This cool new synthesizer lets you play the keys in three dimensions for more expansive sounds

Originally published at: This cool new synthesizer lets you play the keys in three dimensions for more expansive sounds | Boing Boing


One of my Synth teachers at Berklee back in the late 80s told a story of a group of the Synth faculty getting a chance to play with a prototype of a keyboard where the keys slid in and out and that would change the pitch of individual notes. The faculty played with it for a bit and decided it was a fun toy that could be useful but would take some getting used to. Then Lyle Mays sat down and within minutes was all over it, playing changes by just holding down a chord and bending the individual notes into the next chord and generally just playing as if he’d been doing it forever. Blew them all away.

Anyway, that prototype never came to market, and ever since I heard the story I’ve wanted something like it. I may need to get one of these…


Depending on your idea of ‘simple’:


Neat. Wonder how it compares to the other MPE controllers out there like the Linnstrument, Hakken Continuum, and stuff from Roli?

I’ve wanted a tactile controller ever since drooling over the Buchla Thunder, a long long time ago! The more expression, the better!


I couldn’t quite figure out what a couple of those bits do, but I found this explainer helpful


Actually, middle to high end synth keyboards and MIDI controllers have aftertouch which lets you slightly vary the pressure after the initial note which can create very subtle or not so subtle changes to volume or pitch, or – even better – modulation which can be hooked into an LFO rate or filter or anything really.


A couple of years back I bought the most-bang-for-your-buck Arturia MicroFreak whose keyboard is kinda sorta like the Buchla in that each key pad is “pressure sensitive”, some kind of resistive conductor. You can vary the modulation by changing how much of your finger contacts the pad (it’s also got a vocoder microphone which you can order as an accessory which is damned cool in its own right).

Yet hammered dulcimers are not. Accordions? Synthesizers?

I’m not arguing. Its just funny to me. Maybe you are right. This is convincing.

BTW, Yale Library now separates keyboarded instruments as its own classification.

The order of instruments in subject headings | Yale University Library.

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I wish polyphonic aftertouch was a more common feature. It’s one of the things that made the Yamaha CS-80 (featured heavily on Vangelis’ Blade Runner sound track) so expressive. I’ve been thinking about getting a full size Hydrasynth because they seem neat, but a nice feature for sure is the polyphonic aftertouch. It also has a slide ribbon like the cs-80 did, which is occasionally useful but maybe a bit more of a gimmick.

“Modern MIDI technology” is turning 40 this year.

There is MIDI2 but it’s really not widely supported at all. It’s shocking to me that MIDI never got any kind of face lift, like you could do a really minimal MIDI 1.5 that was just, you know, 16 bit instead of 8. That alone would probably be good enough (a lot of complaints with MIDI expression is that you have I think only 7 bits for the values so you get “zippering” effects. There are some hacks like using more than one MIDI channel to express one value)

The clavichord is a predecessor of the modern piano which allows a very wide variety of expression, including what on modern synthesisers is called “polyphonic aftertouch”, where you get to modify the sound of a note while it is being held. It wasn’t suitable as a performance instrument because it is very quiet, but was widely used to practice or for composing.


Neat, I never thought of it that way, I’ve never seen one played. I love the way they sound though.

What’s an “analog piano?”
A piano is an acoustic instrument, not an analog of an acoustic instrument.

I have a Seaboard and love it, but I think I might like one of these even more. A keyboardist I play with have the touché and loves it.

One thing that does bug me is that the videos and news coverage of Expressive E stuff always seems to be written like other MPE stuff doesn’t exist, and claim that a lot of things are new that have actually been around for quite some time. Their gear seems awesome but the presentation feels a bit misleading.

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