Unfortunately the alpha is super expensive which means I will be selling my midi guitar set up, my linnstrument, an instrument one, and a number of other items like a PA system, um maybe another midi guitar - a helix lt, bunch of other stuff like interfaces and such
the one thing I can say is with the software being open source the eigenharp will be a relevant instrument for a while yet to come as the hardware is solid for the most part - the magic is in the software and since its external as long as the software is open source and people are using these babies it will be an instrument that will continue to grow with the power of computing
the courses are annoying tbh on the pico, but you can change the layout - however since I plan on a full size I figure just get used to them because the tuning makes a lot of sense on the larger models as it allows you to easily set keyboard zones etc. last thing one wants to do is muddy the waters by altering the keyboards arbitrarily because muscle memory will not be able to adjust as quickly - set it up keep it that way
at first I didn’t want to like the pico because its so puny compared to the big boys but the sheer magnitude of what can be done with that puny little instrument is absolutely astonishing - there is absolutely nothing I have seen in the pico price range that carries that kind of power and functionality - its actually pretty unreal - if you don’t like learning curves you can stick with the basic templates - but the learning curve isn’t all that bad - syntax is relatively simple as compared to say linux
There were things I liked about the Pico when I got one around the time it launched, but I quickly ran away once it quckly became clear that the companies ambitions had failed and the instruments were heading into the wilderness for all but the most dedicated of users. Charging existing users for the more advanced software that was still a big kludgy mess also left a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve since had much fun with a wide variety of MPE controllers and I’ve certainly been pleased that the world of expressive playing is alive as a result. Its been hard for those alternatives to remain commercially viable and thrive too, but at least MPE as a whole caught on in terms of compatible synths and DAWs. And some MPE controller companies are viable so long as the companies involved had quite modest ambitions in the first place, eg didnt expect an unrealistic number of sales.
I should not knock John Lambert for having a vision and putting much money into executing that vision, but unfortunately a number of design decisions made it more likely that the product line wasnt going to gain momentum. And it looked like he didnt leave much commercial wiggle room to give plenty of time to make a success of it after launch before effectively giving up. The whole idea of configuring the instrument by playing particular sequences into it was interesting but doomed, and the software was more like the sort of thing you rig up as a prototype than something polished that you need to execute an ambitious product launch smoothly. There were some paradigms in there that needed ditching as they added a layer of confusion and steepened the learning curve. And the nature of the Pico made this more of an obvious issue than with the more expensive, standalone instruments. Perhaps things would have been different if MPE had already been well established when these instruments came along.
yes I do not dispute those points at all and my first inclination was to not like it, but then there are those moments when the instrument becomes one that literally vibrates and the slightest caress of the fingers produces the most amazing sounds - its not one that those moments are particularly easy to get to - for some reason it feels like a struggle to get anything resembling a clean sound out of it - but once that symbiosis arrives it’'s like no other instrument I’ve played - its just electric and almost like it comes alive in your hands - I use mine in combo with the leap and the morph - the final configuration will be an alpha, the mi-mus, and the leap, morph will still be there on the side as the morph is a fabulous piece of equipment and anyone who has one will be able to retire on how much they will sell for a few years down the road - they already going for 800+
Oddly enough I really wanted to like the linnstrument Roger is great with his service, the way he treats his customers - his business model of providing warranty to a used purchase is wonderfully considerate and it is a fabulous instrument in it’s own right. Great if you want a nice clean tone with good control over mph applications…however I always have to fight to get the mpe effect and it just doesn’t quite work for what I am doing sonically
Lets make sure anybody reading this understands that I have nothing particularly bad to say about rogers product - if you are a traditional tonal musician it is definitely made for you as mpe can be the devil itself for the musicians that like precise tonal control - me I am completely post tonal - with the occasional nod to all the amazing influences throughout the millennia of human existence that made the racket I make possible - I really think that’s why I felt so free with electronic music specifically with mpe because I have way too many directions id like to go, too many different styles genres, cultures and periods of history
I was so focused on being a better player I lost the ability to create. Post tonal I am free of the theory trap, I don’t have to focus so much on my weaknesses as a player - quite the opposite I can compensate for those and have the freedom to really explore like we all know some of the great composers would be if they were alive today…
The alpha will be a mixed bag I am certain due to its cost and the sheer amount of sigh practice it will take to become proficient, but once a person has the fluency to enter that zone with the eigenlabs instrument - there’s just nothing else quite like it - the guitar when I entered the zone was like a high, the pico small as it is is more like an actual out of body - it is elusive at this point - there’s a struggle to get to the point where your notes don’t warble to the point of like to drive you crazy, and the breath tube is not as sensitive as I thought it would be, but then mine was used and it may just need replaced
there is that point where
the merge happens and I would venture to say that is why there are some real die hard lovers of the instrument.
The fact is last time I spoke with them I was afraid johns heart wasn't in it anymore because it came out 10 years too early. It is odd that musicians shy away from innovation something fierce - we who appreciate it tend to even be a little stodgy on things at times - the level of expression mpe and soon midi 2.0 I imagine provide if one so desires can leave old school synth players on one hand wishing they had ear plugs but on the other eaten away with envy that such fluid sounds can be made.
I am literally barely getting beyond stock presets and
Ultimately the protocol for these will be make or break for longevity. It will be an instrument that stays up to date I suspect for a very long time, however I could be wrong and the best thing John could do is start looking at bread and butter offerings that will pull him out of a niche that as you point out, as have many others is not going to be much more than a niche instrument - the pico gives a nice teaser of the capability these things have and once you see that vista open up its like wow - for most though it is ultimately just too much
I hope that johns heart is in it still, he made an beautiful electronic instrument and in a big way he was ahead of his time - now if he could sit down and come up with a way to reduce the niche factor expressive instruments are literally sold out everywhere you go......however the cost is fairly prohibitive for your average player and the learning curve too much work for most pity but if he can adapt then maybe we can see some more interesting pieces that are 10 years ahead of their time lol
From my outsider perspective his heart hasnt been in it for a very, very long time. Or even if part of his heart is still in it, his head isnt, its a drain on his wallet rather than an investment that can still yield the hope of nice returns. His ambitions for the company in the form it launched to the public were dead within the first year or so after launch as far as I could tell. The software survives via the open-source efforts of other people that are not employees. I dont think the company has had any employees at all for years. The limited company still exists but you can read their accounts online at UK companies house and they largely still exist as a company for financial/accounting reasons - ie they still exist on paper in terms of some remaining stock of products, various forms of assets and debts, and money that John and someone else loaned to the company at the start, money they probably have no expectation of ever getting back. And every years accounts in recent years make mention of the losses rather than profits made, and about how there is significant uncertainty about the viability of the company to continue as a going concern. Those statements then continue by saying that due to support from shareholders, they are able to keep the ltd company going rather than having to dissolve that entity. In other words, they are still in business because they owe the money to themselves rather than a bunch of other creditors who would have demanded the plug be pulled years ago. But its hard to really think of it as an active company in most respects.
So no, I’ve had no expectations of further instruments from John for a very long time, sadly. There was something nice about the experience of touching and playing their instruments, and I did have some fun myself making my own prototype layer of software for the Pico that enabled a different form of playing (‘strumming’ via a couple of buttons on end side of the device, while using other buttons to select notes or chords and some forms of per note expression). I never took that too far and then my time and interest was captured by MPE controllers instead.
I dont say this to dissuade anyone who wants one from obtaining any instruments that are left, but just to temper expectations about the future. As best I can tell John spent huge amounts of his own money on this, and it didnt work out. Entities like ROLI burnt far, far more money than he did, but it wasnt their own money, it was venture capital. And they are still trying to carry on with that sort of thing (via a new company after the old one failed) despite the numbers making little sense on paper. Expressive-E (Osmose) raised some VC money too, but their adventure is still at an earlier stage and they didnt raise and burn cash at the same stupid rate as ROLI, not even close. And maybe they can rely on the familiarity of keyboard-type controllers to give themselves a better chance of prospering. Even then, the size of these markets relative to the funding required to make the products is a big challenge. And innovation is a tricky business, because for every potential customer that says they want something really new from an instrument or device, many more actually want something familiar.