Getting started with the Linnstrument

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NightMachines
KVRer
23 posts since 10 Jun, 2018 from Cologne, Germany

Post Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:22 pm

My Linnstrument arrived today and as I always do before I commit to buying something expensive, I spent the past two weeks researching like crazy, trying to gobble up any content I can find. It was fun and I’m really grateful for the deep well of knowledge on Roger’s website. I realized quickly that this isn’t a novelty MIDI controller, but something that I will have to actually practice with to get any good at. After having spent the past five years mostly with modular synths and sequencers, trying to develop a physical music skill seems daunting now, but I’ll take the challenge. I had piano lessons over twenty years ago as a small child and taught myself to play punk rock power chords on the guitar during college, which is not the worst position to be in to get into the Linnstrument I guess, but it’s also not too great.

I started to explore the Linnstrument’s layout with the Musix Pro iPad app. Then it came to me that I really needed a refresher on my music theory. I found the following long and dry YouTube video oddly watchable. Maybe because it reminds me of my own “Modular Synth Basics” YouTube video series :D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvGYl8SQBJ0

After that and clicking down the rabbit hole of YouTube recommendations, like this one on practicing two handed playing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpIhNCO-drM

… I emerged back at the video that started my fascination with isomorphic instruments: a beautiful cover of Toto’s “Africa” played on the Harpejji:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv0q6oBmZxo

It’s kind of my secret goal to play that song on the Linnstrument some day, but we’ll see.

Fast forward a couple of days to today: I’m unboxing the Linnstrument! :party:

First impression is a really nice, solid and weighty controller. Playing Animoog on the iPad, I’m immediately wowed by the never-felt-before MIDI expressiveness, as my fingers slide over the smooth silicone for the first time. Awesome! :love:

The slightly flickering LEDs do remind me of its Arduino nature, having owned a bunch of Arduino-based synths with the same lighting in the past. I wonder if the Linnstrument would benefit from a faster processor in that regard. Not sure what’s on the market there nowadays though. Geert did a really interesting presentation about coding for the Linnstrument in Arduino by the way. Well worth a watch, if you’re a tiny bit familiar with Arduino or programming in general:

https://vimeo.com/221258331

Anyway, here I am with the thing on my lap, happily noodling around. But now what?! That won’t get me to Africa!

Chords! I decided to stick with Roger’s chord fingerings for now, hopefully getting used to incorporating my thumb, which still feels a little odd.

http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/ls-chord ... hapes.html

The music theory for building basic chords is very simple and on the isomorphic keyboard it’s even easier because the fingering is always the same, no matter which key you’re in.

It’s the same with scales, although for now I’m sticking to the Ionian Major Scale and a Hexatonic Blues Scale from Wikipedia, to not overload my brain even more.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blues_scale

I then started practicing two handed playing, a skill I lost quickly after stopping with the aforementioned piano lessons. Because I didn’t feel quite ready for Mary’s little lamb yet (as suggested in the video above), I just played the C Major Scale with both hands simultaneously for a while until I shifted the pattern of one hand to make it a cano n. Surprisingly, it worked reasonably well and I could feel that the exercise had a small impact already.

Now I needed something fun! A song! I scrolled through my iTunes library, which still holds music from my late teen years, hoping to remember a simple song I played on the guitar back then.

I settled for Death Cab for Cutie’s “Coney Island”, which is slow and only consists of the three chords G, C and Em, according to the tab I found online.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjRG3fXm1Yo

Okay, three chords are bit too easy maybe. A brief encounter with a Ukulele teacher taught me that the vocals of a song are usually in the scale its chords are in. Probably very logical if you think about it, but still an epiphany to me at the time (to be honest, that was yesterday). So I held those chords with the left hand and tried to find the vocal notes with the right, which again, worked reasonably well, ending up between a very simple cover and a loose interpretation of the song’s verse and chorus.

… and then it was three hours later and I really needed to go to bed. :o

So that was my start with the Linnstrument. I’ll see that I keep this thread updated if I have more stuff to share from my journey as a beginner Linnstrumentalist. In the meantime I’d be happy to read about your practice routines and insights :tu:

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Roger_Linn
KVRian
1006 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:44 pm

Very good and appreciated information, nightmachines. FYI, here’s a video of LinnStrumentalist Jeff Moen playing Africa:

https://youtu.be/AKvWPO1BOYg

Jeff has a series of videos for learning to play LinnStrument. There a link to his site from the LinnStrument Support page.

John the Savage
KVRist
168 posts since 28 Mar, 2017

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:09 pm

As a 28-year career musician, the four best pieces of advice I can give anyone about practicing are:
  • - Reserve those marathon sessions for the material you already know and are proficient at, because otherwise you'll burn yourself out, both physically and mentally. Repetitive strain injuries are a very real danger, and they tend to sneak up on you. I can easily play the guitar for over four hours straight, for instance, and I regularly do just that, but only to build endurance and refresh my muscle memory on the repertoire and techniques I already know. New material, new techniques, as you can imagine, use different muscle movements and therefore tax your hands, wrists, neck, and back; so it's best to tackle these things in short bursts throughout the day, taking regular breaks to let the blood flow and the muscles relax. Tension is a killer.

    - Context is everything. Make it fun and relevant to your own personal taste. Pick a song (preferably one you actually like) that incorporates the techniques you're trying to learn, and practice them within that framework. You'll find it less daunting, and you'll better remember what you've learned. That's not to say you shouldn't drill your basic scales and learn your chord shapes, but trying to tackle every scale and mode, in every key, in every position, one-after-another-after-another outside of a musical context, will often get you nowhere but confused, frustrated, and ultimately deterred.

    - Never rest on your laurels. It's easy to become complacent after learning the basics — and indeed there is a lot you can do with a simple Pentatonic Scale and a few chord shapes — but you'd be surprised at how much you can learn in a relatively short amount of time, if you commit to learning something new everyday, no matter how small.

    - Last, but definitely not least, practice to a metronome. Seriously. It's a ball-buster, especially in the beginning. I feel your pain, I really do. But all the musical chops in the world won't do you any good if you can't play in time. Period. Actually, this is so important, it should be at the top of the list. If I had a nickle for every person I've met with a grade 8 in piano who still can't play "Mary Had A Little Lamb" to a simple four-count... Don't be that person (wink).
At any rate, it sounds like you already have the right attitude, the enthusiasm, and the drive needed to do all that, so... Have fun. Good luck. Oh, and it's definitely worth paying attention to what guitar players are doing. Guitar tabs are easy to find, easy to read, and very useful in this context: i.e. the LinnStrument is laid-out like a stringed instrument after all. But again, it sounds like you're doing that already.

Cheers!

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NightMachines
KVRer
23 posts since 10 Jun, 2018 from Cologne, Germany

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:51 am

Roger_Linn wrote: Jeff has a series of videos for learning to play LinnStrument. There a link to his site from the LinnStrument Support page.
Thanks! I bought access to his lessons and already watched a couple of the videos :)

John the Savage wrote:As a 28-year career musician, the four best pieces of advice I can give anyone about practicing are:

- Reserve those marathon sessions for the material you already know and are proficient at ...
- Context is everything. Make it fun and relevant to your own personal taste. ...
- Never rest on your laurels. ...
- Last, but definitely not least, practice to a metronome. ...
Really great advice! Thank you! :tu: The metronome exercise is very exciting, because it's so relentless and won't slow down for your mistakes :D To make it a bit more fun I started to use a simple 4/4 beat from a Drum Machine app on my iPad.


Regarding the iPad, I'm really happy how easy it is to connect the Linnstrument. I've got both the small Apple CCK USB adapter and the bigger one with the additional lightning power port and they both work fine.

I'm still experimenting with the proper MPE iOS apps, which is not always a good experience, but I'm already having tremendous fun with the iFretless apps. Animoog works really well too, although its a bit of shame that it only features 4-voice polyphony. SynthMaster One & Player crackle and crash all the time on my iPad Air 2 with iOS 11.4. ThumbJam works mostly well. Volt's stock sounds aren't to my taste, but it's cool how easy one can configure aftertouch and Y axis modulation. Spring Sound is an odd little thing which I haven't gotten my head around yet :scared:

Sometimes my playing is really warbly and out of tune, because a slight finger movement already activates pitch bend. I assume that's down to practice, although I think some apps are more forgiving than others.

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Roger_Linn
KVRian
1006 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:03 am

Hi NightMachines,

ROLI makes a good iOS synth called Seaboard 5D. It is merely a preset player but I recommend it because its preset sounds are optimized for MPE, providing independent 3 dimensions of touch control for each of simultaneously touches. I think the app is free but you can buy packs of presets for low cost. I've just updated the information about it on the Recommended Sounds page, iOS MPE tab.

You mentioned above that "a slight finger movement already activates pitch bend". I suspect that your Bend Range setting (in Per-Split Settings) is not set correctly, causing small finger movements to bend pitch too much. This setting must always be equal to the Bend Range setting in your synth. If so, then sliding left/right in pitch to a new note pad will always result in the same pitch change as newly playing the destination note pad. In other words, sliding up 2 note pads from C should result in the pitch sliding to D. If not, then the Bend Range settings in LinnStrument and your synth are different.

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NightMachines
KVRer
23 posts since 10 Jun, 2018 from Cologne, Germany

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:10 pm

Roger_Linn wrote:ROLI makes a good iOS synth called Seaboard 5D. It is merely a preset player but I recommend it because its preset sounds are optimized for MPE, providing independent 3 dimensions of touch control for each of simultaneously touches.
Thanks :) That’s a good recommendation! I thought it would only work with the Seaboard, but that's only the case with Roli's “Noise” app. Seaboard 5D does work nicely with the Linnstrument indeed. Lots of stuff happening on the Y axis here :party:

John the Savage
KVRist
168 posts since 28 Mar, 2017

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:30 pm

NightMachines wrote:
Roger_Linn wrote:ROLI makes a good iOS synth called Seaboard 5D. It is merely a preset player but I recommend it because its preset sounds are optimized for MPE, providing independent 3 dimensions of touch control for each of simultaneously touches.
Thanks :) That’s a good recommendation! I thought it would only work with the Seaboard, but that's only the case with Roli's “Noise” app. Seaboard 5D does work nicely with the Linnstrument indeed. Lots of stuff happening on the Y axis here :party:
The one refreshing, forward-thinking aspect of the Roli apps is that they have a built-in MIDI channel filter, so you can use them alongside other apps and outboard gear, and incorporate them into a broader workflow, without them hogging all the MIDI channels... Very useful. Ahem!

GEERT, for the love of music, PLEASE add this to the Moog apps, I beg of you!

(sigh)

Cheers!

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NightMachines
KVRer
23 posts since 10 Jun, 2018 from Cologne, Germany

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:37 pm

John the Savage wrote: The one refreshing, forward-thinking aspect of the Roli apps is that they have a built-in MIDI channel filter, so you can use them alongside other apps and outboard gear, and incorporate them into a broader workflow, without them hogging all the MIDI channels... Very useful. Ahem!
It’s not just missing in most apps though. Initially I wanted to get a MicroMonsta and a DoubleDrummer for the Linnstrument. The MM also doesn’t have MIDI filtering though, so it would react to the DD's MIDI notes as well, which I would want to sequence via the Linnstrument's handy drum sequencer :? I wrote the devs aout it and while it’s on their radar already, they haven’t committed to implementing the feature yet.

John the Savage
KVRist
168 posts since 28 Mar, 2017

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:02 pm

NightMachines wrote:
John the Savage wrote: The one refreshing, forward-thinking aspect of the Roli apps is that they have a built-in MIDI channel filter, so you can use them alongside other apps and outboard gear, and incorporate them into a broader workflow, without them hogging all the MIDI channels... Very useful. Ahem!
It’s not just missing in most apps though. Initially I wanted to get a MicroMonsta and a DoubleDrummer for the Linnstrument. The MM also doesn’t have MIDI filtering though, so it would react to the DD's MIDI notes as well, which I would want to sequence via the Linnstrument's handy drum sequencer :? I wrote the devs aout it and while it’s on their radar already, they haven’t committed to implementing the feature yet.
I hear ya! It's a frustrating limitation to be sure.

At a glance, it's a seemingly small detail, which is probably why it repeatedly gets overlooked by developers and treated as though it's somehow inconsequential; but the lack of MIDI channel filtering is actually a huge detriment when it comes to integrating MPE synths into larger setups. It's as though we're expected to use MPE synths and controllers standalone only, but in my line of work, that is rarely practical. As a session player, I always have to be hooked-up to other MIDI gear. Never mind wanting to use both splits on the LinnStrument!

Anyway, I guess there are many problems yet to be solved with this fledgling new MIDI standard. Seriously though, I reckon this should be an easy fix as fixes go (sigh).

Cheers!

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NightMachines
KVRer
23 posts since 10 Jun, 2018 from Cologne, Germany

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:36 am

Quick question regarding this amazing Linnstrument performance:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZA0ywd8oS8

What kind of genre or style of playing is this? As I'm basically starting from scratch with my music theory, I have no idea what to google for. I really like this kind of sound and improvisation and would like to practice it at some point.

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Roger_Linn
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1006 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Mon Jun 18, 2018 11:43 am

That video was made by Connor Golden, who is also featured in the “The LinnStrumentalists” compilation video. Why don’t you post your question to him in the comments section below the video on YouTube?

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NightMachines
KVRer
23 posts since 10 Jun, 2018 from Cologne, Germany

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:23 pm

Roger_Linn wrote:That video was made by Connor Golden, who is also featured in the “The LinnStrumentalists” compilation video.
That's a really nice piece he plays in the Linnstrumentalists video as well! So much skill!!! :love:
Roger_Linn wrote:Why don’t you post your question to him in the comments section below the video on YouTube?
You're right, I should have done that before posting here.

Rouby44
KVRer
19 posts since 19 Apr, 2017

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:26 pm

NightMachines wrote:Quick question regarding this amazing Linnstrument performance:

What kind of genre or style of playing is this? As I'm basically starting from scratch with my music theory, I have no idea what to google for. I really like this kind of sound and improvisation and would like to practice it at some point.
I'd probaby call that neo-soul/gospel/R&B. You'll need some more foundational music theory concepts in place first, but a good place to learn how to play music like that once you've done some initial legwork would be Jeff Schneider's youtube channel.

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

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NightMachines
KVRer
23 posts since 10 Jun, 2018 from Cologne, Germany

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:05 pm

Rouby44 wrote: I'd probaby call that neo-soul/gospel/R&B.
Thank you! It's indeed a bit too complicated to follow theory-wise for me right now, but it's good to know the general direction I need to take :tu:


Sick "Sick RnB" video, by the way! 8)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKyrRNhpzVI

John the Savage
KVRist
168 posts since 28 Mar, 2017

Re: Getting started with the Linnstrument

Post Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:44 pm

Hi NightMachines,

I feel compelled to offer a different perspective here, with regards to just how much music theory you need to start playing like this. Granted, yes, generally speaking the genres of R&B, Soul, and Jazz are deep pools as far as theory is concerned; but contrary to the advice you've been given above, what Jeff Schneider is playing in the reference video Rouby44 posted is vastly more complicated and sophisticated than what Connor Golden is playing in the video you posted. No disrespect to Connor of course, because what he's playing is savvy, beautiful, and well-executed. Indeed it's one of my favorite LinnStrument videos!

However, most of what Connor is playing falls within the confines of a 'Pentatonic Minor' scale (a very basic "Blues" scale that almost all guitarist learn first as a basis for improvisation), and he's using that scale to solo over a relatively easy progression of just three 'Minor 7' chords.

You can learn this in a day — seriously — right now! Well, all but the particularly savvy chops perhaps; I mean, that aspect might take a little longer to develop (wink). Ahem! Anyhow...

First thing, Connor's jam is in the key of 'E-flat minor', so to make it easier on yourself, I would recommend that you play in the key of 'E minor' instead, but go into the Transpose Settings on your LinnStrument and set the "Pitch" down one semitone and the “Lights” up four semitones. This way the lights on your LinnStrument will be in the familiar key of 'E', but your pitch will match what Connor is playing.

Second, go into the Global Settings and choose the "Minor Pentatonic" preset from the "Scale Select" options (I don't personally use these, so you'll have to look in the manual, but if I remember correctly it's the pad labelled 'E').

Now all you have to do is learn whatever 'Minor 7' chord shape suits you and find the subsequent positions for Em7, Bm7, and Am7... That's the skeleton riff that Connor is jamming over!

With this setup, as long as you stick to the lights on your LinnStrument, you can solo over those three chords, in the same basic tonality as Connor, without hitting any bad notes... Theoretically (smirk).

Once you've gotten that much down, there are technically three additional chords that he uses in the progression: i.e. you'll hear him "sweeten" the sound every now and then, as a bridge of sorts... That is a 'C Major' chord, falling to a 'B7'. And the last detail is the chromatic step-down he does on occasion between the Bm7 and the Am7... That's just a 'B-flat minor 7' (the exact same chord shape, only moved down by one semitone as a quick passing chord).

Anyway, I hope this helps.

Cheers!
Last edited by John the Savage on Tue Aug 07, 2018 3:29 am, edited 2 times in total.

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