Key movement vs finger position sensing

One thing I’ve been wondering about quite a bit is the difference in experience between controllers with key movement and finger position sensing.

The Continuum, Linnstrument and many others have a surface that tracks your finger position and pressure, which means your finger has to roll or glide for XY control.

On the other hand the Eigenharp, Expressive-E Osmose and Striso board have keys/buttons, so your finger has to exert force for XY control.

For the Striso I chose for button movement as it feels more natural, and I’m happy to see the Osmose team also went that way.

However I’m sure both have their pros and cons, and am curious what you think about it. How do people that tried both categories perceive the difference?

Depends what you’re controlling. But in general, the advantage of position sensing is that twofold.

  1. you can manually glide from any pitch to any other pitch.
    (If you just want vibrato, key movement is better.)

  2. there’s usually less force required to play a note or engage aftertouch.
    (If aftertouch maps to volume, less force is ideal. If it maps to something more extreme, you probably want a more deliberate press to engage)

I would add that starting pitch is more accurate with buttons/switches than a continuous position sensing surface, which might make playing chords and harmony a bit easier.

This has certainly been my experience. I own a Continuum and a Roli and am waiting on an Osmose. All three have advantages for different styles of playing. I see the Roli as kind of midway between the two approaches. A six voice chord on the Continuum would require a level of expertise I am unlikely to achieve in my remaining lifetime. On an Osmose, a piece of cake.

I think all surfaces are very different , and this is one aspect of it.

I like both (Soundplane vs Eigenharp for me),
On the Soundplane, I like the ability to slide in/out of notes (rather than huge slides :wink: ) , also the fact that you can have quite different timbres from top to bottom - so again, you can pick out timbres.

The Eigenharp, however, feels more conventional, faster, more accurate - it feels very natural to ‘add expression’ from a known starting point. also if you are using pressure (into a vca), then with the right curve, and can start getting x/y to be offset before you actually hear the note.

so yeah, they feel like different instruments, and thats a good thing.

expressive instruments potentially cover a wide variety of ‘instruments’, saying one approach is ‘correct’ is like saying a violin is better than a piano :wink: (*)

( * ) I recognise, its quite a niche market , so tempting for manufactures to say theirs is the right approach due to x, y, z… but thats marketing for you, i think we should celebrate and enjoy them all… as many on this board do!


That’s a useful distinction.

My slides aren’t huge, but their range will vary based on which scale degrees I’m sliding between, and I don’t often want to return to the pitch I started on when I release a note.

Side note:
If I’m emulating a guitar, that’s not true at all. The string that I’m bending will naturally bend back when I release it, and this being reflected in the physical interface is a bonus.

*(unless there’s a slide involved.)

I see Striso and Osmose as more of that model.

As you say, each model optimizes for different use cases.

(But if I had to choose only one, I’m probably going to pick something with finger position sensing, for the overall flexibility. Even when I agree with a developer’s approach, I still prefer a less opinionated controller…)


Also depends on the sound. E.g. for percussice stuff like a piano sound a certain heavyness of the keys allows much better control over the tone as the velocity force is spread over a wider range. Imho it is very hard to play expressive piano sounds even on a non-weighted synth claviature.

For continuously changable sounds surfaces with some haptic feedback (like the neoprene of Continuums or the silicone of seaboards) - can be played very expressively already as you have an adaptive haptic+sonic feedback loop in three dimensions.
Eigenharp keys are also really nice regarding feedback. Imho different from a feeling perspectice and possibilities - e.g. the way chords are played. No match to a fully weighted piano for playing piano for me - but why should I - so many sounds that cannot be played on a piano action but very well on Eigenharp :slight_smile: Different instruments that also lead to different kinds of improvisation for me, thanks to different layouts that motivate other “idiomatic” progressions…