Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

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Anderton
KVR Expert
140 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 6:02 pm

Roger_Linn wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:40 pm
Anderton wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:52 pm
One of my favorite synth patches is adding a sine wave oscillator 2 octaves + a fifth above the tonic, and putting it on the mod wheel. That allows creating pseudo-guitar feedback that I think sounds really cool...
Great idea, Craig. That's the first time I've heard of that one and it works very well, as demonstrated in your recording. What a perfect modulation destination for Y-axis control in LinnStrument.

Backstory - that patch is one of the reasons I became interested in the LinnStrument in the first place. :tu:
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

Rikademus
KVRer
2 posts since 12 Mar, 2008

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:07 am

Just chipping in here...

I have a Linnstrument (larger version) that I absolutely love. My main 61 key midi controller has left the studio now, I no longer need it; I find the Linnstrument far more expressive and tactile (it also takes up considerably less space in my studio).

Great work Roger and thanks to Craig for starting KVR Experts!!

ilmai
KVRist
425 posts since 25 Aug, 2016 from Helsinki, Finland

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:44 am

Roger_Linn wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:13 am
Yes, if you watch LinnStrument owners' videos, I think it's true that many of them play more in the diagonal area from the lower left to upper right, perhaps because that gives the most pitch range. I'd say that the upper left is played a little less and the lower right much less. I'd also say that is true of guitar, cello or any stringed instrument.
One major difference between the Linnstrument and stringed instruments is the change in the timbre between strings. On the Linnstrument (or other MIDI controllers), it doesn’t matter which C4 I play. On a guitar though, I use the “lower right” corner quite a lot actually, since I enjoy the timbre I get there, especially with higher-gain sounds.

On the more general topic, it’s really interesting to hear different people’s views on the Linnstrument, as it’s something I’m considering buying and would love to try. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to do so. Currently I own the Lightpad and Eigenharp Pico in addition to a more traditional MIDI keyboard. Of these two, I actually enjoy the Lightpad more as it’s more standalone and technically simpler. This is especially important, since the Eigenharp software is not very well supported anymore.

I also like the form factor of the Lightpad more. I only have four problems with it, all of them solved by the Linnstrument...

1) Not enough space
2) No MIDI out without USB
3) Only configurable through software
4) No physical boundaries between pads

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Roger_Linn
KVRian
1447 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:56 am

ilmai wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:44 am
One major difference between the Linnstrument and stringed instruments is the change in the timbre between strings. On the Linnstrument (or other MIDI controllers), it doesn’t matter which C4 I play. On a guitar though, I use the “lower right” corner quite a lot actually, since I enjoy the timbre I get there, especially with higher-gain sounds.
LinnStrument has a Channel Per Row mode, in which each row's notes are sent over a unique MIDI channel. With the proper synth configuration, this would permit lower rows to sound thicker than higher rows.
ilmai wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:44 am
...it’s really interesting to hear different people’s views on the Linnstrument, as it’s something I’m considering buying and would love to try. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to do so.
If you'd like to try one but there's no stocking dealer in your area, contact me at support[at]rogerlinndesign.com with your city of residence and there's likely a LinnStrument owner there who is willing to show you his.

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Tj Shredder
KVRAF
3765 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:59 am

ilmai wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:44 am
One major difference between the Linnstrument and stringed instruments is the change in the timbre between strings. On the Linnstrument (or other MIDI controllers), it doesn’t matter which C4 I play. On a guitar though, I use the “lower right” corner quite a lot actually, since I enjoy the timbre I get there, especially with higher-gain sounds.
You can achieve a timbre change between „strings“ with the „channel per row mode“. In Bitwig you would setup an instrument layer, and have slightly different sounds on each layer...

Edit: Roger was a fraction faster than me...; - )

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Anderton
KVR Expert
140 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:07 am

Well since we're talking about playing position and such...although you can play the LinnStrument standing up like a guitar (there are included guitar strap pins), I found treating it as a tabletop device and laying it on a surface more friendly. Then again I never really got along with playing strap-on keyboards, so I guess that’s not too surprising. Playing with one hand works for solos, but two-handed technique is definitely a better way to exploit what the LinnStrument can do.

Make no mistake: this requires new muscle memory. Although laid out like a guitar, guitar technique won’t do you much good unless you’re into tapping; keyboardists need to think in terms of shapes and intervals, like a guitarist. Physically, the LinnStrument is easy to play. Mentally, it’s a new instrument and it takes time to develop the kind of unique physical dexterity needed by any musical instrument. I don’t want to make it sound tougher than it is - it's definitely intuitive - but I don’t want to make it sound easier, either.

For a guitarist, the LinnStrument is a mix of guitar thinking and keyboard technique. For a keyboard player, the technique will serve you well, but you’ll need to start thinking in two dimensions instead of linearly. If you’re not into “new and different,” this could be a confusing juxtaposition. But if you find the LinnStrument intriguing and play guitar or keyboard, think of yourself as already being halfway there—it’s just a different half, depending on your instrument.

As to why Roger didn’t use a piano note layout, for an overview go to http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/linnstrument.html and scroll down to the heading “How Are the Notes Arranged?” There’s also an in-depth explanation at http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/piano-vs.-grid.html, along with links to videos that show playing techniques. If you’re not convinced the grid approach makes sense, after reading this material you’ll see why it’s a logical and intelligent choice.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

ilmai
KVRist
425 posts since 25 Aug, 2016 from Helsinki, Finland

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:59 am

Roger_Linn wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:56 am
LinnStrument has a Channel Per Row mode, in which each row's notes are sent over a unique MIDI channel. With the proper synth configuration, this would permit lower rows to sound thicker than higher rows.
That’s really interesting! Linnstrument is looking more interesting by the minute, definitely one of the most well thought out controllers out there :)

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Anderton
KVR Expert
140 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:29 am

Okay, now that we've looked at the general lay of the land, let’s consider the user interface for calling up different functions, choosing parameters for editing, and tailoring the “operating system” to your needs.

You make selections by holding down control keys (momentary if pressed for > 0.5 sec, toggle if pressed for < 0.5 sec.), then tapping pads to make your choice. Most of this involves set-and-forget functions (velocity curve, setups for splits, pressure sensitivity, row offset, footswitch assignment for the dual footswitch jack, and the like). This is fortunate because the labels aren’t exactly readable under stage lights, however the most important functions are laid out in a vertical strip of eight switches along the left side. You’ll be able to make adjustments on the fly after a period of familiarization.

Image 2.jpg

Note that all of the user-editable functions are available from the front panel—you don’t need a computer editor to alter parameters. (Side note: Not needing a computer editor also means you won’t end up in the same kind of situation as M-Audio Venom owners, who are reliant on computer-based editing software that may or may not ever be updated to deal with newer operating systems.) The LinnStrument software is open source if you really want to get intimate with the code, but note that if all you want to do is write an editor, the LinnStrument builds in all the necessary MIDI commands for an external editor.

However, when I searched around the web to see if anyone had written an editor I couldn’t find anything. I presume this is because everything is accessible from the front panel, so I’m not sure anyone actually feels like they need to write editing software. If anyone has and they read this review, chime in and let us know.

Also note there’s a footswitch jack that accommodates single or dual footswitches. In addition to controlling expected functions like sustain and tap tempo, you can also control the arpeggiator, jump octaves, send control change messages, and the like. Although the LinnStrument handles MIDI over USB—my preferred option—it also has standard 5-pin DIN connectors so it’s compatible with just about any MIDI setup.

Image 3.JPG
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My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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InLight-Tone
KVRist
128 posts since 10 Jan, 2014

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:40 am

There's this that creates scales like on the Push:
http://erogenous-tones.com/linnstrument ... cale-mode/
"and the Word was Sound..."
https://www.youtube.com/user/InLightTone

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Tj Shredder
KVRAF
3765 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:41 am

Anderton wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:29 am
However, when I searched around the web to see if anyone had written an editor I couldn’t find anything. I presume this is because everything is accessible from the front panel, so I’m not sure anyone actually feels like they need to write editing software. If anyone has and they read this review, chime in and let us know.
There is not really a need, though, as I am fluid in Max/MSP, I did make some patches to control lights, have visual feedback and that sort of stuff...
Its not really worth the hassle to control setting remotely, but if the need arises, its done easily...
If someone has a specific need for whatever in that area PM me, I might patch it quickly together...

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Tj Shredder
KVRAF
3765 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:46 am

InLight-Tone wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:40 am
There's this that creates scales like on the Push:
http://erogenous-tones.com/linnstrument ... cale-mode/
Didn't GruvSyco ask for exactly that?
And Geert made this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl--Dp11fPM

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Anderton
KVR Expert
140 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:39 am

The biggest hurdle with the LinnStrument isn’t the controller itself, but the instrument it drives. The LinnStrument speaks MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) and there aren’t very many instruments that respond well to polyphonic aftertouch, let alone allow each individual note to receive its own data—the main goal of MPE. It’s kind of like having a Testarossa, but only a couple highways where you can really open it up.

However, it’s a misconception that you need an MPE synth, because of how the LinnStrument implements one-channel MIDI—you can do polyphonic pressure, 3D-Expressive solos, and performed chord vibrato all on one channel. The main perceived limitation is that polyphonic pitch slides will be automatically quantized; unless you need polyphonic pitch slides, MPE’s benefits aren’t all that noticeable. The LinnStrument web site's tab on Smart MIDI http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/midi-details.html explains the one-channel MIDI implementation, which is quite clever. The LinnStrument adds expressiveness to any synth that can respond to controllers.

There’s a set of instruments available for Logic Pro (and Mainstage), so I took a leave of absence from my Windows workhorse and booted up my MacBook Pro to check them out. They give a good taste of what you can do with the LinnStrument, and before too long I was sliding around the upright bass, playing intervals more associated with bass than keyboards, and adding hand-controlled—not LFO-controlled—vibrato. But while sampled acoustic instruments make a fine match for the LinnStrument, it’s the synths where you get the most visceral experience. I normally don’t associate touchy-feely control with synth sounds, yet that’s what you get from the LinnStrument.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12922 posts since 5 Jun, 2012

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Wed Oct 17, 2018 11:51 am

Looks like an electronic Chapman stick :hihi:

How long does it take to learn how to play that thing like he does?
Especially if one is used to the piano keyboard only? I mean, all the lateral expression movements are irrelevant on a conventional keyboard, so I suppose I would lack the sensitivity for them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZA0ywd8oS8

Those note cells look so tiny, about the width of my white piano keys, but only equally as deep. Can one even play them with the thumbs? On the computer keyboard the thumbs only need to hit the huge space bar :hihi:

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Anderton
KVR Expert
140 posts since 4 Mar, 2004
KVR Expert

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Wed Oct 17, 2018 12:23 pm

The pads are about 1/8" narrower than a keyboard key - 6/8ths as opposed to 7/8ths. As to the thumb, with a QWERTY keyboard you tend use the side of your thumb to hit the space bar; with the LinnStrument, I mostly use the thumb's tip, but a little further toward the thumb's outside.

In practice, because of the touch sensitivity, a lot of times your finger "lands" on the pad more than hits it, because of what you can do after your finger is on the pad. Hope this helps explain things, and yes, it reminds me a lot of a Chapman Stick.
My educational website has launched! Read articles, see videos, read reviews, and more at https://craiganderton.org. Check out my music at YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit my digital storefront at https://craiganderton.com. Thanks!

deastman
KVRAF
7339 posts since 7 Aug, 2003 from San Francisco Bay Area

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:08 pm

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Roger Linn for inviting me into his home office today for a first-hand demo of LinnStrument. The experience of playing any of these expressive controllers is such a tactile one that it really helps to be able to touch one yourself. The stiffness or sponginess of the keys, the size of them, the spaces in between, the responsiveness of gestures... these are things which cannot adequately be conveyed in words.

As a current Seaboard user, I am not going to compare the two in some futile attempt to determine which one is "better". These are both amazing controllers, and we live in fortunate times, having so many options from which to choose. Nor am I going to attempt a full review of LinnStrument, which would be utterly absurd in the middle of Craig's excellent analysis.

I will simply say this: I am sold. Completely, totally sold. The LinnStrument addresses several areas in which I have been frustrated with other controllers. For one thing, I have found that vibrato on the Seaboard has been inconsistent. It may very well be my technique which is at fault, but I often find while wiggling my finger on one of the waves, it will abruptly jump from pitch bending the currently held note to triggering the adjacent note. Pitch bend on the LinnStrument is consistent and reliable. I also find that the Seaboard requires, or at least encourages, larger finger motions. On the LinnStrument, a single note covers a fairly small surface area, and motions on each axis are therefore smaller. This fits better with my personal playing style. Lastly -and this is a big one- I really like the pressure response of the z-axis. I have tried with the Seaboard and various other devices to use pressure to modulate VCA amplitude of a sound, but could never achieve the graceful attack and release curves that one might from an acoustic instrument. With LinnStrument, I can gradually, delicately ease into a note and then trail off to silence at the end. I might get closer to this on the Seaboard by carefully tweaking my response curves, but LinnStrument just feels right.

Again, it is not my intention to disparage the Seaboard here. Both controllers (and the various others on the market) have their own unique advantages. Indeed, I am in the fortunate position to be able to afford to keep both controllers, and I intend to do just that. It doesn't have to be an either/or competition. Equator remains a really excellent synth, and it works equally well with LinnStrument. I must say that I was also very impressed with the Audio Modeling plugins, and I'll have to give some thought to adding those to my collection.

So thanks again to Roger, and I can't wait to order and to get started practicing on my new LinnStrument. Yes, I'm actually going to put in the work and practice this time around! Honest...
Incomplete list of my gear: 1/8" audio input jack.

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