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 http://www.rosegardenmusic.com/ , Audicity http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ 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” http://dinisnoise.org/videos/ 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 http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/preview-linnstrument.html.

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 kickstarter.com 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.

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