LinnStrument Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the limitations of LinnStrument's sensor technology?
A: 1) Only one touch is permitted within each note pad.
2) If 3 note pads are pressed that are 3 corners of a rectangle, presses to a note pad that is the 4th corner of that rectangle will be ignored.
3) No more than 3 note pads are permitted in the same vertical column. Pressing a 4th note pad in the same column will be ignored.
4) Y-axis (forward-backward) movement is limited to the 17 mm vertical dimension of each note pad. Sliding your finger vertically across rows will result in a new note when the touch enters the adjacent row's note pad.
5) Maximum simultaneous touches: about 50.
6) Minimum distance between any 2 touches: 5 mm, but the 2 touches must be in 2 adjacent note pads.
Q: How difficult is it to learn to play?
A: If you play a stringed instrument, it's surprisingly easy to transfer your skills to LinnStrument's stringed-instrument note layout, which is like an 8-stringed bass guitar with each row consisting of 25 consecutive semitones, and with the rows tuned to fourths intervals. This isomorphic layout is both easier to learn and play than a piano keyboard note arrangement, and is much better suited to expressive performance. Here's why.
Q: Where can I try out a LinnStrument?
A: You can see our current dealer list by clicking the Purchase Store/Dealers menu -> Dealer List. If your local dealer doesn't have LinnStrument, please ask them to place an order with us, or try it out by buying one on our online store and if you don't like it, send it back for a full refund. It's really no problem; we realize that's the only way for many to try it out. Or, email me (Roger) at email@example.com and there's a good chance of a LinnStrument owner in your area who would be willing to show you his.
Q: Can you help me decide between the larger LinnStrument model or the smaller LinnStrument 128 model?
A: In the default fourths tuning and default transposition, LinnStrument 128 has a pitch range of 51 semitones (F#0 to G#4), a little over 4 octaves; and the large LinnStrument model has a pitch range of 60 semitones (F#0 to F5) or 5 octaves. See here for a picture of the pitch locations on both models.
The larger model gives you more flexibility for two-handed and split-keyboard play, as well as more space to continue chords or single lines up into higher registers without switching to other rows. A good analogy is the difference between playing a 24-fret and 15-fret guitar. (The large LinnStrument has 25 columns, like 24 frets plus open string. The LinnStrument 128 has 16 columns, like 15 frets plus open string.) On a 15-fret guitar, you'd probably find it more difficult to perform solos because you'd often need to switch to other strings.
Also, if you're interested in using the Step Sequencer, the sequence view area on LinnStrument 128 shows only 8 steps (columns) of the sequence at a time, compared to 16 steps at a time on the large model.
Also, LinnStrument 128 has no power supply input, which very few people ever use on the large model because nearly everyone uses USB power. If using the round MIDI jacks, you can power LinnStrument from a USB power adapter. And if connecting to an iPad and you don't want to power LinnStrument from the iPad, you can use a USB Y-adapter cable to provide USB power from a USB power adapter while connecting to the iPad for data.
Finally, LinnStrument 128 is more portable and easy to fit into a backpack. And the larger model's folding, padded zippered soft carrying case is thicker than the small model's minimal neoprene sleeve case, which is like a laptop sleeve case.
Q: How does LinnStrument compare to Roli Seaboard?
A: Seaboard is a fine and well-designed instrument. For an unbiased answer, we suggest you search the web for "LinnStrument vs. Seaboard". You will find a number of helpful postings from owners of both instruments.
Q: I live outside of the U.S. If I place an order on your online store, will I be required to play my country's import duties, taxes and brokerage fees?
A: You will be required to pay your country's required sales taxes, plus import duties, before receiving the package from the shipping company. You won't be charged broker fees because we pay that in advance. If you're in Canada, you won't be charged import duties because LinnStrument is compatible with NAFTA. If you'd like to learn your country's import duties and taxes for LinnStrument's product category, click here.
Q: What is your warranty?
A: Our warranty is two years if you buy direct from our online store. If you buy from one of our authorized dealers, the warranty is two years if you register your purchase within 30 days of the sale, or one year if you don't.
Q: How difficult is it to get it up and running?
A: Just connect to your computer via USB and play any software instrument on your computer. LinnStrument sends standard MIDI messages, just like with any other MIDI controller keyboard. You can learn more on our Getting Started page, accessed from the LinnStrument Support page.
Q: If I have a problem with my LInnStrument that requires repair, how do you handle it?
A: Contact us to let us determine whether a repair is needed. Usually it isn't. Please don't send it back unless we ask you to. If a hardware failure exists, usually we will send you a user-replaceable part or circuit board and ask you to return the faulty part to us afterward. For more complex repairs, we may ask you to send it to an authorized service center in your country.
Q: What's your return policy?
A: We understand that our LinnStrument isn't in stores everywhere, so our 30-day money-back guarantee is our way of letting you try it out at no risk. If you find that LinnStrument doesn't meet your needs, simply send it back (at your expense) within approximately 30 days of receiving it, and we'll refund the entire product cost within two days. To make sure we get it, contact us first so we'll watch for it, and use a low-cost method like UPS or Fedex Ground with tracking and insurance for the product value.
Q: LinnStrument's rows always contain consecutive semitones (chromatic scales). Is it possible to set LinnStrument so that the rows contain consecutive notes of a specific scale, for example only major scale notes while skipping over the accidentals?
A: It is fundamental to LinnStrument’s design that each of the eight rows always contain only chromatic scales. While it is true that some controllers (like our Tempest drum machine) permit you to set consecutive pads to play only scale notes (for example, only major scale notes, skipping accidentals), this is really only useful for controllers with few pads like drum pad controllers or Ableton Push. However, LinnStrument has 200 note pads so it is not necessary to delete any notes of the chromatic scale. The problem with removing the notes outside of the scale is that you can't play them, which is useful in all but very simple music. There are other problems with non-chromatic scales:
1) you must always change the scales to play in different musical modes so you never get a chance to develop any playing skills because the notes are always moving.
2) Pitch slides will no longer be consistent, with larger jumps between note pads that are a whole tone apart than between those that are a semitone apart.
3) Vibratos on a pad with a semitone interval on one side and a whole tone interval on the other will be asymmetrical, bending twice as much on the whole tone side than on the semitone side.
Instead of preventing you from playing accidentals, LinnStrument borrows an idea similar to the piano keyboard's black and white keys: it provides access to all the notes but highlights the naturals. So if you don't want to play the accidentals (sharps and flats), simply play the lit notes and don't play the unlit notes. By default, LinnStrument highlights the natural notes (C, D, E, F, G, A and B) in green lights and highlights all “C” notes in light blue lights, but you can change it to highlight any scale and in any of 10 colors (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow, white, orange, lime or pink). This is done in Global Settings / Note Lights.
If you feel it is important to remove all accidentals and have LinnStrument's rows consist of only consecutive scale notes, LinnStrumentalist Rick Burnett has created a Mac application and Max/MSP patch that does that, though pitch slides will no longer work correctly.
Q: Can LinnStrument's consecutive note pads be set to play non-standard tunings / non-equal temperament tunings / microtonal tunings / xx-TET tunings?
A: LinnStrument is a MIDI controller, sending standard MIDI messages. MIDI defines note numbers as consecutive semitones. To achieve any non-standard scales, you would simply define the frequency of each MIDI note number however you wish in your external sound generator. As an alternative, you can use MIDI scale translation software such as CSE (http://hpi.zentral.zone/cse) between LinnStrument and your sound generator. Here are a few other helpful things:
1) LinnStrument’s Row Offset setting (the note number interval between rows) can be set to any value between -16 and 16 (by holding the Row Offset > Octave pad). It also has an option called No Overlap. If selected, the starting note number for each row is one higher than the ending note number of the next lower row. Also, LinnStrument has a Split keyboard mode, dividing the playing surface into left and right splits, and you can freely choose the split point. So if both Row Offset = No Overlap and Split = on, you can set one split’s width to your chosen number of divisions per octave up to 24 (or 15 for LinnStrument 128), and each row will be one octave higher. For example, let’s say you’d like the rows to contain increasing octaves of EDO 23. You’d set Row Offset to No Overlap then set the width of the left split to 23 columns. After transposing down using the Transpose button, this would result in the lowest row containing note numbers 0-22, the next row 23-45, the next 46-66, etc. Of course, MIDI’s note number range range of 0-127 means this would result in a total of 5 rows of 23 notes each plus a 6th row of 13 notes.
2) LinnStrument also has a mode called Channel Per Row, in which the notes played on each of the 8 rows are sent on a unique MIDI channel. This allows you to externally add any transposition you like to each row.
3) LinnStrument has an RGB LED in every one of the 200 note pads. The Note Lights settings permit you to a) turn on or off each of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale in one color, and b) turn on or off each of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale in another accent color. Clearly this isn’t helpful for octaves consisting of other than 12 notes. To workaround this, we allow you to individual set each of the 200 note pads to any of 10 colors or off by sending LinnStrument the following MIDI Control Change commands:
CC20: Column number of note pad to change (control key column is 0, left play column is 1, right play column is 25)
CC21: Row number of note pad to change (bottom row is 0, top is 7)
CC22: Color to change it to (0=as set in Note Lights settings, 1=red, 2=yellow, 3=green, 4=cyan, 5=blue, 6=magenta, 7=off, 8=white, 9= orange, 10=lime and 11=pink).
First send CC20 and CC21 to select the column and row to be lit, then send CC22 to light it.
4) LinnStrument’s operating software is open-source, so you can customize it however you like.
Q: Which DAWs or synths are MPE-compatible (work with LinnStrument's Channel Per Note and Channel Per Row MIDI modes)?
A: There's a list on our "Recommended Sounds" page, accessed from the LinnStrument Support page.
Q: Are MPE-compatible synths necessary for use with LinnStrument?
A: No, in fact most LinnStrument owners use standard one-channel synths, and our main demo video for LinnStrument doesn't use any MPE sounds at all. Here's why MPE isn't so important:
1) The touch dimension in which polyphony is most useful is pressure, which can be achieved over a single MIDI channel by using MIDI Polyphonic Pressure messages. So the main advantages of MPE are to add polyphonic pitch slides and polyphonic Y-axis, both of which aren't used in most types of music.
2) Most expressive play is solo play, which is monophonic, and LinnStrument provides all 5 types of touch sensing in one-channel mode.
3) LinnStrument's smart MIDI implementation prevents any undesired problems if you perform polyphonic pitch slides or polyphonic Y-axis control. For example, if you play a polyphonic pitch slide in one-channel mode, it transparently quantizes the pitch slides to semitones. And if you play polyphonic Y-axis movements, only the Y-axis movements of the most recent touch are recognized.
Q: Can LinnStrument be used as a step sequencer?
A: Yes, it has a built-in step sequencer.
Q: Can you add this feature: __________?
A: LinnStrument has a very full feature set, which you can see in the User Manual, accessed from the LinnStrument Support page.
However, the flexible nature of LinnStrument inspires many different people to want to make it into many different instruments. I (Roger) realized early on that 1) I don’t have the resources to make a LinnStrument that meets everyone’s individual desires, 2) I didn’t want to make it so complex that it scares away non-techy musicians, and 3) I wanted to keep it compact without adding space for an alphanumeric display. So I intentionally chose parameters that focused on its core purpose as an expressive musical performance instrument and printed them on the panel, and I only printed parameters in the first 16 columns in order to maintain compatibility with LinnStrument 128. And for all of the many different features that individual users desire, I released the software as open-source, permitting everything to be customized. Given that the upper and lower printed parameters through column 16 are all used, any new features must be fairly simple and carefully considered to be important to most users for LinnStrument's core purpose as an expressive musical performance instrument.
Q: Why didn't you use a softer, thicker touch surface as on the Continuum or Seaboard?
A: I (Roger) tried a variety of materials and thicknesses. Here is why I finally decided on LinnStrument's 2mm thick, 50% compressible, 40 durometer silicone rubber surface:
1) Adding more thickness spreads out the force of your touch on the sensor below it, making the position sensing less accurate.
2) A thicker and softer touch surface impedes the ability to play fast rhythmic parts (imagine playing a rhythmic clavinet part on a sponge) but making it thinner doesn’t impede playing sounds that use pressure.
3) Softer materials aren’t translucent and therefore can’t let LEDs shine through, as in the ROLI Seaboard and Haken Continuum.
4) Softer silicone rubber then 40 durometer is stickier when you slide left and right.
5) A thicker and softer touch surface makes it more difficult to hold a note in tune because it’s difficult to hold soft rubber in one exact location. A good analogy is the violin, which is very difficult to play in tune, but once you find the note and hold it, it’s very easy to hold that exact pitch because your finger is pressing against a hard surface. The Seaboard works around this problem by offering a beginner mode that reduces the bend range,
Q: Why isn't Open Sound Control implemented?
A: The main reason is lack of customer interest. You certainly can convert the MIDI output to OSC by using a converter utility on your computer. The problem with OSC is that the creators intentionally didn't include any standard messages like MIDI's Note On, Note Off, Pitch Bend, etc., so plug-and-play operation is difficult. The peak of OSC's popularity was in the early iPhone days, when it was the only way to get musical control out of an iPhone. But since Apple implemented MIDI control in iOS, the popularity of OSC has diminished. Note also that because LinnStrument's software is open-source, anyone can write an OSC implementation.
Q: Why don't you make a version of LinnStrument optimized for guitar-style play?
A: Because LinnStrument can be tuned like a guitar, it would seem easy to make a version with a thinner neck optimized for guitar-style play. But much more is required for guitar-style play: a picking surface that feels natural, the ability to bend rows (strings) laterally, the ability to play bar chords and other string-focused fingering techniques, reducing the side margins around the neck to zero, changing the chassis to a something closer to a sculpted neck, and much more. Plus, Y-axis control wouldn't work on the very thin rows required for a guitar-like neck. And even if I (Roger) did all that work, the history of guitar controllers would suggest that it wouldn't be well-received because guitarists--a notoriously conservative lot--would judge if first on whether it can do everything a guitar can do, and only then explore its added possibilities.
Instead, I choose for LinnStrument to be an entirely new instrument, standing on its own merits and unchained from the biases of players of existing acoustic instruments. My view is that the guitar represents the best instrument-design technology that was available a few centuries ago, but that is no longer the case.
Q: I have a great idea for a music product and need to make a prototype but I'm not very technical. Can you do this, or can you give me any advice on how to make a prototype or any companies that I could pay to make a prototype for me? Or how can I present my idea to a music products company so they can pay me a royalty and design/manufacture it for me? How do I patent my idea?
A: Click here.
Q: LinnStrument is not sending MIDI. What's wrong?
A: Try the following:
1) Are you using a USB hub? If so, remove it and connect directly to the computer.
2) Is "Global Settings > Actions column > Update OS" on? If so, no MIDI data will be sent and "LinnStrument Serial" will appear in your computer's list of connected devices. (see #6 below.)
3) If you're using USB, make sure that 'Global Settings > MIDI I/O column is set to "USB".
4) Does it work using the MIDI OUT jack? To use this, in Global Settings > MIDI I/O column, select MIDI JACKS.
5) If you're new to LinnStrument, it's possible that you may have accidentally set some settings such that no MIDI is sent. To restore all settings to factory status, perform a Reset: Turn on Global Settings, then in column 16 (Actions), press Notes Off (the lowest button) and Update OS (third button from the bottom) at the same time. You should see "Reset" in large letters.
6) If connecting by USB to a computer, does LinnStrument show up in your computer's system information?
If on mac, click Apple menu > About This Mac, then click System Report. In the System Report window, click Hardware > USB at left. You should see "LinnStrument MIDI".
If on Windows, open Device Manager. You should see "LinnStrument MIDI" in the list of "Sound, Video and Game Controllers".
7) To verify that MIDI messages are arriving at your computer when LinnStrument's surface is played:
If on mac, download and install a mac utility called MIDI Monitor. Be sure "LinnStrument MIDI" appears in the Sources section and is checked, then play LinnStrument's surface. You should see the received MIDI messages in the display area.
If on Windows, download and install a Windows utility called "MIDI OX". Open it and from the Options menu, select MIDI Devices. This will display a new window where you will should the "LinnStrument MIDI" in the MIDI Inputs panel. Click on it to select it and then click on OK. Then play your LinnStrument and you should see MIDI messages in the main area of the MIDI OX windows.
8) If you're using a Mac and have a USB-MIDI Korg driver earlier than version 1.2.2 in your system, it has a bug that prevents LinnStrument from appearing as a MIDI device on your Mac. The solution is to install the Korg 1.2.2 USB-MIDI driver. Click here to go to the download page, then click the link for the 1.2.2 USB-MIDI driver for mac.
9) Reboot your computer.
Q: LinnStrument will not accept an OS Update from the LinnStrument Updater app. What's wrong?
A: Try the following:
1) Are you using a USB hub? If so, remove it and connect directly to the computer. (USB hubs often don't provide sufficient power.)
2) Is LinnStrument sending MIDI over USB? (See FAQ above.)
3) Is [Global Settings > Actions column > Update OS] turned on?
4) Is LinnStrument showing up in your computer's system information? If on mac, click Apple menu > About This Mac, then click System Report. In the System Report window, click Hardware > USB at left. You should see "LinnStrument Serial" if [Global Settings > Update OS] is on, or "LinnStrument MIDI" if it is off. (After changing state of Update OS, type Command+R to refresh the window.)
5) Try rebooting your computer.
6) Try using a different computer. If you're on Windows, do you have a friend with a mac who would let you try the update from it?
Q: I'm getting occasional stuck notes / spontaneous notes that I didn't play / random garbage MIDI messages. What's wrong?
A: These are all symptoms of your computer or sound generator being overloaded by the large volume of continuous MIDI messages generated by LinnStrument for its expression data. A standard MIDI keyboard sends only two continuous streams-- Pitch Bend (only when the bend wheel is moved) and Channel Pressure (only when turned on and only when keys are pressed hard). By comparison, LinnStrument's default One Channel mode sends at least 3 streams of continuous data -- Pitch Bend for X-axis movements, CC74 for Y-axis movements and a Poly Pressure stream for each note pad pressed. In typical playing, that's around 6 continuous streams of MIDI messages, which is a lot more than a standard MIDI keyboard. And if you select LinnStrument's Channel Per Note mode, it sends 3 continuous streams (X, Y and Z) for each touch. While relatively new computers, DAWs and sound generators handle this fine, older computers or software and some hardware sound generators may not.
Here are a few solutions to try:
1) Use the MIDI OUT jack instead of USB, because LinnStrument sends USB MIDI data at 3.7 times the rate of the MIDI OUT Jack. Note that you must set 'Global Settings > MIDI I/O' to MIDI JACKS to do this.
2) If using USB output, try reducing the density of sent MIDI messages. Go to this page and search for "USB MIDI Data Reduction".
3) If you're using a USB hub, try connecting directly to the computer's USB port. Also, try all of the computer's USB ports because often some ports are given higher priority than others.
4) Change 'Per-Split Settings > Loudness/Z' from Poly Pressure to Channel Pressure. This will send only one continuous stream for pressure regardless of how many notes are held.
5) If the sound you're using doesn't use Y-axis data, turn it off. Set 'Per-Split Settings > Timbre/Y > On' to Off.
6) If the sound you're using doesn't use pressure data, turn it off. Set 'Per-Split Settings > Loudness/Z > On' to Off.
7) If the sound you're using doesn't use pitch bend data, turn it off. Set 'Per-Split Settings > Pitch/X > On' to Off.
Q: One or two note pads at the top of column 4 or 5 stopped working. What's wrong?
A: Sorry-- this is due to a software bug. To fix it, upgrade your LinnStrument to version 2.1.0 or later, then disconnect and reconnect power.
Q: There seems to a slight air bubble under the rubber touch surface, causing it to be slightly raised. How do I get rid of this?
A: If LinnStrument's temperature is raised over a short period of time, the silicone rubber touch surface may expand slightly, causing it to loosen. This is because silicone expands with heat, especially such a large and thin sheet of silicone. I (Roger) chose not to glue it down to the touch sensor beneath it because in the event of a repair need, users would not be able to easily replace it. However, it's rarely a problem and the fix it simple: either let your LinnStrument cool down for a day and the touch surface will return to its original size, or loosen the panel screws then stretch the silicone sheet slightly as you retighten them. Stretch the rear of the sheet toward the rear and the front of the sheet toward the front. Don't stretch the sheet toward the left and right or it will extend out the sides. Here's how to tighten the panel screws to the correct tightness:
While pressing with one hand on the top panel near the screw, turn the screwdriver clockwise with your other hand until the screw head is level with the top panel. Then tighten an additional 1/4 turn only and no more.
Note that the panel screws can be tightened within a very wide range and still work fine. It they are too tight or too loose, you could experience the problems described in the next FAQ.
Q: The Per-Split Settings or Global Setting button isn't working. How do I fix it?
Q: One or more note pads, or a specific column of note pads, aren't working correctly or stick on. How do I fix it?
Q: When I connected power, my LinnStrument shows "FWUP" or all red lights.
A: These are all symptoms of one or more of the top panel screws being too loose or too tight. The panel screws not only secure the top panel but also hold the electrical contacts of the touch sensor against the circuit board below it. So if a screw is too loose, it might cause one or more columns near it to stop responding. Or if a screw near the 8 control buttons is too tight, it might cause a nearby button to stick on. (This increased tightness can occur in warm weather, which expands the silicon touch surface and therefore increases the pressure against the touch sensor below it.) Here are the specific solutions:
* If you see all red (or other color) lights when connecting power: This means that one of the two screws near the Per-Split Settings button is too tight, causing it to stick on. You are seeing the Manufacturing Test Screen, which normally appears if you hold Per-Split Settings while connecting power. Loosen one or both screws until the problem no longer occurs when connecting power.
* If you see "FWUP" when connecting power: This means that one of the two screws near the Global Settings button is too tight, causing it to stick on. You are seeing the FirmWare UPdate screen, which appears if you hold Global Settings while connecting power. Loosen one or both screws until the problem no longer occurs when connecting power.
* If one column or note pads (or two neighboring columns) doesn't respond when touched: either the screw above or below that column is too loose, causing that column upper or lower electrical contact to not touch the circuit board below. Tighten one or both screws 1/4 turn until the problem stops.
Here's how to achieve the correct screw tightness:
Loosen the screw, then while pressing with one hand on the top panel near the screw, turn the screwdriver clockwise with your other hand until the screw head is level with the top panel. Then tighten an additional 1/4 turn only and no more.
Note that the panel screws can be tightened within a very wide range and still work fine; this is only a problem if a screw is very tight or loose.