How long have you been playing expressive controllers/instrument?

I realised today… Ive been playing ‘expressive controllers’ for over a decade now…
I bought my Eigenharp Pico on 1st Dec 2012 !

I guess, as MPE (etc) is always been advertised as ‘innovative’, revolutionary expression… I sometimes forget how long it’s been around (way longer than my mere decade!) , and how far it’s come.

I know a few here, had Eigenharps long before me… and Im sure others from the Continuum too.

but hey, its new year, a good time for a retrospective, a look back…

so just how long have you all been doing this?
it be interesting to know the curve, how many in in last 1 , 2, 5 ,10,15 years?
(though there will of course be a natural forum bias!)

also,
what changes have you seen? how much easier has it become?
… what you you learnt ? thought/ideas developed?
… what do you think has changed… e.g. are expectation different now?
… and perhaps, what problems still exist, are unresolved?

4 Likes

Hmmm, not sure I was ‘playing’ any MPE controller until I got the Osmose but I have used quite a few! Probably been dabbling for 5 years, always looking for the type of expression I can get when I play guitar.

Rolli seaward keys and Block - just couldn’t play it accurately but it was fin- kept the little X/Y bloack as a controller but that is now replaces with EARE Touch (which I also struggle to play chords on tec, b ut its great for percussion)

Linstrument about 4 years ago, had it for a few years but just wasn’t using it- I just always started writing on keys (controller with knobs and faders right in front of me- moist useful!) and it just wasn’t getting used so I sold it.

Sensel Morph- had this from when they came out until quite recently with a few of the covers- used it with my Modular a lot through a USB to CV converter- now also replaced with the much better EARE Touch (they are also discontinued I believe).

So now I just use Osmose and AERE Touch and they seem to do everything I need- I can turn the AERE Touch into a Nord Drum type pad instrument and hit it with sticks or use it as a controller, Live launchers or Joysticks etc…I don’t find it fun to play on as a ‘keyboard’ but it has that option…I think the Osmose gives me everything I need for ‘expressive’ plating, and that is all MPE ever was for me.

3 Likes

I got my Eigenhap Tau in the summer of 2015, at a time where I was kind of rediscovering the joy of making music after having been completely burned out on the whole thing. The decision to get one was a tough one. It was a big investment for me, it felt risky since it was pretty clear at the time that Eigenlabs probably wouldn’t be around forever, and I understood that learning the instrument would take a lot of effort both on a technical and musical level. So I asked for advice in the forums. It is no exaggeration that what made me take the plunge was the welcoming and friendly community with their mindboggling level of technical competence. (The community is just as great 7+ years later, so thank you to everyone in here!)

I absolutely loved the Tau and still do. Today I consider the Eigenharps to be my main instruments and I talk about them to pretty much anyone, regardless of their interest in the subject. :wink: My collection of MPE-related gear (or rather, ours, as I play and compose music together with my wife) has grown since then. I don’t feel that I practice playing the Eigenharps nearly as much as I should do to get proficient. I still feel like a beginner Eigenharpist, but I don’t mind that at all. I just enjoy the process of improving.

Our expressive instruments has shaped our “sound” as Tic Tic and the way we work. Instead of very detailed, “perfect” sequencing we sit down, jam, record ideas as they pop up and let things evolve naturally, while embracing imperfections rather than trying to fix everything all the time. It is a more social and relaxing way to work than what I used to do - and the results are (in my opinion) better because of it.

what do you think has changed… e.g. are expectation different now?
… and perhaps, what problems still exist, are unresolved?

Hmm, the amount of options now are impressive, and general interest appears to be growing - both good. But it probably means these things end up in the hands of more people with lower technical understanding, or people that enjoy buying the new shiny toys without the time and patience to learn them properly (no judgement from me, too much of my stuff is barely used!) So perhaps higher expectations when it comes to “plug-and-play” userfriendliness and more traditional, familiar key layouts, etc.?

3 Likes

Think I started in 1999 with a monophonic instrument made out of two pressure sensitive ribbon controllers that were screwed side-by-side to a wooden board and attached to a PC with a small program made with Synthmaker that retuned the ribbons one fifth above/below when one was switching from one ribbon to the other and put the finger below/above the position on the first ribbon - as if one would have infinite “strings” a fifth apart. So one could play scales arbitrarily up or down, alternating between the ribbons - as long as no interval of more than a fifth occurred at the moment when transitioning between the ribbons. Playing bigger intervals was possible by staying on the same ribbon. And there was a “freeze key” region at the upper end of the ribbons that froze the current tuning of the two “strings” - so one could play duophonically. And a “reset key” region that reset the tuning of the ribbons to c4 again to return to a defined state.

So it was expressive - but not really “poly expressive” :slight_smile:
Should still have this somewhere, haven’t played with this for more than 10 years now…

3 Likes

Leaving the keyboards, analog synthesizers on the side, I confess it was Wind synthesizers, Wind controllers - AKAI EVI+ analog sound module, Yamaha WX7… the entry point for “more expressive” this was 1990 (coming from the acoustic, brass/wind instruments families ) Turn full circle 1

No stranger to splitting MIDI ch and “combining” notes with MIDI CC ( Oberheim always allowed great flexibility/ poly aftertouch; ahah I recall having a guitar Roland GR-707/GR700 with is independent Multi-channel - 6 MIDI ch)

Always the pursuit of suited sound sources, more expressive?? - (favourite = physical modelling ( Yamaha VL-1m, Nord G2, Korg Prophecy)

Coincidence? this day, 13 years ago I got my first Eigenharp Pico (Silver ehehe everyone seem to got the black version), really as a: hey its a new year, (2010), and it has a breath pipe!! why not!
I have used it in countless shows, performances, studio experiments, always loyal and dependable, witnessing the ever growing computer and software science; I was lucky enough to have gotten an Eigenharp Alpha by the end of that year, I wish I had used it more often in live situations.

Turn full circle 2
2014 My Haken Continuum changed so many aspects of of my composition, sound design, MIDI data, play surface, integrated sound source also providing it to other controllers = LinnStrument, Joué, Erae Touch

Turn full circle 3
Osmose - add keys to the EaganMatrix synth engine like Expressive E has done…

The rewarding experience everyone is involved, musician/composer versus listener with access to more control and the choice/freedom one gets not by using a note with X pressure Y timbre and some bit of “pitch deviation” but just the right amount that exact moment one chooses playing!

Internet; fast communication - more recently platforms like Kickstarter, jump start new ideas… (not entirely “bullet proof” but…)
more collaborations? Osmose is a good example! hopefully a long lasting one :wink:

Software = “magic glue”? ones and zeros, 110010 that gives live to hardware; interface to humans? Don’t get me wrong here, think we come a long way forward…
Sad this is writing a monologue, or else probably I would get with a bottle in the head (hopefully one of those cinema props made of sugar :wink:

3 Likes

Just for contrast, perhaps…Since September of this year, with the QueNexus and then the Striso. Thanks to all here for a quick jolt of edumacation!

4 Likes

If we’re counting wind controllers, I had the WX-5 as far back as '91. Definitely wasn’t *poly"expressive, though.

Otherwise, I think the Soundplane arrived in 2012.

As did QuNeo.

QuNexus was 2013.

As was Leap Motion.

Seaboard GRAND was ordered that year, and arrived in 2014.
(Let’s lump the RISE 25, 49, Seaboard BLOCK, Lightpad BLOCK, Lightpad M, and Lumi in with that, out of laziness. It’s a lot of dates to check.)

Dualo was also 2014.

Linnstrument was ordered in 2015, and arrived a few months later.

Launchpad Pro was 2015 as well.

Sensel Morph had it’s Kickstarter in 2015, arrived in 2017.

And then, I think Launchpad X was 2019.

…I’m probably skipping a few.

Definitely omitting some devices that I’d planned to turn into expressive instruments, but weren’t intended for music. Webcams, Kinekt 1 and 2, various pairings of sensors and microcontrollers…

Also, arbitrarily skipping all the drawing tablets and multitouch screens. Again, lazy.

Edit: I definitely forgot Joueé, and the K-Board Pro 4.

2 Likes

Wow…what a great list!

1 Like

Like @keymanpal and @greaterthanzero I got started on this journey with a wind controller, WX7 in my case, which I bought in 1988. This was my main instrument for the next 20+ years: I took to it immediately, and unregretfully gave up on keyboards. Yamaha VL1-m was definitely the most satisfying pair with it.

I followed the development of LinnStrument in the early 2010s, and ordered one as soon as I could, in my hands in December 2014. It immediately became my main instrument. (Sorry, WX7!) Still searching for the best synth to drive with it. For a while I had it hooked up to a ContinuuMini (which I bought for the EaganMatrix, not the control surface) through a Raspberry Pi as MIDI Host and, via a touchscreen and some Python programming, a user interface.

(Sometime before the LinnStrument I acquired a QuNexus. Hmph. And sometime after I got a Roli Lightpad M. Hmph.)

I wish I were a better player after all these years, but I’ve had a lot of fun.

3 Likes

I got back into playing music after a very long gap in 2009 with the purchase of an Eigenharp Pico, then treated myself to an Alpha for my 50th birthday. I still love the feel of the Alpha, but don’t play it nearly enough. It’s surprising the mental barrier that having to fire up the software presents. What I wouldn’t give for a standalone base station with embedded Eaganmatrix, and standard MIDI connectivity.

I fell down the eurorack modular rabbit hole in 2013 (and haven’t quite climbed out!). Back on the MPE track, I picked up a half-size Continuum in 2018, and a Sensel Morph in 2019. The Continuum hits a lot of sweet spots, though I’m a little envious of the additional display in the newer slim model, and in the display and controls on the Osmose.

So what have I learned? That MPE is still pretty much a niche in the marketplace, despite the level on control it presents. I have worries about the long term maintenance of these instruments, but as there’s little I can do about that, it’s parked and I enjoy them. Anything that relies on software aspects, needs careful consideration for similar reasons (the hardware may be solid, but the continual need to keep apace of OS releases presents a huge challenge).

4 Likes

I got my Pico for my 40th, so 12 years ago and I still find it to be exhilarating to play and there is really nothing like it, there is a wildness to it at least for me, which probably comes from the difficulty I have controlling the expressiveness accurately. My other controllers are a lot more predictable but probably a bit less exciting for that.

Now I have a Joue Play (Pro) and an Orba as well as some Roli Blocks which I never touch.

I also have other controllers including an EWI5000 which i am concentrating on right now.

If I had a wish list it would be for small bluetooth controllers to be used in conjunction with my other gear. Basically 8 knobs in a row, which I could put anywhere.

5 Likes

Just an update - Park's 8P 8 Potentiometers / Midi Controller Dial / Knob - Etsy

I found what I wanted :slight_smile:

2 Likes
I have not played one yet, but my new Striso board is on the way. I can’t wait. 
Guitar and ukulele are what I normally play.  But I really like the Haden layout on the concertina ( I don’t much care for the piano keyboard). I was planing to make a Haden layout synthesizer if I couldn’t find one. 	I’m so happy to be able to play one instead of inventing one! 
I plan to order a second Striso and make a duet. This will be my first MIDI instrument, so I expect I will have to get up to speed with the new technology. I see this forum is a great place to find help if I need it. Looks like a good crew here. Thanks!
1 Like

My first contact was at CCMIX around maybe 2005 with a Continuum controlling a Kyma. Loved it, but it was way out of reach. Then I got hands on a Seaboard, but didn’t like it.
Finally 2016 I got my LinnStrument.
Never want to touch dumb keyboards again. Later a Block and a Seaboard Block (broken now) was added. A Sensel and recently an Erae Touch completed my collection. I also have an Orba, but I wouldn’t count that. Its a toy… I would rather add the non-MPE Expressiveé Touché to the list for its expressiveness…

3 Likes

I had an Ensoniq with poly aftertouch in the 80s but it wasn’t really very expressive.

What I really wanted was a Prophet-T8.