Thursday, February 6, 2014

OSC (Open Sound Control ) was the missing ingredient

I can't believe I didn't see it before but I now found the missing part needed to complete a prototype of some of our new musical instruments. OSC or also know as Open Sound Control is just what's needed to start a quick development of a new touchpad musical instrument or for that mater many. Within just a few minuets I was able to interface my new android Acer Z5 phone to PD (Pure Data) that I have running on a Linux Mint desktop with a wifi interface that was so easy even with a modified XML user interface, I couldn't believe it could possibly work but it DID! So the fact is that we can now design a custom touch control interface with a simple XML file on your android phone or pad with totally free software that I'm presently playing with called Fingerplay Midi . This provides me the needed interface to PD (Pure Data) that can convert the touch screen of any android phone into needed events that control ether a PD synth or make PD into a gateway to one of the many (free) midi and OSC software synths that are already available on Linux and Microsoft Windows repositorys. Oh and also yes, all this is also available on cross platforms so as we develop new XML files to run on the android OSC touch controller and new PD synth and gateway patches, it will also run on both windows and Linux and I guess on OSX (apple) also with the same file set. On the downside I'm still not sure of how fast this preset OSC software interface will be. So it might require more development when we find what we like to make it more real-time based by moving the code into C++ or asm code to allow older and present day devices to run it in real time. But I see a future when that won't be needed as computer performance improves and the code libs are improved for performance the conversion won't even be needed. For all I know maybe the hardware needed is already available and the cost of development to improve performance is minimal. So I've already started testing with this concept with my new Acer Z5 android phone to see what can be done to get us started. I'll start to publish some of my PD patches with some XML file examples with fingerplay. I also looked at a few other OSC interface software that now already exist on android repository. There are many with some free as seen with fingerplay and others that charge to install on an android system. As what I see so far none have everything that I'm looking for. The most important missing part that is needed as soon as possible is to be able to modify what image is seen below the touch pad on the android OSC software. I would at least need the lines that define the note boundary of a present setting. So after I get a prototype sound interface with what is presently available I will promote some development time to having an android OSC user configurable interface that has more options of images seen bellow controls that would include sliders, bottoms and touch-pad surfaces. At the same time we will see what can be done to improve latency time from the android device to the OSC server side interface. As I see it the bandwidth needed for OSC protocol to function on a local network or even Wan is minimal so the speed improvements in software must be possible. So that's all that I've learned today so stay tuned. I think we will have what is needed for a good start soon.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The "Beach Bum Band" is born

My “Pattaya Beach Pocket band” or "Beach Bum Band" has almost become a reality. I've now got myself a new acer Z5 android phone that I needed to setup a really cool musical instrument using an app called EerieSynth It is almost everything I was hoping to create with some added stuff that I never even dreamed of. I also picked up some blue tooth speakers that enable me to wirelessly hook eeriesynth to a speaker system that can be heard within a small range of say 20 feet or so. I got two of these so that I can have at least one other person with an android phone that wants to add to the band sound. If I can't find anyone else to start I plan to play along with some music like the artist Moby music would be perfect. Most of it is slow and simple and not too loud as I need as I'm just a beginner at this new instrument. But it seems quite easy to play and think I will get much better over time with more practice. So in this article I will also add some links of other synths that I found that run on android that others can play along with us as a group. Each synth has different qualities and total different ways of human interface so it doesn't mater if you can play an instrument or not you can still add to the sound even if only with pre-edited midi format or mp3 sound tracks or just loop tracks or drum machine lick tracks in any format that your android can output over a blue-tooth link to our public speaker system. I later have plans to have each android send there audio stream to a central android or computer server that will be controlled by another human to balance the sound of each of the instruments and at some point cut some off and setup solo events on other instruments. And all this cool stuff will be just by things that most people can just pull out of there pockets. In the future when we want to setup a bigger event One or two people could just bring some bigger blue tooth speakers that I also saw at tookcom that cost about 3000 baht ($100USD) when we want to totally jam down and crank up a bigger beach party. These are still small enough to fit in a backpack and include rechargeable batteries that I'm told will play for like 20 hours or so. So tonight will be my first attempt to see how just the two small speakers work to start.

OK and now to start a list of what others should start to install and learn to play with on there android phones to find out what is best for how you want to play or Generate noise. the first group of apps that I will add to the list is drum sequencers and midi type synths that are the next most needed part of what we already have. The sequencers will allow someone to just sync a prerecorded or generated track to start into the complete group track or just be the first to start and others can be the ones that start adding there licks to the complete public sound at any time they feel ready. It's just an adlib jam session that you and others fill in at any point in time they want.

OK to start our android play list:
start with some percussion instruments

we need some bongo drums

since I think simple is best a simple tambourine for one person should work

oh this one looks cool for shaker instruments

tambla drum

anther drum set that also records (if maybe we don't have a player)

now for some synthesizers and sequencers:

first on the list and most favorite synth instruments is:

and another much like it that I like to play

another more complex (and not free) is costic a complete set of synths and midi sequencer set
it's a bit complicated so you might want to try a simpler instrument but this could also be a automated backup band

This one looks cool as it's a simple fm synth and simple sequencer in one

if you like the original DX7 keyboard sounds this one simulates is almost to a tee

we could use some string instruments
like some guitars

maybe a violin

The list goes on and on I can't try them all I'm hoping some of you might want to give these and others not listed here a try and feedback how you think they might be in a live band environment. I hope this just gets you started in a search for a musical instrument that best fits what you like and your skill set and desires.

Also make sure to start to add some of your favorite mp3 tunes in your phone so we can get an idea of the type of music you like and would like to learn to play or just listen to when we are not playing. Remember any phone can become the master of one of the public Beach Bum Band blue-tooth speaker systems so we can all hear what mp3 music and instruments you have.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

PocketBand Android app

This android app isn't quite in my thoughts of being a touchpad musical instrument but I think it still fits into my concept of the goal of creating a group with a pocket band as that's just what it's called. I more like the complexity of a jam with real people each putting in parts in realtime but at some point we still need a backup band in our pocket when we don't quite have all the players in the band needed to get things started. so this can perform as your drums and backup base synth and much more, and be modified in the field to best fit the mood of the group so here it is check it out. definitly adding it to the list of things for a adhoc band to bring to the beach. See what the experts can do with this and also note it includes wan network collaboration:

Droiditar another cool android musical instrument app

Droiditar another cool android musical instrument app. Not sure I like this one as much as the EerieSynth but I will have to try it to be sure. cool stuf, check it out.

EerieSynth coolest android app I've ever seen

Another one of the best android apps I've seen with multi-touch sensitive and slide microtonal support. just what I was looking for. Only problem is it won't run on my old android phone. So this makes me want to get a new android device just so I can play with this program. Fantastic. check it out in the video bellow:

There is a free demo version and another version you can buy for like $3usd. It's available on google play to install on your android The only thing I can think of that would make this even better is if it had a method to output it's play data to midi over wifi or bluetooth. That would make it possible not only to record jams, but to also make it possible to create live beach bands in an instant with a adhoc wifi setup that you could carry in a backpack or for most the rest of the group band in there pockets. The dream of having an instant group that only has a single boom box speaker to all play through is now almost a reality. Just think of the fun we can have with that.

The AxMOD android musical instrument app

In my search for touch-pad instruments I did find something cool that is an app that runs on an android device that looks like it works very well from the video. Also note it's multi-touch supported. see video bellow:

Monday, January 27, 2014

PD or Pure Data, another useful software tool in the development of the midi-pad or tactilemusic-pad

In my search for looking for methods to control a midi synth like qsynth with the midi-pad, I found a tool that might come in handy. It's called PD or Pure Data and it's is a group of open source software and libs. At first looking at what it does it seems it has so many uses that it becomes hard to get a full understanding of what it is or what it does. My first impression is that it would provide a method to prototype how we want any input of data to manipulate sound. As this is much of what we want to do is map methods of how touching the surface of a touch-pad with multi-touch X,Y,Z data output, And how we want this output to effect the output of our musical instrument sound output. At first glance PD (Pure Data) looked to be perfect for this task, but with longer analysis it looks to have some weakness in that it may not work in real-time as needed for a real-time playable live instrument that I had planed for the midi-pad or tactilemusic-pad to be. But I still think it would be perfect in the design stage at least to try different methods of touch-pad mapping and as a method of illustrating how a midi-pad implementation would work. At some point in the future (or maybe even now) I should also assume that computers will become fast enough to possibly use PD or it's scripts or programs in real-time, when faster inexpensive computers become available. Otherwise I think when a method or methods of mapping are chosen to become real-time candidates of a midi-pad instrument configuration, that the PD scripts would have to be compiled into something that can run in real-time on inexpensive hardware ether in a C++ or asm, or even into hardware DSP (Digital Signal Processor) or asic designs depending on the complexity of the script and the amount of money you had to spend. I will begin to play with PD (Pure Data) and find out how we can best make use of it in this project. Minimally as an illustrator so we can actually demonstrate the operation and hear sound output of a midi-pad even without having one or without even having any touch-pad at all with simulated input. To get a basic understanding of what PD is and what it can do here is a video of a simple application of a PD script and how it can be manipulated in real-time with a resulting in changes in sound output in this example.

another good example of the basics in programming in PD seen in this video:

I might also add that I see some talk of work on a PD compiler that would be a big benefit to us. This would make it possible to make a prototype in PD and later compile the code to get it to run in real-time as our touch-pad musical instrument. I see a lot of hope for such methods in the design of not only the tactile musical touch pad but in many other new musical instrument input devices and concepts of controlling the production of sound and music.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Theremin musical instrument is more like it

All this time in my searches for a musical instrument I had failed to see the instrument that is most like what I've been looking for called the Theremin Although the real Theremin musical instrument invented in the 1920's uses a method of control that you don't even touch but control two oscillators by moving your two hands within the proximity of antennas as seen below with the creator, Leon Theremin playing it in this video.

They do also now have virtual Theremin instruments that produce sound like this using a mouse or touchpad much in a manner of how I had planed to have control. One difference in what they do and the way I had planed is that they just have a single oscillator were as I had planed to use the touch to control midi events with multiple voices. To start we also could play with this simple single oscillator method to get a better idea as to the speed of the touch response of our input devices. Later we can also devise a method to convert the touch plane into midi events as we had originally planed if we find it to be feasible. So at some point we could basically merge the VMPK (Virtual Midi Piano Keyboard) with a touchpad version of Virtual Theremin Instrument like Ptheremin. Another difference in the Theremin is it was originally designed to be a mono voiced instrument. We could start out as mono voiced but we had planed to be multi voiced using the multi-touch abilities of the new touchpads. I have so far found a few open source code projects that relate to the Theremin that might be useful that I will begin to document here. One of the best projects I found so far is the Theremin . I've only begun to look at the code and as yet have not figured out how to compile it and use it on Ubuntu but the example video links show it in action much as I had hoped to have in some ways. Also another cool bit of code I found that relates to Theremin is Ptheremin That is python code that again is much like what I was looking for. It provides a very good example of some of the parts of the user interface needed for a midi-pad device. There was also some Synaptics code for a theremin instrument that used the Synaptics touchpad as an input device, but I failed to find the source code for it and it was compiled for windows so I'm not going to document it here but only to say it does or did exist. From this I learned that I need to widen my search for instruments like this before I get stock in thinking of doing something is one way when there are many ways of doing the things we want and with code that already exist. So best we keep searching before we finalize on the development of an idea.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Plans for tactilemusic-pad software development

I've been thinking about the steps of development goals to begin the development of the software needed to support a musical touch pad or maybe a better name for them would be midi-pad (we need to think of a better name). I am also looking for the needed resources of code and libs that already exist in Linux, that I should make available in one location for those that want to assist in the development to be used as references. I plan to setup another project in my present account that at first will only contain parts of code that are not really parts of music-pad but are the needed code that will be needed as references to read and understand to help us to proceed. I am going to collect the parts of the kernel source of the drivers of at least one touch pad (the Logitech T650) and the modules that are linked back to the USB interface. I will also include the diagnostic tools code used to test a touch-pad that already exist in the Linux archives that should be useful to learn how it works. I will also include the code of some other projects that have many of the feature we are looking to control including:
virtual midi piano keyboard

This virtual midi piano keyboard even includes touch screen support in it's present state so maybe all we need is a branch of this as it basically does most of what we want to do already.

Minimal beginnings of code
The first working code attempt will be minimal that will simply read only the raw X position (horizontal position) of a touch-pad and convert that to a midi code and then possibly send this to midi with the rtMIDI lib tools, that will make it possible to be able to be linked to a software synth like Timidity and/or Qsynth or recorded on rosegarden or other software using the jackd and alsa midi tools for linking. This is just to learn the basics of both using the data stream from the touch-pad and to learn the linking to available libs and tools of rtMIDI, alsa, jackd and later to VMPK code. Even before linking I would start to play with the rtMIDI and the diagnostics for touch-pad by them self with simple print statements added and just driving a single key on and off to get the idea of how each works on it's own. At this point we will also begin to test time lag of the touch devices to determine if continued support for a chosen device is worth pursuing before we invest anymore time in the project.

Dreams of Adding features to VMPK to better support a midi-pad
Now I will jump ahead and use my imagination of some of the features that I think we could add over time and not necessarily in the order that I present them here. The order is dependent mostly on how difficult it would be to implement each added feature and also on the number people and what people have an interest in having and supporting. Also note some of these features can't be developed until we have devices that output valid pressure data in the structure. But I will note all the features I can think of here as this is just a wish list at this time anyway.

Vertical Y plane mapping methods
One feature I can't even fully fathom yet is how we plan to map the Y plane (the vertical position) on the touch-pad. As there are so many ways we could do this part. I would like to have some user configurable method to be able to break up the Y plane to scale it in as many columns as the user wanted at the time. It could be as we start with that the Y plane is only 1 column were the only data that is used from the pad is X position that would be used to control pitch or the note played with Y position having no influence on the music played or midi events. Or if you set Y to be active in say 2 planes then the lower plane could be one set of notes and the upper column could be setup to map to 1 octave higher or lower or some other controllable shift of frequency. The Y plane could also be configured as just adding aftertouch events that could be used to drag and bend individual notes in frequency or to add modulation or amplitude or other and also depending on the configuration of software synthesizer it is setup to drive. The Y plane could be expanded to any number of columns that could include 6 columns that would or could be more like a simulation of the six strings on a guitar. Also the Y plane could be broken into two sets of columns inside columns where the inner set of columns are after touch with the outer columns being sets of more note keys (frequency). I'm not sure I'm stating this part very clearly so I'll later explain this at some other time. As I said the possibilities here are so wide that I would want the software written so that more methods could be added for the use of both the X and Y plane without having to make the user rewrite the software to make changes or at least write the software simple enough to make software changes easy or possible with maybe plug-ins or ???

Horizontal X plane mapping methods
OK that's just the beginning of the Y plane. Now lets get to the easy part that I should have started first that would be the X plane (horizontal plane) of the touch-pad and how it will control the sounds or midi events generated. This should be easy as most of this I would assume has been already handled in the VMPK software that we already have. Without even looking at how VMPK works already, I'm going to imagine how it could be done. Simply the X plane would be configurable as to how many octaves or how many keys are supported across the touch-pad in teh X plane or basically how many rows are sensed as different notes or sub-notes ( I will explain sub-notes later as bending notes). We also need a way to shift the keyboard up and down in octaves or keys. The X axis should also have the ability to drag to allow note bending that should have the option to be enabled or disabled bending events. I'm not sure if we can bend individual notes with midi but I think we can as I just did a quick look at midi event codes and even as I was reading it wasn't totally sure. Also I'm not totally sure how the present qsynth and timitidy and other software synth are at responding to aftertouch so that will require a bit of research to see what kind of aftertouch we would want to send with sliding across the touch-pad in the X and Y axis. Also at some point we might want to edit some or one of the software synthesizers to support more aftertouch events that could now be useful as without a touch instrument there was never really any possible way to make use of them. The ability to use midi events to control filters must also be available some place but I'm not sure where to look for that yet. If that doesn't already exist we will want to create them or at least learn to link into them if they do exist. With filters we would want a way to adjust center frequency, the Q (bandwidth) and also the rates that those bandwidth values change as you drag. But filter control would probably best be controlled with the Y axis movement not X. OK and that's just the beginning of the X plane on the touch-pad or midi-pad as we might refer to them.

Z axis pressure sensitivity mapping methods
Now lets start thinking about the plane that we don't or won't even have yet until they develop a touch-pad device with Z axis or Pressure sensitivity. The pressure sensitive component can be used for at least two things one being midi velocity value of the note and two could also be used for aftertouch events. We will start here with the velocity component that would be read at the strike of the touch-pad note position. It would be used to manipulate the velocity value in the midi event. For one thing I would assume that no touch-pad is the same and no musician would want the velocity sensitivity the same and It would also depend on what instrument you had it proggramed to play. To make it simple to start we would just do simple scaling of the pressure sensed at strike with limits on both minimum and maximum velocity that it would convert to as sent as a midi event. But I think we need more than that. I think what is needed is some custom none linear line of different force to different midi velocity value as well as the upper and lower limits. This I guess could be done in two ways with exponential and also with a curve fit line on a graph that would be modifiable by the user in some GUI. You might also want sections of the keys to have different sensitivity than others or mapped to different curves over different sets of notes. OK that's a start on the velocity value sent with pressure.

Z axis pressure and aftertouch mapping methods
Now lets look at what could be added as far as aftertouch using the Z axis data. I guess the main thing to add for after touch is the threshold of how much more added force after the strike will begin to trigger aftertouch midi events. Also there might be some time value to add before aftertouch begins to register and also threshold of change over the original strike value before aftertouch begins to be effected. Also similar to velocity would require max min values sent and a scaling method that should be much the same type controls used in velocity above. I again would prefer to see custom curve fit graphic line used to generate the sensitivity scale used that would be controlled by the user. Also aftertouch should have the option to be enabled and disabled.

Standard piano keyboard like mapping support
As an added note I should mention that I had only really planed to map the touch pad into a square checkerboard like pattern that would be more like emulating a guitar and string positions. But some might prefer using a position mapping that more emulates a standard piano keyboard. I hope this has already been done in the VMPK software as I didn't have plans to support that method of mapping but I'll add a button in the GUI to enable it and disable it in hopes that someone wants to support it.

User interface control methods and GUI interface features
OK now we have an idea of what features we want. Now we need to think about how we want the user interface to look like to control all these features and other things that need added controls. Being a dreamer I think I should create the user interface first just to tease people into thinking that it does really already exist. I am most familiar with glade so I may make a prototype glade GUI that has a method to control at least some of the values above to at least get us started. Also note that this or these GUI screens or tabs would just be added to the already existing VMPK software GUI that already exists. So here I will start thinking about what buttons and sliders we should add to additional tabs if they don't exist already to this interface. I guess I'll just list them to start in hopes that most are self explanatory and for some I will separate the control name with a comma that will include a brief explanation of what it does:

Volume control slider, basic max midi velocity generated or direct control over ALSA or Pulseaudio volume or one for each

Enable disable output button, as we might use the touch-pad for other purposes other than music we might want to disable it from generating midi events at some points.

Min velocity slider
Max velocity slider
expo velocity slider
min aftertouch slider
max aftertouch slider
expo aftertouch slider
min frequency slider (in notes or Hz??)
max frequency sider
note offset box, plus or minus value that will shift the present active range of notes
X note graduation number box, the number of notes or sensitive row separation position
Y graduation number notes, number columns to divide Y axis into for multiple columns of notes
Y graduation number aftertouch, number to subdivide each note box into to drive aftertouch events
Y graduation mode setting, volume mode , position or drag aftertouch mode, multi row notes mode
Y key note offset for each row when multi row is active
Midi channel, I think all the main midi controls are already on the VPKB software so I won't add more here
I will continue to add to this list as more controls come to mind.

OK this is just a ruff draft that was created in less than 2 hours so we can edit or trash this at any time. Remind you I didn't even read the features of VMPK software before I wrote this to prevent me from being biased to there already written methods of control. I'm sure after I read and play with the VMPK (Virtual Midi Piano KeyBoard) that I will want to edit this to some degree to make the changes better fit with what they already have done. For all I know maybe nothing needs to be done to it. From the screen shots it already looks fantastic. I will later also think up other controls needed and other ways to provide the user more control in the way touch actions can be mapped to midi events or other creative stuff. Remind you it might be some time before the hardware devices needed to fully implement these ideas become available in the open market. Feel free to add your own 2 cents or feedback in any way as any feedback including criticism can only be a benefit at this point in time. Continue to dream or it won't become a reality.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The revolutionary new Quneo and how it compares to the Tactilemusic-pad

The Quneo is another amazing new hardware midi controller device that was developed from funding. It has many of the features we have been looking for in our tactilemusic-pad device. It is very innovative and also falls within a reasonable price of $199 usd at Best way to realize what the Quneo is and what it can do is view the video that shows just how amazing and flexible the Quneo really is as seen here:
I was very impressed with this device. On It positive sides I like it's physical size and shape that makes it perfect as a drum machine input but goes far beyond just that. It's most important feature I feel is that it's multi-touch pressure sensitive that is setup to not only control velocity midi data but also aftertouch and other parts of the midi data stream. It also has feed back of lights under the keys that are used in multiple ways in different modes of it's operation. Also what I like to see here is that there is a market for these type of devices in this price range in the general market as they managed to raise 10 times there goal of funds on at over $165,000usd and continue to sell on today. As far as a comparison of this device and what we look forward to from the tactilemusic-pad. As the tactilemusic-pad is fully programmable with X Y touch resolution far exceeding the number of buttons available on the Quneo, it could be touch map configured much in the same way as a Quneo and in theory could emulate and perform much in the same way if someone choose to add software support to emulate a Quneo using a tactilemusic-pad. Without a doubt the tactilemusic-pad could be configured as a drum machine input device and that might be a configuration that becomes the most popular for all we know. But the tactilemusic-pad will never have the keyboard light feedback that the Quneo has so I don't think the tactilemusic-pad will entirely replace the functionality of a Quneo. Also the Quneo has some cool software support already around it and fully functional today that we as yet don't presently have for the tactilemusic-pad, but we will. But I still feel that the tactilemusic-pad has the ability to be much more flexible than the Quneo as it's completely software dependent on how it can be configured to be used and how a touch is programed to respond with much more X and Y resolution. As the the tactilemusic-pad could emulate a Quneo, a Quneo could never emulate the features of the tactilemusic-pad or instruments like the Continuum as the tactilemusic-pad could. Also I feel the hardware production cost of tactilemusic-pad would be less with fewer and no moving parts. The tactilemusic-pad is much more than just a drum machine like input device. I feel the tactilemusic-pad will join in with the Quneo to also be a part of next generation of musical input devices.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Software development with presently available touch-pad products?

As I continue to research touch sensitive device technology and presently available touch-pad devices in the market, I feel the best way to proceed in the creation of the tactilemusic-pad, is by experimental software development and testing with touch-pad devices that are already in the market. Although it would seem that the present devices lack some of the features we need for a tactilemusic-pad, it seems the Synaptics drivers they presently use already have the data structures setup to be used with multi-touch and multi-pressure data structures. So even without pressure sensitivity at this time, we should be able to start to develop the software to convert the structures returned into midi and other formats that will be used to drive and control sound generation software that is already available in Linux. As we know from past history normally it is software that lags hardware. So by getting started now even with what we have we might not figure out how to use the valid data in the structures to drive software synthesizers, before the release of new products that have more valid data available to play with. My present choice of a device if we choose to do so would be the Logitec T640 touch-pad that sells for a reasonable price of from about $30 - $50usd at as seen bellow.

As I do see evidence on the web of others in Ubuntu and Linux have had some success with this device as a standard touch-pad to be used in place of a mouse. I have also analyzed the present source code for the drivers in the Linux kernel archives to get a basic understanding of what might be possible to try if we had a T650 device in our possession. My research so far on the Logitec T650 make it unclear as to what chip is used in the T650 device but I do see comments on the web that Logitec deals with Synaptics and I also see from the Logitec Linux driver source that it uses the Synaptics code when used in a Linux system. So I assume that this device must have some older version of chip set prior to the Series 7 Synaptics that don't have the pressure sensitive feature yet but they do claim to be multi-touch. I also note comments I've read in some articles of something about asking Synaptics to release the source code as open source to allow multi-touch feature to be active in linux. I'm not sure how this can be as when I look at the code it does indeed include multi-touch in the data structures. So what are they asking for? Maybe the firmware in the Logitec device is limited with no multi-touch when used with linux? I'm not really sure what this might mean and if anything that they speak of is really valid. I can also bet that in the near future that Logitec and maybe others will be delivering products that also use the presently unused portions of the Linux kernel code to provide pressure readings at each point of contact when they integrate the new Synaptics chips into there products. So one question is should we just wait for a new Logitec product to appear with all the needed features or purchase the present and start development. I would be glad to start if someone donated a sample Logitec T650 or other unit, but my resources are very limited and I might otherwise sit and wait for what's really needed with Series 7 Synaptics technology before I extend my finances.

Revolutionary new instrument the QuNexus

I found the Qunexus instrument on to be very innovative and had many of the features I was looking for in an instrument. It has after-touch and velocity sensitivity much the way I was looking for. It also has some features I had never even dreamed of with its added outputs of voltage as well as usb interface to a computer to drive midi events it can also drive other methods of bending sounds in other electronic sound devices with voltage changes from a DAC. I also like it's very small portable size and above all I like it's not overly expensive price tag at only $150usd. It also has another advantage over a tactilemusic-pad in that it is more like a standard keyboard that people that play a piano like keyboard instrument will pickup and learn to play this device with ease. It also has another feature that stands it apart with it's lights on each key that are setup to be used to learn to play and as feedback that makes for another nice innovative touch. I'm also very happy to see that they were able to raise the funds needed to make there idea a reality. To me this shows that there is a market for innovative musical instruments in todays market. But I still feel that a pressure sensitive pad like the tactilemusic-pad and other units like it allow for more performance with more flexibility with more surface aria to bend and manipulate sounds with software that would include the ability to have velocity and after-touch, note bend and filter manipulation on a per finger basis as we seen in other examples of touch sensitive surface pad devices in this blog like the tactilemusic-pad. Also one of the strong points of the tactilemusic-pad is that it will continue to improve over time with upgraded open source software or to be custom manipulated with software changes, were as the QuNexus as far as I know will be stuck in performing the same as it's original design with no change over time. I also feel that touch pad devices should be capable of being produced at a lower cost than this device if produced in large enough numbers and with no moving parts there is nothing to ware out.

But I it still think the QuNexus a very cool device that you should consider looking at as seen bellow.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The SoundPlane A another Professional Touch sensitive Insturment

Another very cool professional musical instrument using a touch sensitive surface much like what we could only dream to achieve is called the SoundPlane A by . They have created an amazing work of art in itself with looks as well as it's sound generating abilities. But again at a price that is far out of reach of us mere mortals at about $1800usd. See for yourself the demo video that gives you a taste of what it can do, And what we should strive to work toward. The website also has some very interesting and useful information on how they created there instrument and how others could possibly create there own devices as I noted in one of my other articles at Randy of madronalabs was also very quick to respond to our message with a questions we had about our sample rate limitations with the components we are presently looking at to work in our prototype. His replay:

"100 Hz is way better than 0! In other words, I think there is a lot of fun to be had and a lot to learn, without meeting any particular goals for sample rate.”
Thanks for writing and I look forward to seeing what your exploration brings".

From this response I can tell he loves his creation and promotes others to follow in his foot steps as we should.

Photo of a "Soundplane A" and a video demo of what it can do.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Korg MICROKEY25 Micro USB MIDI Keyboard

The Korg MICROKEY25 Micro USB MIDI Keyboard is another device to note. Again it outputs midi data over USB just as we are looking for and it falls into the size and shape we are looking for at a price of only $68 including free shipping as seen at Seems like a good price for a quality product with a good name brand. And here it is demonstrated on

just giving you an idea of what this baby can do in the right hands. Another positive thing about this device and other devices like this is that someone that already knows how to play a keyboard can probably already know how to play devices like this. Were as a tactilemusic-pad will require everyone a learning curve to become a competent player. Adding to this that the user input may change over time with software changes to some degree if a different profile is selected. On the bad side or pro tactilemusic-pad as a standard keyboard compared to a tactilemusic-pad, The tactilemusic-pad can add more subtitle changes and emulate bending of individual notes to emulate instruments like a violin or guitar sound that with only the ability to change from one note to another on a standard piano type keyboard makes that not possible or just not as natural sounding. I would also think that the simplicity in the construction of a touchpad like device with no moving parts should make the costs of construction even less than something like this Korg that has so many moving parts and more things to go wrong over time. Also with added software creativity much more features can be added in software with a tactilemusic-pad. Were as with this device, no firmware or other changes that I can think of could much improve upon it's output.

M-Audio Keystation 49es 49-Note USB MIDI Controller

The M-audio midi keyboards although is not exactly a touch pad instruments, They do almost put out the same type of data we are looking for with midi out with velocity sensitivity. Also to note is the price that a 49 key keyboard costs is about $125 at This is about the price and quality I would hope we could bring to market or at a bit lower cost. This looks to be much more complicated with many more moving parts so should cost much more to produce. But this is something that we should keep in mind as a comparison of price and package. I do like the size of this unit in square inches but I think with a pad we could make it a bit smaller and lighter.

Roll-up piano EL-E2008 61key with MIDI OUT

I found another product that struck me as being similar to what we are working on. It's a roll up piano from . That can be seen in action here .

The cool thing I see about this device is that it has midi output. The bad thing is that I think it has no velocity sensitivity and also has no touch sensitivity in the Y plane. But I was just wondering if this company might be someone to ask if they might want to be involved in the development of our tactilemusic-pad. It would be cool if we could just modify this in some manner to make it become what we wanted. The other cool thing is that this device is only $34. This just goes to show what can be done with just a small amount of money. And I'm not asking for a device that can even creates sound at all just midi or usb data out is all we want, at least for now. But if it cost just $34 more it might be cool to add the feature of having totally portable rool up tactilemusic-pad that includes sound output like this at sometime in the future or maybe even in the first one to make a total portable device.

I also note that they have a usb output unit very similar to this one. I'm not sure what the price on the usb version is but here is the link to it

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cypress Semiconductor CY8CTMA1036 chip might work

I just found that there are more competitors in the touch screen or touch-pad market. The Cypress Semiconductor CY8CTMA1036 TrueTouch controller is one of them. The cool thing I see is that it has up to 1000hz scan rates with refresh rate of 400hz that's 4 times faster than Synaptics 7300 series as seen here The bad thing is that I don't see any of there products that claim to be pressure sensitive. But maybe we can get around that. As I've seen on the synaptic driver there is not only the Z verible but also a size of object value that if it was updated by the sensor it might be used as the value we need for preasure. So I'll read more into this chip and it's drivers and see what it might do for us. I also note near the bottom of the article that this device isn't available in mass production yet, only samples are available. and more info about it seen here that shows it can read 10 positions at one time.

The Continuum, Another pressure sensitive musical instrument

In my search I found Another professional musical device that also uses a pad surface and touch pressure sensitivity that they call the Continuum and can be seen and purchased here: It uses some other method to sense touch with magnetic sensors. They have some amazing samples of some of the sounds that it creates that sound fantastic. But again its a bit pricey for me with the smaller unit priced at about $3300usd and the larger unit is up to $5200usd. Also another thing to note about this device is the surface material they use on the pad being neoprene, the same material used in wetsuits. This gives it a feel of some feedback as to how hard your pushing on it. I think this is a very good idea even if it adds cost to our device it would be nice to have at least a neoprene top pad as an option if not standard in our devices.

some links of sounds that I found that were created with the Continuum that I thought were cool:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Originally estimated 100 hz sample rate is not fast enough?

I learned some thing today that is good and bad. From information I found at it seems my original guess that only 100 samples per second on the touch-pad would be adequate for a music pad seems to be incorrect. Randy demonstrates a system that he claims requires about 1000 samples per second or a bit more. The good news is that he seemed to get the X and Y axis resolution from only 8 channels of A2D to make a surface of about 8 X 8 inches to work. So what this means is that the Synaptics 7300 asic chip will probably not have a fast enough sample rate to work in this project. I've also sent a letter to in hopes that there sample rate might be fast enough and at a price within the planed budget of less than $100 per unit. I had originaly thought 200hz sample rate was good but when I saw that the synaptics 7300 chip could only sample at 100hz I thought that would have to do. Also the Madronalabs Soundplane instrument is exactly what I had hoped to create with off the shelf parts. There Soundplane unit IS for sale NOW but at a price of about $1800USD. Way above my budget. They also explain that the parts used in the Soundplane instrument seen on his website and on are not off the shelf that they were made in house. The video is also fantastic showing just what can be done with a pressure sensitive plane device. The size and shape and everything about it to me is perfection.

Update with a return from Randy at
"100 Hz is way better than 0! In other words, I think there is a lot of fun to be had and a lot to learn, without meeting any particular goals for sample rate.
Thanks for writing and I look forward to seeing what your exploration brings".

So at least he provides us with continued hope of some success.
Thanks Randy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Letter to

We are interested in developing a product line that we think might benefit from your QTC™ Touch Processing Unit technology. We are in need of a touchpad with pressure sensitivity that is larger than normally seen in the present market with the approximate specs seen bellow for the first in our line of a devices we are aiming for:

Size: 12 inches by 6 inches surface aria approximate size minimum
Resolution X and Y axis: 50 lines per inch minimum
Resolution pressure: 256 levels of pressure minimum
Sample rate: 100 samples per second or 10ms response time minimum
Multi-touch sensitivity: 10 points at one time minimum
Driver support: Linux, Windows 8
Interface: USB

We are interested in what your specifications for the QTC Touch Processing Unit are in the above values.
This is to be used to create a touchpad that is to be used in musical instrument input devices. We have interested software developers now that are prepared to start our project when we have a prototype available. This is an open source project that is to be partly funded by For more details of the project and it's goals see . We are looking for estimates of prices for quantities needed for from 1000 and 10000 units and estimates of time that they can be delivered. We also require engineering services and production and distribution service channels as we are mostly involved in software and parts of the physical design. We could use your help in pointing us to services that can turn this idea into a completed item.

Thank You
Scott Carlson

Update jan 15, 2014:
I note I now see some statistic web trafic on our seen from Korea. This might indicate that (they are a Korean company) has received my email and have had a chance to look at this site. But still no return from them as of yet. They might see our goal price is much too low to use there technology? Or maybe they see our interest in the competition with Sinaptics as making it not probable. At least they came for a look. Still looking forward to hearing from them.

Letter to Roger Linn Design

Hi Roger Linn Design
I just want to say that your Linstrument is totally inspirational. We are now working on a device that we intend to have the ability to have the functionality much like your linstrument. We are now focusing on what would be needed to create a pressure sensitive touchpad that could be used for musical instrument input and make it affordable to the masses. We are presently contacting synaptics for there series 7 7300 device about a new device that might be usable in this case. We are looking to produce from 1000 to 10000 units to start. If you would like to provide some input on the specifications you feel are needed or might prefer we could attempt to gear the product to something you find would be more useful. If your interested you can see more details of our project at Also if your interested we would be glad to send you one of the prototypes of the product for you to play with if you so desire as soon as it becomes available.

Letters to Synaptics

Dear Synaptics
We are interested in developing a product line that could benefit from your Forcepad and ClearPad 7300 product. We are in need of a touchpad with pressure sensitivity that is larger than normally seen in the present market with the approximate specs seen bellow for the first in our line of a devices we are aiming for:

Size: 12 inches by 6 inches surface aria approximate size minimum
Resolution X and Y axis: 50 lines per inch minimum
Resolution pressure: 256 levels of pressure minimum
Sample rate: 100 samples per second or 10ms response time minimum
Multi-touch sensitivity: 10 points at one time minimum
Driver support: Linux, Windows 8
Interface: USB

This is to be used to create a touchpad that is to be used in musical instrument input devices. We have interested software developers now that are prepared to start our project when we have a prototype available. This is an open source project that is to be partly funded by For more details of the project and it's goals see . We are looking for estimates of prices for quantities needed for from 1000 and 10000 units and estimates of time that they can be delivered. We may also require engineering services and production and distribution service channels as we are mostly involved in software and parts of the physical design. We could use your help in pointing us to services that can turn this idea into a completed item.

Thank You
Scott Carlson

Update Jan 15, 2014 second email to synaptics to sales this time:

Subject: Subject: looking to purchase 1000 to 1000 units of your ClearPad 7300 product
Dear Synaptics
Please direct us to a point of contact or distributor to make a first bulk purchase of from 1000 to 10000 units of your ClearPad 7300 product and a distributor of the pressure pads that are compatible with these devices. We are interested in developing a product that will benefit from your Forcepad and ClearPad 7300 product. We are in need of a touch-pad larger than normally seen in the present market for desktop computer addon devices with the approximate specs seen bellow of a device we are aiming for:

Size: 12 - 17 inches by 6 inches surface aria approximate size
Resolution X and Y axis: 50 lines per inch minimum
Resolution pressure: 64 levels of pressure sensitivity minimum
Sample rate: 100 samples per second or 10ms response time minimum
Multi-touch sensitivity: 10 points at one time
Driver support: Linux, Windows 8
Interface: USB

This is to be used to create a touch-pad that is to be used for input to a musical instrument device. We have interested software developers now that are prepared to start our project when we have a prototype available. This is an open source GPLv3 project that is to be funded by For more details of the project and it's goals see . We are looking for estimates of prices for quantities needed for from 1000 and 10000 units. We will also require engineering services and production service channels as we are mainly involved in the software and parts of the physical design of the item, we could use your help in pointing us to services and distributors that can turn this idea into a completed item.

Thank You
Scott Carlson

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The beginning of a new musical instrument?

I have found that there is so many cool tools in Linux to compose and play music. You can make incredibly professional sounding performances from, for example, Rosegarden , Audicity and many more. What I have found that is missing if you don't have at least some kind of midi outputting musical instrument like a midi keyboard is that you are very limited on what you can create in real time. I've used some virtual keyboard software that converts your standard computer keyboard into something that puts out midi events that can be played on any of the software synthesizers like timidity and others but this is very limited on the number of notes you have access to play and also fails to have any subtle input changes that are generated on a real instrument that is normally converted to velocity of a note when converted to midi events. As I looked more I found but only one other instrument or more like a sound generator called “Din is noise” that at least started to try to provide you with the ability to control the volume and pitch of a sound by just using the mouse as the main input to control it. But still this isn't good enough to me to allow someone to easily play around and attempt to create music but it got me to continue to look. Then one day in my search I stumbled on a website where I saw what Roger Linn Design was working on. At his website he demonstrates in a video a prototype instrument that he calls the Linnstrument

To me it looks to be the perfect way to begin opening up a standard computer to become a musical instrument simply using a pressure sensitive pad that the computer can read multiple points of pressure at the same time. This data from the pressure sensitive pad can be read with software and converted into sound or into midi events in a way that would provide all the control that I would think is needed in a musical instrument. The best part is that the manner in the way it converts touch to sound does not have to remain the same but can be changed by simply modifying the software that is used to read and interpret the manner in witch the musician touches it. This would also allow it to be programmed to be used like a drum machine or more like a standard piano keyboard or something totaly different like what is seen done with the Linnstrument with simple changes in configuration and software changes. So I thought this is it. This is the sensor I want to use in the development of software to attempt to play with sound generation and music. So I began to search for such a pressure sensitive device that was available on the open market but to my surprise it seems nothing yet is quite in existence. I see many new developments that look like they will SOON have such things but at present nothing. So now the question is do we wait for such touch sensitive pads to exist in the market or do we devise a method to create one. I continued to search and did find a company that had technology that could be used to create such a touch-pad but they didn't sell them. They only provided a license and consulting to allow others to use it. So I thought maybe could make this a reality. If I could provide them the specs of what is needed to create a touch-pad that would be ideal or at least good enough to be used as a musical input device, maybe I could raise the money to have a number of them built to get the costs down to something that is manageable or even cheap. So my goal is to simply see if I can devise a way to have such a touch-pad created that will cost from $20 to $100 and see what comes out of it.

Kickstarter proposal for a 12 by 5 inch touch-pad designed for music generation

I've been looking at some of the new possibilities of musical instruments that could use a touch sensitive surface that is pressure sensitive to allow the artist to input the needed changes in pitch and volume and modulations that is needed to play and perform music in real time. A very good example of such a device can be seen at Roger Linn's website. His instrument is known as the linstrument and the prototype can be seen here:

and here it is the prototype seen in action:

However the linnstrument seen here is just a prototype and is not available on the market at this time as far as I know. I would be interested in developing software using such a system of a pressure sensitive touch-pad if affordable hardware was available. With the pressure sensitive touch-pad we could develop musical instruments that could be simply modified with software to provide many different methods of human input to create the music or sound desired. The device could also be used for more than just music. It might be used as a replacement for the mouse of a computer to open up a whole new way that humans interact with computers in for example 3D modeling or 2D art generation. It could also be used in other parts of music development in mixer controls and other such control systems such as video editing. It could also immediately be used to begin to take advantage of the new gesture controls available in Window 8 and Linux. The larger size would also make it possible for more than one person to interact on the same screen and application. With an inexpensive human input device like this on the market, I think there will be much interest in the creation of new software that can utilize the new human input device in new ways that we can now only imagine. So I started looking for a touch-pad device that was already available in the market, that would do the job for such an application with the specs that I could use. I started by looking for a pressure sensitive touch-pad for a computer that is basically the size of a standard computer keyboard or with a sensitive aria of about 30cm – 45cm by 10 – 11cm (12-17 inches by 4-5 inches). It would require pressure sensitivity levels of from a minimum of 32 levels to 1024 levels or more with 256 levels being most likely good enough. The left to right and up and down precision could be from as little as 10 lines per inch to as much as 1000 lines per inch or more. It would also have to be readable at a rate of about 200 times per second or at about 5ms response time. It would also require multi-touch sensitivity of up to as many as 10 points at a time or more to allow sensing of all 10 of a single persons fingers on both hands at one time. I would also like it to have a price of between $20 - $100 USD. Maybe to start we would just make a square surface of from 4 inch to 17 inches if that would make it any cheaper to build. The device would be a simple add-on to any standard Linux or windows computer system or android device with a wired version that would have a standard usb wired connection to communicate and to provide power to the device. Maybe at some point we should also have a blue-tooth wireless version if it didn't add too much to the price and didn't degrade performance too much. It would also be required to have a working software driver set that is compatible with the present multi-touch gesture set on both windows 8 and Linux with maybe a few added output params that I think are already in the present synaptic software open source that add the pressure value at position data. It would also be developed around the Linux platform and all drivers and some demo software (including a music midi driver synth similar to the linstrument) to prove and demonstrate it. The drivers and demo synth would have to be open sourced. As I research in an attempt to find such a device, I don't seem to find anything quite like what I need on the open market yet. This is a ruff draft of the specifications of what we will for now call the MusicPad or Musical Touchpad Interface:

Size: 12 inches by 6 inches
Resolution X and Y axis: 50 lines per inch
Resolution pressure: 256 levels of pressure
Sample rate: 200 samples per second or 5ms response time
Multi-touch sensitivity: 10 points at one time
Driver support: Linux, Windows 8
Interface: USB

So far I have found these companies that make similar touch-pad products including:

Apples magic touch pad

This has many of the things I'm looking for accept it's a bit too small but most important it's NOT pressure sensitive. It does have multi-touch sensitivity and it can be obtained for as little as $50. This or something like it might be were we have to start at least on the software development of the musical software if a better device is not found.

Logitech also has something that just might work to start called the touchpad T650 for less than $80.

I see no information about it being pressure sensitive at all, only that it is multi-touch sensitive. I've now also found that this device does have some support with drivers on the Linux platform. The size is also a bit on the small side at 5.1 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches but I could live with that to start if it had at least 32 levels of pressure sensitivity. The other cool thing about this unit is that it's wireless over blue-tooth that would make it easier to use on stage in a live type music event maybe.

There are a few other brands just like the logitech above including lenovo and a few more unknown brands but they all cost about the same or more than the Logitech above and don't have a good record of being compatible with Linux. So if I was to try one of these touchpads I would try the T650 above first just as an experiment to see what could be done with them.

Synaptic also has something that sounds like it's almost perfect with it's ForcePad technology. and here is a link to a video that shows how it can sense forces at multi positions here. But the only product I see it used on so far is on laptops as built in devices. And the ones I do see on laptops is still a bit too small of a working aria to be used in music. It looks like the series 7 chip set used in the device has the ability to support up to a 17 inches diaginal surface so maybe this will be part of what is needed in a device I am looking for. It also claims that it supports up to 64 levels of pressure that is good enough to start also. The other cool thing about Synaptic is they seem to have good Linux support. I see there drivers in almost all Linux systems I've seen including androids. If we just saw someone build a usb interface product with it at a price less than $100, I think I would go for this.

Flatfrog looks to have something that they say has up to 1000 levels of pressure sensitivity and at up to 40 points of contact.

I'm not sure about how fast it can be read or at what precession in X and Y axis, but from the video it seems that it lags in speed a bit but I'm not sure, that could be in the software that it was being used on. And this is meant to be used on large video screens not as a usb touch-pad. But who's to say it couldn't? And I wouldn't mind if I had a display under my next device if I might be able to afford one. This is looking very promising but how long will we have to wait and how much will we have to pay to have a device that has one in it?

Wacom also makes some cool products that almost meet my specs including the bamboo or intuos that has an active aria of 8.5 x 5.3 in Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Medium Tablet (CTH680) as seen here

that claims it has 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity but I think that's only when used with the pen stylus. It also has multi-touch gestures but I think with only 2 fingers. But the size and shape and interface with usb is just about what I'm looking for or at least big enough to start. The resolution is also fantastic at 2500 lpi (lines per inch) that is much more than is needed for most of my projects. And the price is maybe a bit high at $190 but if it did all I wanted I just might get one. If it just had 10 point touch sensitivity and at least 64 levels of pressure sensitivity with fingers instead of a pen at each point I might be sold if nothing else become available in the market soon. Oh and I also don't see it as supporting Linux but I hope I'm wrong about that. looks to have exactly what I was looking for with a prototype device that looks to be just about the correct size and is pressure sensitive.

From the videos I've seen on there site it looks to put out the kind of data I'm looking for and at a sample rate that might be fast enough. So I would like to find out how much it costs. Or find a device on the market that uses them. It seems they don't really sell it they just develop the technology. I also don't see that they have drivers for Linux, only windows 7 and windows vista support? There website is very unclear as to any of it's other specifications so maybe they are worth attempting to contact to see how they will respond.

So the questions is should we just wait for one of these companies or others to have what is needed for a musical instrument input device, or see what is needed to have something made that is more to the specs that are really desired. I am confident over time all android type devices touch displays and standard computers will have devices like these avalible for any table top computer that will be at a price of $20 or less in about 10 years. But I'm just not sure I can wait for that time to come. In this new world of it can be the people who decide weather they will wait and see or just get started playing with it today. With we will start by seeing if we can raise about $500,000 to produce 10,000 units with the first units delivered being simply prototype units with no case. At that point only the basic working interface drivers will be available with no real package just a development kit with the electronic interface and sensor plate available. With the help of this group of open source developers we will have at least a minimal set of applications and working added feature drivers that will run with the unit including the demo musical synth. At that point if no bugs are detected and a demand for the devices are seen then a larger production run could be started that would include a plastic case to contain the device and a set of plug and play software included in the package. It will run on Ubuntu Linux and Android with the possibly of basic drivers for windows 8. Also we could create larger longer unit sizes with more surface aria in the future line of products depending on what the market demands. Much research is needed to get estimates of time to delivery and the costs of each stage of development. I am hoping to get the first prototypes delivered for less than $500 each if we only order 1000 units. That will provide 500,000 in capital to produce the first 1000 units. If we get production up to 10,000 units I hope to get the price down to bellow $100 per unit. I haven't done all the research needed to verify any of these numbers yet so only time will tell. Depending on the amount of interest will also determine how long it takes for any worthwhile software to be developed for the unit. Without the software there may be no interest. Lets let the people decide.