A Revolutionary Pressure-Sensitive Multi-Touch Musical Instrument with 3D Note Expression

Shown with user-swappable note layout overlays.

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Finally, a keyboard that unlocks the expressive potential of synthesis

The promise of synthesis was to produce any instrument sound from a MIDI keyboard. 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 synthesis is finally a reality.

3D Note Expression

The heart of LinnStrument is a pressure-sensitive multi-touch surface scanned at high speed and resolution. Each touch is sensed in three dimensions with loudness controlled by pressure, pitch controlled by left-right movement and timbre controlled by forward-backward movement. We call this 3D Note Expression. It's also polyphonic, with these three dimensions captured independently and simultaneously for all fingers. With this level of subtle 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 and other musical gestures, just like on acoustic instruments. And because these three dimensions are sensed for each finger simultaneously, you can do things like performing a string quartet with four fingers.

Software Frets: there when you want them, gone when you don't

A guitar's frets allow you to easily play in tune but prevent the type of pitch nuances a violin can create. On the other hand, a violin's fretless neck enables a wide variety of pitch nuances but is difficult to play in tune. LinnStrument gives you the best of both worlds. Before you play a note, its software "frets" are on, insuring that the note will play in tune regardless of where you touch within the note region.

Once you've touched the surface, the frets are turned off, permitting unencumbered vibratos, bends and note-to-note slides. And in case you accidentally slide out of tune while holding the note, LinnStrument gracefully nudges the note back in tune.

 

Speaking of frets, the boundaries between note regions on LinnStrument's playing surface are raised to provide tactile feedback.

Grid is Good

LinnStrument permits user-changeable note layout overlays so you can use whatever layout you're comfortable with-- piano keys, guitar, hex keys or even 48 velocity/pressure/position-sensitive drum pads.

We like the grid layout, which you can think of a guitar neck that you can tune as you like, but also like a piano keyboard that has 1) equal spacing for each semitone and 2) overlapping rows of two octaves each. This has the advantage over a piano of being isomorphic—you can use the same chord or scale finger regardless of what key you're playing in. And the overlapping rows permit you to stretch over three octaves in one hand, something you can't do on a piano.

LinnStrument gives you the choice to start with the note arrangement you know, then experiment with the new emerging layout ideas without buying a new instrument.

Works with your computer via USB

LinnStrument requires the use of your computer, connecting via USB. An included software application for Mac or Windows generates sounds, sends out MIDI and Open Sound Control messages and permits detailed note layout customization. On the grid layout, for example, you can set the notes in rows to be chromatic or other scales, tune the intervals between adjacent rows, and even reconfigure the two outside rows as continuous control strips for pitch bend, sound parameter changes,  bowing strings or in physical model synthesis, arpeggiating or restriking chords for plucked string sounds.

There are also two foot switch inputs to act as sustain pedal, preset up/down or however you care to use them.

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Stay tuned...

We're working hard on LinnStrument but we're a tiny company and there's still plenty of work to do. When we're closer to release, we'll post an estimated price and ship date here and also broadcast it to the LinnStrument Email List. In the meantime, please see our LinnStrument FAQ page or check out these other innovative musical instrument products, many of which are available now.

Videos

Here are some videos of our earlier LinnStrument engineering prototype.

The sound you hear in the videos is a very simple synthesizer consisting only of a pulse wave oscillator, a lowpass filter and amplitude control--no envelope generators or LFOS. If LinnStrument's 3D note expression can make such a simple synthesizer sound this expressive, imagine what it can do with advanced synthesis.

Roger Linn Design  •  Berkeley, CA, USA

Roger Linn Design  •  Berkeley, CA, USA