Why we support @instrumentsLab #kickstarter Musical Instrument

Moving beyond the Magnetic Resonator Piano, Andrew Macpherson joined a team to make Touchkeys, a kickstarter project that brings  multi-touch add-on to keyboard controllers.  Touchkeys allows every key on a MIDI controller to have individual X-Y location mapped on the keys. Keyboardists will instantly become more expressive and creative with this add on. Here at Shapchanginginstruments.com, we think this will be a historic project.

Two guidelines from successful practices are as follows: The Best Interface is No Interface and Above All Do No Harm. Taken from the user interface world and medical world, these two sentences will allow us to discuss some of the essential magic of the TouchKeys Project.

The Best Interface is No Interface

“Our love for the digital interface is out of control.” – Golden Krishna of nointerface.com.

We want computers to behave smartly automatically behind the scenes to give us what we want. The beauty of the #TouchKeys interface is how much more control it gives the piano player, without taking his keys off the piano.  There is no reason to reach for a slider, pitch-wheel or iPad. By taking the pitch, x-y location of the fingers, strike velocity and after-touch – the performer has  doubled the amount of input he puts into his music. A good synthesist/musician will be apply that extra control to enhance the sound, and give the performer feedback on the keys. Go ahead, watch the kickstarter video.

The piano doesn’t just become an infinitely more expressive instrument to play, it is also more exciting to watch. Piano players use their bodies to link their keys to the emotion behind the music. Now, a new range of gestures is available for them to discover.

iPad apps provide similar functions. But these feel like toys that will be gone in a year.  Full piano keys is an interface that has been around for hundreds of years – with millions of man-hours already invested in its glory. But integrating computers invisibly with this new Technology, Touchkeys has a hit.

Is Touchkeys glorified Aftertouch?Aftertouch is an invention on synthesizers that allows notes to change after they have been started. Variations  key pressure can be used to signal synthesizers of parameter changes. It never felt natural, but the vibrato and bends of TouchKeys look and feel natural.

Above All Do No Harm

Build without subtraction. Touchkeys maintains all the feel of a regular keyboard. Musicians can apply their existing chops without hindering the music they already make. Often to learn a new thing/program/interface, designers force us to stop using our old thing, and invest time to begin the new one. Touchkeys allows musicians to keep jamming as they were, and gradually introduce new gestures as they grow forward.

Calibrating the pitch bend to land on set intervals. Nice job. Without this, the keyboard would be a rubbery mess. And limiting the amount of action this causes until after the note is triggered, allows the main expression of the note to always come through.

Is Touchkeys glorified Aftertouch? Somebody, please find an example of performers effectively using aftertouch. We always turned it off. Back in the day, it clogged MIDI lines with controller information and never added much.

Please Support This Project

The people behind the project have a great track record of teaching and innovating. This will become a standard feature on all midi keyboards in the future, so why not be a piece of history and donate to it now.  (Or at least link to it)


3 thoughts on “Why we support @instrumentsLab #kickstarter Musical Instrument

  1. […] New York hackers made Weather Synth. The weather synth did was not making any sound today, but did enjoy the idea of using live weather data to control a synthesizer. Chicago hackers explored the auralization of 3D molecular interactions. Toronto hackers were a bit more computer programming based. Among their works was an nifty iPad sequencer. Philadelphia hackers allowed YouTube videos to control the magnetic resonator piano. Nice job building a new project on top of the existing work of Andrew Macpherson. (who went on to build TouchKeys) […]

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