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MPE: What it is, why it matters #3008262 09/16/19 03:26 PM
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Dr Mike Metlay Offline OP
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Hi, someone in KC mentioned the Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4 and wondered a bit about it. Beyond giving him a few quick answers, I wanted to focus attention to it on this forum, because the most important thing to note about the KBP4 is that it is not, strictly speaking, a keyboard... it only looks like one. I'll be getting into that in a separate thread, but before I do...

For those of you who aren't familiar with MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression), it's a relatively new standard that was added to the MIDI spec about a year ago, after it had been implemented "under the table" by a variety of manufacturers who consulted on best practices and then presented their debugged standard to the MMA, which approved it in due course.

Here are the basics:

MPE is based around the idea that every note a person plays should have completely independent control of pitch bend and timbral nuance, in real time. So every note you play not only has the ability to have its own velocity and release velocity (common on all keyboards these days), and pressure sensitivity (polyphonic aftertouch, which is rare but making a comeback), but also its own pitch bend and second timbral adjustment, usually filter cutoff or modulation wheel sorts of things.

MPE adds this support for per-note bends and modulation to the existing MIDI Spec without creating any new types of MIDI messages. Instead, it lets the user specify a MIDI Channel range for the destination instrument, and within that range, there's an intelligent note priority/stealing scheme. Since each note gets its own channel as it's played, ordinary bend and CC messages can be used to affect just that note. Usually Channel 1 is for global control, and 2-16 are assigned to notes, allowing for up to 15 notes of polyphony and trails before stealing occurs, which is plenty for a spec that's designed primarily to be played live with ten fingers rather than sequenced to death. razz
Naturally, the channel range can be limited for instruments with lower polyphony, say 2-9 for eight voices or 2-5 for four.

Implementation on the receiving side is up to the manufacturer; it's actually not that difficult to do, and we are seeing a small but growing number of instruments adding MPE support as a simple switch that can be flipped in the MIDI settings.

At KnobCon, I heard a lot of buzz about major synth builders being urged to add MPE under the hood, and some rumblings that we'll start to see it in software updates and future releases. On the software side, the MPE support list is exploding across all platforms: macOS, Windows, iOS, and even Android apps are adding it all the time. Roger Linn's MPE Recommended Sounds Page is a reasonably comprehensive list that's frequently updated.

That covers the language itself. Next post, I'll get into how things are handled on the controller side of things, and talk about MPE vs. non-MPE vs. "not really MPE".

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3008263 09/16/19 03:28 PM
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On the controller side, we must differentiate between non-MPE (conventional MIDI), the grey area that Roger Linn calls "Expressive 1-Channel" and other folks call "pseudo-MPE" or "limited MPE" (which actually isn't MPE at all), and full MPE with varying degrees of implementation. Some examples:

A conventional MIDI synthesizer keyboard is non-MPE. You'll have velocity and release velocity per key, but pitch bend and all MIDI CCs are global, as is the Channel Pressure sent from the sensor that runs across the entire keybed.

Some MIDI synths implement elements of MPE-like behavior. The most obvious example is any synthesizer that can send Key Pressure messages (polyphonic aftertouch) for each key, with bend and mod/CC remaining global, although one could also argue for features like the Chroma Polaris' ability to bend one note while holding others steady.

The Yamaha CS-80 is famed for its polypressure capability and the great nuance it lent to playing, which led Yamaha to spearhead its inclusion in the nascent MIDI spec in 1982. However, expense in hardware design and the sheer bandwidth of Key Pressure data over the very slow 5-pin DIN MIDI lines led to its near-extinction in the years after its brief and promising introduction at the dawn of MIDI. Many years later, high-speed MIDI over USB and modern sensor/keybed fabrication methods have allowed for the return of Key Pressure in a variety of forms; for many players, this level of individual note control is plenty (hell, it's already too much for most folks!).
The new HydraSynth is a synth of this type, as is ROLI's new LUMI modular keyboard. They have polyphonic aftertouch but all other controls are global.

An MPE-compliant controller specifically speaks the MPE "language" in MIDI, even if the physical device itself doesn't send all possible types of MPE data. One can think of each "key" as a velocity/release velocity/pressure sensitive joystick, with left/right movement for pitch bends and up/down movement for modulation (usually defaulting to CC 74, filter cutoff, but easily routable to other things).

It's important to differentiate between these types of controllers, as once you understand the differences between them, you can peel away a lot of hype and quickly get to what a controller can or cannot do.

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3008267 09/16/19 03:54 PM
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MPE controllers vary widely in their design approach; there is no conventional practice for them. That means the field is open for all kinds of odd beasts. The one thing they have in common is that every finger you place on the instrument can transmit its own note pitch, velocity, release velocity, pressure, horizontal movement (nearly always bend), and vertical movement (modulation).

The list is growing every year, but several of the designs are now very well established. That's because they were implementing MPE-like behavior for years before the actual standard was developed and approved; this kind of playing technique has been desirable for decades, and has only recently become practical. Bob Moog was famous for his experiments in this direction, even though they didn't come to fruition in his time, and Roger Linn has been a huge proponent of it in recent years.

The grand old man of MPE is Lippold Haken's Continuum Fingerboard, which has been around for over 20 years and has an enormously powerful onboard synth as well as the ability to act as a controller. Its surface is made of textured silicone and is smooth to the touch and very springy and responsive. You can slide notes for long high-resolution bends, move fingers up and down for nuance, and press every point on the surface with differing amounts of pressure. It's quite expensive, because the surface and its supporting hardware are work-of-art precise, but it has a lot of proponents and even its own annual conference "ContinuuCon".

Probably the next-best established is Roger Linn's LinnStrument, which is designed on the model of a guitar fretboard. It's an isomorphic grid controller, meaning the spaces between keys are the same and scales and chord shapes don't change from key to key. Roger just sold his 2000th LinnStrument and the rise of MPE is making it much more popular now; it's fully capable of long bends as well as very expressive play. The main thing to note here is that the vertical travel for modulation on each key is VERY small, so it's best assigned to parameters that create tiny difference in nuance from small finger movements rather than "grand gestures" best suited to long vertical movements that would be natural on a piano key.

The most famous MPE controllers are the ROLI Seaboards. That's because ROLI doubled down on its support of MPE with a huge advertising campaign and widespread placement at retailers (including the Apple Store). The Seabord has a textured rubberized surface with a very spongy feel, and a traditional piano key layout in the shape of the surface to give the fingers a reference point when playing. Long bends are done by sliding the finger to a horizontal strip above or below the "keywaves", and there are some very good ROLI software instruments that have great sounds as well as good visualization of what the MPE surface is doing. The preset-only version of Equator for Mac and PC, and the Seaboard 5D app for iOS, are free of charge and very handy on any MPE device, not just a Seaboard.

The near-mythical unicorn of MPE is the Eigenharp, a handmade MPE controller developed in the UK by John Lambert nearly 20 years ago (it's nearly as old as the Continuum). Meant to be played like a cello or worn like a guitar, the Eigenharp hooks up to a powerful external brain, and its matrix of keys are literal finger-sensitive pressure joysticks... all 144 or whatever of them. It's made out of beautiful woods (you can even get one with ebony keys), and the level of precision and power makes it fabulously costly... but the people who play them swear by them, as the programmable capabilities of each key go way beyond what MPE can do.

Keith McMillen Instruments has finally released the K-Board Pro 4, a 4-octave MPE controller based on a piano key layout. It supports all dimensions of MPE control on its non-moving keys, but pitch bends are limited to vibrato on a single key, it can't do long pitch bends between keys.

The Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 is a unique approach to affordable MPE. It's based on the fretboard of a guitar but can be played with a variety of techniques, and is portable and very affordable and easy to set up on a Mac, PC, or iOS device thanks to a companion app that's fairly simple and well-designed. It's not a complete MPE device, as there's no vertical movement for modulation, but all other dimensions of MPE are implemented.

MPE is a big selling point for several of the new USB control surfaces coming onto the market, most notably the Sensel Morph and the Joué.

And I am sure there are others as well, but that's a good starting point.

To quote David Byrne before the intermission in Stop Making Sense, "Any questions?"

mike


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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3008366 09/17/19 01:11 AM
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Great write up, thank you. I have contacted Audio Modeling hoping that they would develop an IOS vers of their SWAM engine which they are planning on doing. Then the question will be which controller. At present I’m leaning more towards Roli or Hydrasynth.

Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: gd1] #3008488 09/17/19 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by gd1
Great write up, thank you. I have contacted Audio Modeling hoping that they would develop an IOS vers of their SWAM engine which they are planning on doing. Then the question will be which controller. At present I’m leaning more towards Roli or Hydrasynth.


They are very different beasts! If at all possible, try them and see what your gut tells you: the interface between the human and the electronics is the most right-brain part of the whole deal. (And the left brain will note that certain controllers will give you more or less of the features you want...)

If you have specific questions, please ask. It's what I'm here for.

mike


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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3008777 09/19/19 08:29 PM
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I appreciate this resource; I utilized very little MIDI (or, really, computers at all) with my stage and studio work until I bought a Seaboard -- now it's a major part of my setup, and I love it, but it's been quite a learning curve.

I do wish ROLI would bridge the gap a bit between their bedroom producer/hobbyist iOS apps and their more professional desktop synthesizers. I wound up with a Macbook and Mainstage in my live rig because their Noise and Seaboard 5D apps are such inflexible, MIDI-proof demo versions of Equator, even though I fell in love with using the Seaboard to control third-party iOS apps like the Minimoog Model D and VOLT. Either way, making the most of the Seaboard's MPE while still using it to control more "standard" MIDI sounds has been a challenging (though rewarding) experience.


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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: samuelblupowitz] #3008886 09/20/19 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by samuelblupowitz
I appreciate this resource; I utilized very little MIDI (or, really, computers at all) with my stage and studio work until I bought a Seaboard -- now it's a major part of my setup, and I love it, but it's been quite a learning curve.

I do wish ROLI would bridge the gap a bit between their bedroom producer/hobbyist iOS apps and their more professional desktop synthesizers. I wound up with a Macbook and Mainstage in my live rig because their Noise and Seaboard 5D apps are such inflexible, MIDI-proof demo versions of Equator, even though I fell in love with using the Seaboard to control third-party iOS apps like the Minimoog Model D and VOLT. Either way, making the most of the Seaboard's MPE while still using it to control more "standard" MIDI sounds has been a challenging (though rewarding) experience.


ROLI has a very split-personality approach to this stuff. You either have to be a total noob who doesn't want to program anything at all, or a pro... or better yet, someone who can code in C. idk Their own "tools for novices to configure their own Lightpads" don't even work properly, and they show no sign of wanting to fix them.

I am getting a pair of Lumi keyboards on the Kickstarter because they look like they'll be completely stupid, which is what I want... but I am not a fan of ROLI in general, and tend to be very cautious around their products. Good for you for getting into MPE, but don't be surprised if you outgrow the Seaboard at some point. grin

mike


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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3009039 09/22/19 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
I am getting a pair of Lumi keyboards on the Kickstarter because they look like they'll be completely stupid, which is what I want... but I am not a fan of ROLI in general, and tend to be very cautious around their products. Good for you for getting into MPE, but don't be surprised if you outgrow the Seaboard at some point. grin
I got one of the LUMI boards myself — I may or may not outgrow the Seaboard, as you say, but regardless of my software frustrations I adore playing the thing. It was a semi-practical purchase since I wanted to do pitch bend and modulation on synth lines while my hands and feet were all occupied doing other things, but it’s lent itself to so much more than that for me.

That said, I realized there are certain “typical” keyboard gestures that are a lot more difficult on it, so the LUMI seemed like a logical way to keep up the “small-footprint Bluetooth MIDI controller” situation, but play glockenspiel parts and synth arpeggios in tune. Plus, you know, flashing lights and stuff.


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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: samuelblupowitz] #3009608 09/25/19 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by samuelblupowitz
I got one of the LUMI boards myself — I may or may not outgrow the Seaboard, as you say, but regardless of my software frustrations I adore playing the thing. It was a semi-practical purchase since I wanted to do pitch bend and modulation on synth lines while my hands and feet were all occupied doing other things, but it’s lent itself to so much more than that for me.

That said, I realized there are certain “typical” keyboard gestures that are a lot more difficult on it, so the LUMI seemed like a logical way to keep up the “small-footprint Bluetooth MIDI controller” situation, but play glockenspiel parts and synth arpeggios in tune. Plus, you know, flashing lights and stuff.


Oh, the pretty lights were what sold me. Gotta have them pretty lights. You didn't say what kind of Seaboard you have; if it's a RISE, that's one thing, but if it's a Block, you could connect the LUMI to it seamlessly, allowing for some fairly interesting splits...


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3009823 09/26/19 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
You didn't say what kind of Seaboard you have; if it's a RISE, that's one thing, but if it's a Block, you could connect the LUMI to it seamlessly, allowing for some fairly interesting splits...
Yup, it's a Block, and I'm very curious to see how I like them as a Frankensteined half-synth-action, half-Seaboard controller. But given the L-shaped layout of most of my live rigs, two separate two-octave controllers will be equally handy.


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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3018455 12/04/19 08:04 PM
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And I'm reviving this thread because of the Expressive E Osmose keyboard, which is garnering a lot of attention for its much more familiar keybed combined with an enormously powerful synth engine. The guys at Expressive E are very good at what they do, and if they get this beastie out the door in quantity, I think a fair number of Seaboard players might jump ship. Some will have adapted to the unique stuff a Seaboard can do, of course, but for people wanting something more traditional, the Osmose is going to fire off a lot of happy neurons.

mike

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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3018463 12/04/19 08:29 PM
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Reprinted from part of a thread on the Osmose in KC:

I wrote about it:

Four months ago, I'd have been yelling and screaming and hauling out my credit card. But I've used literally every MPE controller ever built, and owned most of them, and after many months of work (years for the controllers that pre-date MPE), I've figured out what works and doesn't work for me... and I am dubious about whether this one will click with my needs. I predict that they'll sell a lot to academic types who can't afford $4000 for a Continuum and find the ContinuuMini too limiting but want to get into EaganMatrix heavily, and a fair number to hipsters who always need the newest cool controller for their YouTube videos. Gigging keyboardists will have to try it for themselves and see if it clicks.

To which Tusker asked what happened four months ago?, and I answered:

Four months ago, I was in the middle of a pretty drastic period of self-searching and woodshedding, trying to figure out if any of the existing MPE controllers out there was going to do the job for me. The K-Board Pro 4 had just arrived, and I was already doing extensive work with (deep breath here) the ContinuuMini, Joué, Sensel Morph, LinnStrument, Seaboard RISE, Seaboard Block, Lightpad Block, and Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1, not to mention the huge number of not-quite-MPE controllers I was also evaluating, everything from the Push 2 and Launchpad Pro to the Irijule TheoryBoard and (in a very limited way) the Syntonovo PopAnalog.

Not only did I have to learn how each of these controllers worked, but then I had to determine how they did what they did, what their strengths and limitations were, whether any of the limitations were nonstarters (either in general or for me particularly), how their capabilities mapped to musical expression, and finally and most importantly of all... which of them went past pleasing my left brain with feature sets and implementation, wormed their way into my right brain, and pulled me all the way through the mire and out the other side, effectively becoming "invisible" to the creative process and encouraging music that was relatively free of technical fiddling.

If the Osmose had been announced then, I would have gleefully chucked all of them and taken out a deposit on an Osmose, effectively stifling my MPE explorations for the year it would take for the instrument to arrive and necessitating a deep dive into my ContinuuMini to really get a grasp of EaganMatrix - which, to be honest, is about as much fun to work with as an assembly-language debugger. There's no guarantee that the Osmose would be what I wanted or needed, and I would have squandered a vital opportunity to really learn about this stuff... and in the process, about myself as a musician. As it is, I was comfortable with my eventual choice of a primary MPE controller, noted one or two others with very notable strengths of one sort or another that were worth keeping around if only for limited applications, and was in the process of finding good homes for the rest of them when the Osmose was announced. As previously mentioned, I was able to look at the Osmose in an objective and cool-headed manner and avoid instantly shelling out for it in the hope that it would magically solve my issues with performance.

(This also means that I now have several MPE controllers up for sale; that's not to say they aren't great, because all of them are in some way or another, but more to say that they aren't my particular cup of tea. Someone else will probably get great use for them, and I plan to list them in the Garage Sale thread soon, as well as on Reverb.)

And that brings us up to speed. If people are interested in learning about any of the controllers I mention above, I will happily write about their particulars here. I have my likes and dislikes and that will probably show in my writing, so don't take what I say as immediate gospel. grin

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3021568 01/01/20 01:42 AM
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Thanks Mike, would enjoying reading your likes and dislikes. Lots happening - there is also hydrasynth plus whatever behringer does.

I’ve read mentions of technique, mostly “do I have time to learn new technique.” Maybe learning something completely different (like LinnStrument) is better than risking funny gestures leaking into piano technique. Parts of MPE seem benign - advanced pianism requires finger independence to bring out inner voices. I mostly wonder about the other wiggly stuff vs. efficient playing. Thoughts?

I hope osmose works out so I can buy the x-thousandth unit down the road (and happily pay full price at that point vs getting a unit from the first batches).

Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3025343 01/23/20 05:53 PM
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I'm going to chime back in too; I've been interested in your opinions of the ROLI gear and others, so I will encourage you to talk a little more about what bugs you (or what you like) about the ROLI stuff compared to some of the others.


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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3025538 01/24/20 05:04 PM
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Happy to!

A few notes from NAMM will be in my NAMM thread (which has required the creation of a surprising amount of infrastructure that I wasn't anticipating, but which will make future shitposts -- I mean, constructive contributions -- much easier), but a few things worth mentioning now:

I will talk at length about what I learned at the rollout demo of MIDI 2.0 that was open to the press in another forum. It has significant advantages over 1.0 without obsoleting the old tech, and there's a lot happening in the MPE world.

Originally Posted by piano56
Thanks Mike, would enjoying reading your likes and dislikes. Lots happening - there is also hydrasynth plus whatever behringer does.


The Hydrasynth is not MPE, it's old-skool MIDI 1.0, using MIDI Key Pressure (aka Polyphonic Aftertouch) messages, although rumors burble about adding MPE later. This is very important, as certain DAWs either have to be specially told to not filter out and reject Key Pressure messages, or simply flat-out don't know what they are... the most famous and egregious example of this is Ableton Live, which is so dependent on how controllers like the Push and its ilk communicate with the software precisely because the underlying architecture of the DAW's MIDI engine makes MPE extraordinarily kludgey and Key Pressure impossible.

"Whatever Behringer does" will be the same thing that Behringer ALWAYS does... an early announcement to chill the market and prevent other manufacturers from moving as many units as they otherwise might, followed by a product that will work well and cost practically nothing, introducing Key Pressure or whatevs to a larger audience, which ultimately benefits us all, assuming the little guys who pioneered the IP that Behringer is popularizing are still alive to enjoy the benefits.

Folks in the keyboard/synth world have no idea how lucky they are that Uli Behringer started out designing synthesizers -- they are his passion project, for which all other products B has ever sold are funding the infrastructure. While he really doesn't give a rat's ass what anyone says about his mixers, processors, guitar pedals, amps, blah de blah, he REALLY gives a shit about what people think of his synths, and that's reflected in what eventually comes to market. Initial hiccups with the DeepMind 12 aside, and hate him though you might for lots of reasons, what finally ships has turned out to be pretty high-quality, and ridiculously cheap for what you get.


Last edited by Dr Mike Metlay; 01/24/20 05:11 PM.

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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: piano56] #3025549 01/24/20 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by piano56
I’ve read mentions of technique, mostly “do I have time to learn new technique.” Maybe learning something completely different (like LinnStrument) is better than risking funny gestures leaking into piano technique. Parts of MPE seem benign - advanced pianism requires finger independence to bring out inner voices. I mostly wonder about the other wiggly stuff vs. efficient playing. Thoughts?

This lies in the realm of what I call the Point Of Contact: where the eyes, hands, mind, and soul of the human being touch the controls and electronic underpinnings of the synthesizer, and receive feedback from it. This interface is, if I may use highly technical terms for a moment, fucking magic. People make guesses based on research and prior experience, but so much of it ends up being what happens when man meets machine. This is one of my deepest passions to explore, and the only reason I haven't written a book about it by now is because there's already a book about it, which I edited and cowrote in a few places and came out looking much better than anything I'd have been able to create on my own.

But I digress.

The important thing here, as I see it, is that any time you change instruments, you're learning new technique even if you don't realize it. Even changing grand pianos can be a big adjustment for a classical player, as my dear friend Richard Shore, a music educator and classical pianist when he's not conducting music-theater pit orchestras, can attest. Moving from a piano to an organ, with waterfall keys and totally different touch response, is massive -- is key-wiggling really such a huge leap beyond that? I do it so much now that I find it instinctive, and it doesn't impact my admittedly-less-than-virtuoso keyboard technique in any negative way. You can always shut off the bits you don't need at any given time, and returning to traditional technique should just be a matter of a mental gear-shift.

Learning something entirely new has its advantages, but leveraging what you already know does too. It comes down to the Point Of Contact: when you start to work with one of these controllers, very often you will know if it's going to work for you... but you have to play it first. I went through ten controllers before settling on the ones that personally spoke to me (and I'll be selling off the ones I no longer need once I've finished demoing them at Synthplex grin ).

Quote
I hope osmose works out so I can buy the x-thousandth unit down the road (and happily pay full price at that point vs getting a unit from the first batches).

Based on my personal experiences with the team at Expressive E, I have happily plunked down $1200 to get one of the first batches, and I have done so with utter confidence. Just sayin'.

mike


Last edited by Dr Mike Metlay; 01/24/20 05:28 PM.

Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3025935 01/26/20 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
hate him though you might for lots of reasons, what finally ships has turned out to be pretty high-quality, and ridiculously cheap for what you get.


certainly can't argue with this.


A reason why I collect old keyboards is that I feel partly responsible for doing it, responsible for preserving history and being a custodian for these things
Plus, old gear has a story. I like that.
Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: davedoerfler] #3026041 01/27/20 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by davedoerfler
Originally Posted by Dr Mike Metlay
hate him though you might for lots of reasons, what finally ships has turned out to be pretty high-quality, and ridiculously cheap for what you get.

certainly can't argue with this.

I wish I could, but... eesh. idk


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3027571 02/04/20 11:17 PM
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Mike, can you talk about the ContinuuMini a bit? What it does well, and what you give up (besides range) compared to its larger siblings?

Do you see a practical use for having one if you also have an Osmose?


Moe
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"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com
Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: mate stubb] #3028135 02/09/20 12:33 AM
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Originally Posted by mate stubb
Mike, can you talk about the ContinuuMini a bit? What it does well, and what you give up (besides range) compared to its larger siblings?

Do you see a practical use for having one if you also have an Osmose?


Hi Mate, sorry for the late reply.

The ContinuuMini has suffered a little bit in the public eye in the months after its release; a lot of people felt that the playing surface was not adequately explained by Haken, with the result that they were disappointed when it arrived and they finally tried it. I was one of those folks, and quickly sold mine.

As a playing surface, the ContinuuMini is almost a completely different beast than the Continuum. It's designed to be monophonic or at most duophonic; while you do get fine-grained X control over pitch, there is virtually no Y control because the ribbon is so narrow. Further, unlike the (very expensive) tensioned pressure membrane of the Continuum, the Mini's playing surface rests on a pressure-sensitive spring; when you push down on it, the entire surface dips into the surface of the box, which feels (to me) like you're breaking it. (The Slim Continuum gives all the playing feel of the big one, and my guess is that eventually it will supersede the original ones, but I don't know if they'll ever figure out a way to use that sort of surface in a Mini.)

The sound engine is an EaganMatrix that can run all the same programs as the big one, albeit with a bit less processing power. However, that surface doesn't give nearly the level of fine control as the big one's does, and there's no real practical way to add it from an external controller. Eagan hasn't been interested in building a standalone EaganMatrix engine, which would be smaller than a cell phone, because it requires a hardwired connection to a playing surface for the most control. (MIDI 2.0 probably offers enough resolution to do the job, but full implementation is years away.)

I'm a bad person to ask about "practical use" for owning one. That's very much a thing that each person has to decide on their own. Osmose or no Osmose, I consider it a waste of space, but that's me... others are loving it to death and using it everywhere. I consider them very much apples and oranges; all I will say is that the Osmose engine is going to be way more powerful than the Mini's, and those keys will squeeze out a lot more expressive power than the Mini's strip.


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3028437 02/11/20 04:00 AM
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So...how did you feel about the LinnStrument, given that it seems more a "guitarist-who-wants-a-different-kind-of-controller-but-it-still-makes-sense" controller?

Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Anderton] #3028555 02/11/20 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
So...how did you feel about the LinnStrument, given that it seems more a "guitarist-who-wants-a-different-kind-of-controller-but-it-still-makes-sense" controller?

Craig:

TL;DR
I adore it.

LONGER ANSWER:
This is actually my second LS. When I got my first one two years ago, I spent a lot of time and frustration trying to force it to work in the way I thought it had to work, and eventually took it to a festival in Finland and sold it to a dear friend who fell in love with it instantly. I lived without it happily for a long time, and through an unusual set of circumstances got a second one several months ago.

In the interim, I learned a lot more about MPE, had a chance to work with a lot of MPE controllers, and had a lot of conversations with a lot of MPE players of all kinds of instruments, from the Continuum to the Eigenharp. When I came back to the LS, I wasn't thinking about it as a glorified Launchpad any more, I was thinking about it as a LinnStrument, and approached the learning curve from that perspective.

In my years as a player - first woodwinds, then keys, then bass, then back to keys again - I was constantly dealing with the fact that I have truly hideous hand independence and strongly right-dominant dexterity (get it? grin ). My right hand is fairly agile on a keyboard, but my left hand can't keep up. This started as a limitation I could have trained myself out of, but lack of practice has largely set it in stone by now, and at my age I simply accept that it's a part of how I play. In most cases, if my left hand were a prosthetic claw, it wouldn't slow me down much.

I played bass for a long time, decently well but never with excellence. The isomorphism of the bass fretboard always appealed to me, and I quickly learned scale and bass patterns. The problem was, my fretting hand was my left hand, not my right, and everything felt upside down and backwards to me. When grid-based keyboards came along (like the Push and the Launchpad Pro), I suddenly found myself in the position of playing an isomorphic layout with my dominant hand.... and I got really good, really fast. Sure, it was tempting to cheat in diatonic-scale modes, and sometimes it still is, but even on a chromatic grid, everything that my left hand struggled with became a piece of cake for my right.

So why didn't I like it the first time? Because I was using the Launchpad Pro paradigm. I wanted a scale mode where I could go diatonic sometimes; I wanted full up/down and left/right fingertip movement expressiveness like on a Seaboard, despite the fact that the vertical travel on a LinnStrument key is only a few millimeters and therefore impossible to play "that way". I got tired of trying to ram a square peg into a round hole.

When I came back to the LinnStrument, I took a deep breath and said, "Nobody with any common sense picks up a Chapman Stick and complains about it not being a classical guitar. New instrument, new rules. Learn them before you break them." So I did, and quickly developed a very fluid one-handed playing style that let me solo easily yet with feeling, accenting melody lines with gentle glides that simulate the tricks I use when soloing on a conventional synth keyboard of bending up and down to the next note in the line for a form of controlled portamento.

From there, I got involved in the LS community (which primarily hangs out on a specific forum at KVR Audio). I asked a lot of questions and got a lot of answers; in particular, I learned a ton from Roger Linn himself, whom I now consider a first-name-basis acquaintance if not an actual friend. Roger is passionate about the LS and loves interacting with the community. When I mentioned my problems with Y-expression limitations, he gave me a two-sentence reply that blew my head open and did wonders for my technique. When I had specific questions about functions I didn't understand or missed, he came back with answers that were kind, cogent, to the point, and polite but firm (he wasn't going to add a scale mode, sorry, deal with it... and I did).

The thing is, Roger answers everyone that way, from pros to beginners. He's so incredibly responsive and hands on, and a common answer to someone with a difficult issue is not "let me get back to you on that" or "you're doing it wrong", it's "can you please send me a video showing the problem, so I can study it and see where you're coming from?". Ex-CUSE me? He gives that kind of tech support to anyone who asks, ALL THE TIME? That's led to the development of an incredibly healthy user community that has grown organically and is by and large enormously supportive not only of the platform but also of everyone else using it. And that is freaking rare in the alt-controller world.

Add to that the fact that my second LS was the 128 model rather than the 200, which somehow "fit in my head" better despite its more limited range, and that unlike pretty much every other MPE controller out there, the LS is designed to be opened, cleaned, and serviced by the user without voiding the warranty, and that every single subassembly is easy to replace with conventional tools... and I was sold. It wasn't just a fabulous new way for me to make music, but the people around me were fabulous as well.

I own a lot of MPE controllers even now, and I'm probably going to try one or two more... but the LinnStrument is my go-to, and will probably be the one controller I travel to play gigs and festivals with most often from now on. In fact, I have to pack it for a show I'm playing tonight, so I'd better sign off now.

I hope this answers your question?

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.
Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: Dr Mike Metlay] #3028602 02/12/20 10:49 AM
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Mike, I’d say Roger should give you a commission! I do hope to get my hands on a Linnstrument one of these days.


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Re: MPE: What it is, why it matters [Re: samuelblupowitz] #3028647 02/12/20 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by samuelblupowitz
Mike, I’d say Roger should give you a commission! I do hope to get my hands on a Linnstrument one of these days.

Roger is a kind and giving guy. We don't have enough of those in this stinking industry.


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Everyone on this forum is a friend I haven't met yet
-- except for Bryce, who's, well, YOU know.

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