be for the expressive, not just the lazy. That’s the read of Auto-Tune for guitar, and it makes me excited to see what people will do with it. It could be the advent of the true digital guitar. Antares teased their efforts to bring Auto-Tune technology to guitars earlier this month, having gotten as far as working proof-of concept. (See Harmony Central’s exclusive video above, and Axetopia, Synthtopia.) …

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