Notes: Finally, a controller that unlocks the expressive potential of electronic sound generation! … Read more
The promise of electronic sound generation was to produce any instrument sound you can imagine. However, if you've ever tried to play a convincing guitar, sax, violin, clarinet or cello solo on a MIDI keyboard, you've found it to sound static and lifeless because keyboards can't do much more than turn sounds on and off at different volumes. LinnStrument takes a new approach, capturing each finger's subtle movements in three dimensions for simultaneous fine control of note expression, pitch and timbre. With this level of expressive control, the promise of electronic sound generation is finally a reality.
In short, LinnStrument is an expressive alternative to the MIDI keyboard controller. It does not generate any sounds but rather sends standard MIDI messages over its MIDI or USB jacks to any MIDI sound generator or software. But that's where the similarity ends. Unlike a MIDI keyboard's simple on/off switches, LinnStrument's patent-pending multi-touch technology captures three dimensions of each finger's movement, polyphonically, for a far greater degree of musical expression than can be achieved on a MIDI keyboard. In addition to providing standard strike velocity, typically finger pressure (Z axis) is used to vary note loudness, finger left-right (X axis) movement is used to vary pitch, and finger forward-backward (Y axis) movement is used to vary timbre.
Also unlike a MIDI keyboard, LinnStrument's notes are arranged not as on a piano, but rather like any stringed instrument, with multiple rows (strings) consisting of 2 octaves of semitones each. The rows can be tuned as a guitar, in fifths as a violin or cello, in fourths (as shown in the picture at left), or any interval you like. To make it easy to find the right notes, the naturals (C, D, E, F, G, A and B) are lit, with all the C notes lit in a different color, though you can alternatively light any scale or accent notes you choose, and in any of six colors: red, green, blue, cyan, magenta or yellow.
With LinnStrument's 3-dimensional control, you'll find little use for envelope generators or LFOs because your finger movements do a better job of controlling a note's envelope, vibrato, pitch slides, tremolo, bends, timbral changes and other musical gestures, just like on acoustic instruments. All this adds up to an electronic instrument with expressive control approaching that of fine acoustic instruments, allowing you to develop subtle musical gestures and a personal playing style, just as great musicians have done in past on acoustic instruments.
If you believe your MIDI keyboard's on/off switches are a good human interface for performing music, try playing an authentic sax, violin, cello, clarinet, guitar, pedal steel or harmonica solo on it. The problem is that on/off switches aren't very good at doing much more than turning something on or off. Think about it. Current MIDI keyboards and controllers consist of little more than switches, knobs and sliders, elements designed for computer data entry, not music. Musicians today face a tough choice: embrace the technical advantages but poor expression of MIDI keyboards and controllers, or choose the excellent expression of an acoustic instrument but poor connectivity to the computer. We offer a third choice.
The problem with a piano's note layout is that the notes aren't uniformly spaced or positioned, so sliding from one note to another requires a variety of cumbersome slide distances and directions depending on which notes you're sliding between. Had we used a piano note layout, performing a whole note bend (a common occurrence on guitar) would require one of four different movements depending on where you're bending to and from. And sliding up an octave from C to C would result in a series of uneven pitch jumps. And because some bends require a diagonal movement, changing the Y-axis position would also change the note's timbre.
Fortunately stringed instruments don't have these limitations because the notes on each string are uniformly spaced. Bending pitch from one note to another is a constant distance and direction regardless of where you're bending to or from. So we chose to arrange the notes as on any stringed instrument: multiple rows of evenly-spaced semitones, which happens to be a grid. There's no need for Bend or Mod wheels. If you want to bend a note from C to D, simply slide your finger from C to D then wiggle it for vibrato.
By the way, there's another advantage to the string/grid note arrangement: if you want to transpose a chord or scale to a different key, simply slide your hand left or right. Compare this to a piano keyboard, which requires that you learn a different chord or scale fingering for each of 12 musical keys.