Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

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

Post Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:44 pm

GruvSyco wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:58 am
Can the linnstrument do scales without spaces? I love grid controllers and love this feature on the Push.

As Roger pointed out, no. However, somewhat of a workaround is that some DAWs and MIDI plug-ins allow constraining input to particular scales. So even if you hit a note "between the spaces," it will end up in the space of a particular scale/key. Not the same thing as what you want, but in some cases, may obtain the desired results.
The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

Armagibbon
KVRian
695 posts since 20 Apr, 2017

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sat Oct 13, 2018 4:21 pm

So I picked up a linnstrument at sweetwater cus I wanted some mpe thing.. got the big boy not the 128 its gonna be here in a couple days... and I just now saw this thread. Rogers post bout accidentals and scales is spot on. An instrument has gotta be consistent and playable imo. Never gonna learn to be fast if shit keeps movin around and I know my music aint goin anywhere if I cant change keys as easy as a piano.

Gonna watch this thread def gonna have alot to learn w/ this thing...

GruvSyco
KVRist
468 posts since 2 May, 2002 from Kalispell, MT

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sat Oct 13, 2018 6:01 pm

Anderton wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:44 pm
GruvSyco wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:58 am
Can the linnstrument do scales without spaces? I love grid controllers and love this feature on the Push.

As Roger pointed out, no. However, somewhat of a workaround is that some DAWs and MIDI plug-ins allow constraining input to particular scales. So even if you hit a note "between the spaces," it will end up in the space of a particular scale/key. Not the same thing as what you want, but in some cases, may obtain the desired results.
Thanks for the additional reply Craig. I'm shopping new controllers at the moment and appreciate all the input.

deastman
KVRAF
6836 posts since 7 Aug, 2003 from San Francisco Bay Area

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:00 pm

I want to share a few musings on expressive controllers, grid interfaces, and, perhaps, the benefits of practice.

I always wanted a Monome, but wasn't interested in something which required MaxMSP to run. So when Ableton Push came out, I jumped at the opportunity. As a trained keyboardist (and a somewhat less trained guitarist), I found the interface quite alien. I learned a few basic chord shapes, but always felt limited compared to what I could easily accomplish on a traditional keyboard. The scale modes helped to avoid "wrong" notes, but that always felt like cheating and, honestly, a little too constraining. It prevented the opportunity to easily jump between keys and modes and to borrow passing tones. The pads were also too hard for my liking, and painful to play over an extended period of time. I upgraded to Push 2 when that came out, but it didn't feel much better. To be honest, I never put in the time practicing which would have been required to develop proficiency on such a strange interface.

I also lusted after a Madrona Labs Soundplane for years, but again, it required MaxMSP and a Mac to do anything with it. And then there was the Continuum, which looked amazing but cost a fortune and really wanted to be paired with a Kyma. I knew I would never put in the time to develop any kind of proficiency to justify such an expense.

And then things started to get interesting. The Seaboard Grand came along, which was still too expensive, but was soon followed by the Rise 49, and the Linnstrument came out at roughly the same time. Now there were two viable alternatives at a fairly reasonable price. But which to choose?

I thought the Linnstrument looked intriguing. I was already somewhat familiar with grid interfaces, thanks to the Push series. And it ran totally self-contained, without a software control panel. But wouldn't this end up being yet another grid which I would never master?

In the end, I bought a Rise 49. The safety of something resembling a piano layout was too compelling. I dove into learning to play it enthusiastically. Well, at least for a little while. Then I got busy, and never really developed my craft. See, it turns out that while the Seaboard looks kind of like a piano keyboard, it is actually just different enough that it requires a whole new set of skills to play proficiently.

The lure of these controllers was always MPE. Multidimensional (or MIDI) Polyphonic Expression. Polyphonic. As in, you're going to play chords and vary the expressiveness of each note independently. Have you ever tried doing that? It's awkward. It turns out that channel aftertouch works just fine for chords. Do you enjoy doing independent pitchbends for each note of a held chord? I don't think that sounds very good!

No, as it turns out, the single best application of MPE controllers is the performance of monophonic lead instruments. I can do a passable job of that on the Seaboard. But now I kind of feel like a Linnstrument would do a better job for solo instruments. Is it time to jump ship yet again and learn another controller?

I also picked up an Expressive E Touche. The combination of the Touche in one hand and a traditional keyboard in the other leads to some pretty compelling performances. I'm not sure I like having to divide performance duties between my hands like that though. I'm much more dexterous with my right hand (despite being left handed), and that leads to a quandary: do I dedicate my right hand to performing melodic duties, or do I use it for more expressive control with the Touche? Either way, I lose. Having the expression under the same finger as the note seems like a better choice.

What to do? Get an Linnstrument and hope that this time I'll really, truly devote myself to developing proficiency on a totally foreign interface? Double down on my existing investments? In the end, I kind of feel like these controllers are all amazing in the hands of virtuoso performers like Jordan Rudess or Marco Parisi. Is there really a place for them in the arsenal of an average to mediocre musician with slow reflexes and poor motor control? Steve Vai or Eddie Van Halen can make a guitar sing, but does that even matter if one's technical abilities will never rise above punk rock?

Nah. Definitely get the Linnstrument. My GAS is too strong to resist. :lol:
Incomplete list of my gear: 110V AC to 12V DC 1.5A power supply (+ tip)

acYm
KVRian
799 posts since 11 Sep, 2015

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:56 pm

Roger_Linn wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:45 am
Hi acYm,

I think you’re saying that the 16 x 8 pad matrix of the smaller LinnStrument 128 model has less merit because it gives you only 8 additional chromatic notes of range (in the default fourths tuning) beyond that of your 8 x 8 LaunchPad Pro in chromatic/fourths tuning.

...
Right, when I said 4 or 5 more notes, I meant if I stay within a standard scale, but indeed, 8 more notes in total. Which is still better than nothing, of course.

It came as a surprise to me when I got my LaunchPad Pro, which I didn't get specifically to replace my keyboard, how playable and fun the chromatic/fourths layout is - at first I expected I'd mostly play it in scale mode, like many seem to do. I found that to be too limiting (like deastman above it seems). Instead I discovered in the normal chromatic mode an interesting hybrid between a keyboard and a guitar where you can really think in terms of shapes and make abstraction of the key. It's very intuitive and has become my favorite way of playing - except that it's a bit cramped.

The ZBoards look nice, but sadly way out of my price range, also it feels a bit too tightly spaced. But I think you can see just by looking at it the vast increase you get in note real estate from just 4 more rows. I feel strongly like 12x12 would be an ideal format, in terms of keeping a small footprint while maximizing range. But I understand that the extra features in the Linnstrument - quite handy - were probably easier to realize on a 8x16 setup as well.

About horizontal vs vertical, this is quite interesting, because unlike most instruments that have a clear left-right or up-down mechanic, we're actually moving in diagonal on a grid instrument, from bottom left to top right and back. Sometimes I look at my LPP and wonder if it wouldn't be more natural to play it tilted 45° to the side so that both hands would be parallel like on a piano.

So, I'm looking at the Linnstrument for sure as a potential upgrade, I don't doubt for a moment that it must deliver a much better playing experience overall. I wish I could try it out when I go to moogaudio mtl but they never seem to have one. While the expression capabilities are surely the star of the show, and the main innovation here, for me the biggest draw of this type of instrument is the ability to play fast and seamlessly transpose without obstacles.

Thanks for the detailed reply, and I'd like to echo the general sentiment that it's quite epic to have Mr. Linn with us here in the forum.

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Roger_Linn
KVRian
1072 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 8:44 am

Hi deastman,

Thank you for your contribution to this discussion. All the instruments you've mentioned are excellent designs and your experience with them is similar to others as they start to see the merits of expressive touch control. In your post you raised a very good point:
deastman wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:00 pm
The lure of these controllers was always MPE. Multidimensional (or MIDI) Polyphonic Expression. Polyphonic. As in, you're going to play chords and vary the expressiveness of each note independently. Have you ever tried doing that? It's awkward. It turns out that channel aftertouch works just fine for chords. Do you enjoy doing independent pitchbends for each note of a held chord? I don't think that sounds very good!

No, as it turns out, the single best application of MPE controllers is the performance of monophonic lead instruments.
I address this point on my FAQ page, on the 4th FAQ under the "General" tab:

Q: Are MPE-compatible synths necessary for use with LinnStrument?

A: No, in fact most LinnStrument owners use standard one-channel synths, and our main demo video for LinnStrument doesn't use any MPE sounds at all. Here's why MPE isn't so important:

1) The touch dimension in which polyphony is most useful is pressure, which can be achieved over a single MIDI channel by using MIDI Polyphonic Pressure messages. So the main advantages of MPE are to add polyphonic pitch slides and polyphonic Y-axis, both of which aren't used in most types of music.

2) Most expressive play is solo play, which is monophonic, and LinnStrument provides all 5 types of touch sensing in one-channel mode.

3) LinnStrument's smart MIDI implementation (http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/midi-details.html) prevents any undesired problems if you perform polyphonic pitch slides or polyphonic Y-axis control. For example, if you play a polyphonic pitch slide in one-channel mode, it transparently quantizes the pitch slides to semitones. And if you play polyphonic Y-axis movements, only the Y-axis movements of the most recent touch are recognized.


The above said, polyphonic pitch bends on LinnStrument do add some interesting musical possibilities, such as demonstrated in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roKfNfrOXFs
Thanks again and I'm pleased that you find enough merit in LinnStrument to consider owning one.

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Roger_Linn
KVRian
1072 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:13 am

Hi acYm,

You raise a very interest point:
acYm wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:56 pm
About horizontal vs vertical, this is quite interesting, because unlike most instruments that have a clear left-right or up-down mechanic, we're actually moving in diagonal on a grid instrument, from bottom left to top right and back. Sometimes I look at my LPP and wonder if it wouldn't be more natural to play it tilted 45° to the side so that both hands would be parallel like on a piano.
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. But to me, it would feel less intuitive to tilt the LinnStrument at a 45 degree angle, perhaps because it feels more natural to perform vibratos and pitch bends/slides in a left/right motion.

I think we're all figuring out together what the best new human interfaces for music will be over the next decades. It's an exciting time and I enjoy conversations like this.

acYm wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:56 pm
I wish I could try it out when I go to moogaudio mtl but they never seem to have one.
It is unfortunate that in the era of internet competition, most local stores are afraid to buy expensive and unique products like LinnStrument. You might try Technosynth Instruments in Montreal. They bought a few units a while back and may still have stock. If not, contact me at support [at] rogerlinndesign.com and I'll contact one of the 9 LinnStrument owners in Montreal with a request to show you his.

acYm wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:56 pm
... I'd like to echo the general sentiment that it's quite epic to have Mr. Linn with us here in the forum.
That's a very kind compliment. Thank you.

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Tj Shredder
KVRAF
1604 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:51 am

GruvSyco wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:48 pm
It sounds as if Linnstrument is designed to be more of a live performance instrument.
Yes, thats the main point and my personal joy...
Still your idea playing velocities with a knob (or footpedal) can turn a dj setup (if its playing sequences) into a live performance with some extra spice...
But the Linnstrument will give you five parameters under direct control of your fingers and for each note seperately... That theoretically makes 50 knobs you can control with your ten fingers (almost) at the same time. 30 directly, +10 on note on and +10 on note off... But I usually don‘t play ten finger chords, its overkill but fun...
For controlling velocities with one knob you wouldn‘t need MPE at all...

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Tj Shredder
KVRAF
1604 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 10:06 am

Anderton wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:44 pm
GruvSyco wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:58 am
Can the linnstrument do scales without spaces? I love grid controllers and love this feature on the Push.

As Roger pointed out, no. However, somewhat of a workaround is that some DAWs and MIDI plug-ins allow constraining input to particular scales. So even if you hit a note "between the spaces," it will end up in the space of a particular scale/key. Not the same thing as what you want, but in some cases, may obtain the desired results.
It would simply bend a half note from one tap to the next. But I guess one can get used to it. That way the blues is almost possible - but usually you start out the blue note a half step lower and tune to the correct pitch... I could make a little Max patch that would rearrange all Midi notes according to whatever scale, including oriental ones, and illuminate the complete LinnStrument...; - )
If you are familiar with programming, you could even adapt the firmware for such uses, its open source...
Last edited by Tj Shredder on Sun Oct 14, 2018 10:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

deastman
KVRAF
6836 posts since 7 Aug, 2003 from San Francisco Bay Area

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 10:06 am

Roger- Are there any dealers in the SF Bay Area that carry the Linnstrument? It would make my purchasing decision much easier if I could put my hands on one first.
Incomplete list of my gear: 110V AC to 12V DC 1.5A power supply (+ tip)

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Roger_Linn
KVRian
1072 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 10:44 am

deastman wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 10:06 am
Roger- Are there any dealers in the SF Bay Area that carry the Linnstrument? It would make my purchasing decision much easier if I could put my hands on one first.
Not currently. I wish I could make them buy, the bastards. :)
However, I act as a dealer for the Bay Area. Email me at the normal support address, support[at]rogerlinndesign.com, and we’ll arrange for a demo at my home office in Los Altos. By the way, if you find a discount at a dealer, it’s no problem to buy it from them instead of direct from me.

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

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:52 pm

GruvSyco wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:48 pm
It sounds as if Linnstrument is designed to be more of a live performance instrument.
I'd take it one level further, and say that it's designed to be more of a real-time instrument. Of course, that's what makes it eminently suitable for playing live. But, don't underestimate what that can mean in the studio.

Quick example: 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 (for an example, go about a minute into the video - sorry, I can't figure out how to make the video window smaller!).
[tube]https://youtu.be/aVZWkEHK-NE[/tube]
But I also want to be able to do pitch bend, add vibrato when needed, and of course, play the notes...which is about two hands too many, and foot control isn't really refined enough...and even if it was, I'd still need another hand. :D

So, this kind of part became non-real-time, because I'd have to go back into the DAW and "overdub" controllers. These edits were being done after the fact instead of being part of an improvisation, so they were often "off" a bit, which then required editing. The LinnStrument's real-time proclivity solves those kinds of problems, once you start developing skill with it (it's not "EZ-Play" - you do need to develop new playing skills).

I'd also add there are two main areas where the LinnStrument is right at home. One is fast solos, because you can really whip around that grid. The other is of course expressiveness, which comes into play (at least for me) in the more legato solos.
The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and http://www.reverb.com. Listen to my music on http://www.YouTube.com/thecraiganderton, and visit http://www.craiganderton.com. Thanks!

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pdxindy
KVRAF
14261 posts since 3 Feb, 2005 from in the wilds

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 3:20 pm

deastman wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:00 pm
The lure of these controllers was always MPE. Multidimensional (or MIDI) Polyphonic Expression. Polyphonic. As in, you're going to play chords and vary the expressiveness of each note independently. Have you ever tried doing that? It's awkward. It turns out that channel aftertouch works just fine for chords. Do you enjoy doing independent pitchbends for each note of a held chord? I don't think that sounds very good!
I regularly play chords and vary the expressiveness per note... I don't mean each note gets a fully individual treatment. But playing a chord and pressing one of the notes to make it bit louder or open a filter slightly or a touch of vibrato. That gives a more subtle and nuanced result. You can also do things like roll the fingers while holding a chord so the timing of each notes modulation is offset a bit.

Expression per note means that there are subtle variations even when you do the same thing to all notes. Play a 3 note chord and slide the whole chord up. Each note is slightly different and I like the sound of it compared to every note being locked together as it would be with regular pitchbend. Sometimes I slide a chord up and lag one of the notes just a bit.

And then you can do things like play a G and slide up to an A minor. It sounds lovely when the timing is right. And then do the same thing but use a bit of the Y axis for the transition. You can get some amazing results.

Then you can do techniques like play a single note, slide it up a full step or a 5th or whatever, then play the rest of the chord to go with it. With regular pitchbend bending a note up, then any subsequent notes would also be bent.

I'm a huge fan of polyphonic expression. And yes it takes practice and experimentation. There are lots of musical techniques to discover.

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Roger_Linn
KVRian
1072 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:34 pm

GruvSyco wrote:
Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:48 pm
...Honestly, for a lot of stuff, I don't really care much for velocity or aftertouch but prefer to get dynamics in sound by turning a knob...
That's perfectly legitimate, GruvSyco. In fact, most electronic music has no performed expression over the duration of the note. Why? Because everyone is playing music with on on/off switches, which is essentially what MIDI keyboards or other MIDI controllers consist of. As a result, there are few examples in electronic music of the benefits of performed expression. By comparison, recordings of acoustic instruments are full of performed expression over the duration of the note.

To me, the important question is "what are we missing by playing music with on/off switches?" In the following essay, I argue that on/off switches have downgraded electronic music to the secondary position of background music:

http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/why-expression.html

So I guess you could say that I'm on a quest to promote electronic music back to the position of foreground music. Or otherwise stated:

"Mr. Hendrix-- I'm sorry but you're no longer permitted to perform string bends or vibrato. Instead, you must hold each note perfectly still and perform such pitch gestures by turning a special knob that we've installed on your guitar." :lol:
Last edited by Roger_Linn on Sun Oct 14, 2018 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Roger_Linn
KVRian
1072 posts since 8 Jun, 2010
Roger Linn Design

Re: Roger Linn Design LinnStrument - by Craig Anderton

Post 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.

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