Tag Archives: midi

Animoog on the LinnStrument and the ROLI Seaboard with Expressive MIDI

One of my ongoing quests is to find an alternative controller for Animoog that would suit my playing style. This post focuses on the compatibility and capabilities of the Linnstrument and the ROLI Seaboard with Animoog now that Animoog supports MPE, aka Expressive MIDI.

Animoog MIDI MPE Support

Animoog 2.4.0 released about a month ago brought support for MPE input with note-per-channel MIDI controllers. This changes everything. Everything when it comes for Animoog to support sophisticated MIDI controllers.

What is MPE and why it matters so much? MPE is an extension of the MIDI standard that stands for the Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression specification. It is also known as ‘Expressive MIDI’. You’ll learn a lot more in this previous post a year ago about MIDI MPE’s development and its technical specification.

In short, this new way of leveraging MIDI messages makes it possible to control the multiple expressive parameters of a single Animoog note over the same old MIDI cables. The ‘core MIDI specification’ wasn’t built to handle multiple dimensions per note. Dimensions in Animoog? Think of modulations such as the different polypressures or orbit rates for every note played.

The advent of MIDI MPE significantly reduces the limitations external controllers had when it comes to controlling advanced sound synthesis instruments such as Animoog and Model 15. If I’m not mistaken, it also enables better means to record Animoog performances over MIDI (I haven’t made experimentations myself yet, but I plan to — and of course, I’ll publish my findings on this very site). Expect more and more controllers and apps to support MIDI MPE over time. And be happy, thanks to Moog developers, Animoog now supports it! :-)

The LinnStrument

The LinnStrument by Roger Linn Design is one of the alternative controllers for serious players. Yes, it’s different from the MIDI controllers we’re used to, but don’t be afraid by this grid of lights, just look at how others play with it and you’ll understand why it attracts that much interest. Every cell will reacts to z-axis pressure as well as x / y-axises for vibrato and modulation. Pitch slides are easily performed on the LinnStrument’s x-axis. The Sonic Lab video below will show this to you.

The LinnStrument also happens to be built and played by incredibly friendly people! I wanted to try the LinnStrument and Roger Linn himself nicely arranged a meeting with a LinnStrument owner in my home city of Montreal. That’s how I met with the wonderful Nathanaël last April. Nathanaël happens to work for the famous Moment Factory studio. He generously spent time with me on his LinnStrument, testing not only Animoog (which at the time didn’t support MIDI MPE) but also let me test how it feels to actually play  on the LinnStrument. Thanks a lot Nathanaël!

nat_linnstrument
Nathanaël on the LinnStrument

Unrelated to the LinnStrument, here’s a short video by Nathanaël showing Animoog controlling LED lights with note velocity and polyphonic aftertouch.

Sonic Lab just released a 22-minutes video review of the Linnstrument, and guess what, it extensively features Animoog! :-) This video not only gives you an idea of the capabilities of the LinnStrument,  Gaz Williams goes into the details of many of its features. This is a must-see video to anyone looking for an alternative controller for Animoog.

After trying the LinnStrument last April, there’s one question I asked the LinnStrument developers: can we select playable notes ourselves, just like we can select which Animoog keys show up on the iPad? The answer is essentially no. From their FAQ:

Q: LinnStrument's rows always contain consecutive semitones (chromatic scales). Is it possible to set it so that the rows contain consecutive notes of a specific scale, for example only major scale notes while skipping over the accidentals?

A: It is fundamental to LinnStrument’s design that each of the eight rows always contain only chromatic scales. While it is true that some controllers (like our Tempest drum machine) permit you to set consecutive pads to play only scale notes (for example, only major scale notes, skipping accidentals), this is really only useful for controllers with few pads like drum pad controllers or Ableton Push. However, LinnStrument has 200 note pads so it is not necessary to delete any notes of the chromatic scale. The problem with removing the notes outside of the scale is that you can't play them, which is useful in all but very simple music. There are other problems with non-chromatic scales: 1) you must always change the scales to play in different musical modes so you never get a chance to develop any playing skills because the notes are always moving. 2) Pitch slides will no longer be consistent, with larger jumps between note pads that are a whole tone apart than between those that are a semitone apart. 3) Vibratos on a pad with a semitone interval on one side and a whole tone interval on the other will be asymmetrical, bending twice as much on the whole tone side than on the semitone side. Instead of preventing you from playing accidentals, LinnStrument borrows an idea similar to the piano keyboard's black and white keys: it provides access to all the notes but highlights the naturals. By default, it highlights the natural notes (C, D, E, F, G, A and B) in green lights and highlights all “C” notes in light blue lights, but you can change it to highlight any scale and in any of 6 colors (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta or yellow). This is done in Global Settings / Note Lights.

While I understand their valid arguments, I still think that it’s the single absent feature that stops me from purchasing a LinnStrument. The good news is that the LinnStrument firmware is open source, anyone can modify the LinnStrument’s software. Enthusiastic players could thus implement this features themselves. I thought of crowdfunding this feature with Bountysource for everyone to benefit from it. I went as far as creating this little explanation of what I was looking for.

linnanimoog-feature-request

My recent discussions with the main LinnStrument firmware developer highlighted the following: “there are physical spacers between the rows of LinnStrument that prevent smooth transitions across cells in the vertical axis.” Despite this limitation, I still foresee this LinnStrument keys layout as valuable and being a useful way to play Animoog on it, similar to how we can configure Animoog’s keys on the iPad. At this point, the LinnStrument developers aren’t interested in even maintaining this feature if we successfully implemented it. I of course respect their decision and it made sense to me to postpone working on crowdfunding this feature.

But don’t stop yourself at my sentiment regarding this feature absent from the LinnStrument, the LinnStrument is clearly an excellent alternative controller and it usually pleases bass and guitar players because of its keys layout, Gaz Williams explains why in his extensive review. Here’s a nice LinnStrument track from Geert Bevin to give you a sense of how it can be played.

The LinnStrument is available for $1,499 from Roger Linn Design.

The ROLI Seaboard

If you haven’t seen the ROLI Seaboard yet, I’m glad you’re reading this. One could dare think this keyboard came to existence to be Animoog’s companion. Let’s first have a quick look at what the Seaboard can do — notice the x & y gliding effects in the video, akin to the slides our fingers do on the Animoog keys on the iPad.

The following impressive video successfully demonstrate the Seaboard capabilities with human-like voice. No wonder why the ROLI Seaboard won several awards!

Anyone excited or considering a Seaboard should read the Sound on Sound Seaboard GRAND review which goes in depth and provides valuable details.

Ok, but how does this the ROLI Seaboard sounds with Animoog? We’re very lucky, Steffen Presley, the sound designer who created the Song Haven pack of presets for Animoog, recorded the following video showcasing Animoog on the ROLI Seaboard Grand.

The ROLI Seaboard has the scales physically locked to the piano scale, meaning my main reticence to adopt the LinnStrument is also valid for the Seaboard. Steffen Presley also warns us that playing micro-tonally, which was possible on the GRAND but never the RISE, is not an option anymore. Steffen provide the details in the description of the following video. Those interested in having access to this feature again should request it to ROLI directly.

Can I have a ROLI Seaboard? You can and you have multiple options. The smaller ROLI Seaboard version available is named the Seaboard RISE, the 25-keys is priced at $799 and the 49-keys is $1,199. The latter is currently out of stock. I haven’t found a comparison of the RISE and its bigger brother the Seaboard GRAND, but the GRAND features more inputs and outputs and has different keywaves. It also costs more, the 37-keywaves GRAND Studio is $1,999, the 61-keywaves GRAND Stage is $2,999 and the ultimate Limited First Edition version featuring 88 keywaves is $8,888.

For such an expense, you’ll probably want to try how a Seaboard feels like and sounds like before purchasing one. Here’s the worldwide map of ROLI Seaboard retailers. Trying one is the next step for me — despite the fixed scale, will I fall in love with it?

Expect more surprises

We’re just at the beginning of a new era of controllers and advances like the LinnStrument and the ROLI Seaboard are pretty exciting. Combined with Animoog, the most popular iPad synth, there’s certainly lots of wonderful explorations ahead! And expect even more surprises in the future, hey, synths are even making it to the augmented and virtual worlds. You got that right and this is nicely demonstrated by the Behringer DeepMind 12, which crosses the chasm and dives into augmented reality. The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed ;-)

Wrapping up this article, you might want to revisit this June 2015 article named Alternative Controllers for Animoog and the few posts on custom Animoog controllers. Now that we have MPE support in Animoog, the doors of the LinnStrument and the ROLI Seaboard are wide open to all Animoog players!

If you have comments or if some of the info I shared is wrong, let us know in the comments! Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the numerous ways  we can be expressive with our beloved Animoog! — Alex / Satri

VCS3-like Custom Animoog Controller

There’s no doubt how passionate Animoog players can be! Len Burge built a wonderful custom Animoog controller and told us about it in a comment on this very site. Here’s what it looks and sounds like!

The description that comes with it goes like this:

« This is the Animoog controller. Like the iVCS3 controller it is a custom controller for iPad mini app “Animoog” with a custom Animoog template that lays over original iVCS3 graphics. Front panel-keyboard is a customized Arturia minilab. The 30 knobs on upper panel controlled by livid instruments brain V2. 3 ten-turn potentiometers now controlling Animoog’s Attack. Joystick modular provided by Doepfer. For construction pics please visit www.lenburge.com »

There’s plenty of construction pictures on Len’s website! Here are the references to the VCS3 on Wikipedia and the iVCS3 on the App Store. It’s not the first time we mention custom Animoog controllers, it was actually one of our first posts in June 2014, if you have an interest in those, you might also for alternative MIDI controllers that are not dedicated to Animoog but inspiring nonetheless!

Thank you for your patience Len! He contacted me in mid-December it’s only today I’m able to follow up! Expect a lot more in the coming weeks, including an update to the list of third-party expansion packs with new packs of free presets from readers of Animoog.org, and yes, they’re good! :-) Cheers — Alex / Satri

The ‘Expressive MIDI’ Proposal and Animoog

Animoog and modern alternative controllers push the MIDI standard beyond its current capabilities — not surprising considering it’s a protocol devised in 1983! A few major stakeholders including Apple, ROLI and Moog Music are working on an extension to the MIDI standard, currently named Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression specification. You guessed right, Animoog would directly benefit from this new specification.

For the past two years I’ve been looking for an iPad app that would properly record Animoog in MIDI. By properly I mean that the replay from the MIDI app to Animoog sounds exactly like the initial Animoog take. Apps I tried fail to record Animoog‘s MIDI properly for fast polypressure changes / legato and all the crucial subtleties that Animoog does. I asked around to no avail. One of the Animoog developers at Moog publicly confirmed there is no such app yet. I badly want this, full MIDI support was even at the top of my initial wish list for Animoog in March 2014.

So, what is this Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression specification? From the specification’s Executive Summary:

“The goal of this specification is to provide an agreed method for hardware and software manufacturers to communicate multidimensional data between controllers, synthesizers, workstations, and other products. The proposed extensions define rules for using MIDI channels to represent one note each, and to use per-channel control parameters to represent note changes in three or more dimensions.”

Multidimensional expression… funny that Animoog.org launched in early 2014 with the following subtitle (still in use!) ‘an other dimension of music’! If the MIDI Manufacturers Association accepts this proposal, which I hope they will, the final name for the specification might become ‘Expressive MIDI’.

To demonstrate that I’m not extrapolating or fabulating a bit too much, Animoog is actually mentioned as an example right in the technical specification document:

“Sentences like ‘Linnstrument is an Expressive MIDI [compatible] controller’ and ‘Animoog is an Expressive MIDI [compatible] sound engine’ are easy to formulate correctly, and provide a clear sense of the value proposition.”

The specification is still considered Draft and its supporters hope to have a final version by the end of 2015. A link to the Expressive MIDI specification was publicly shared at least last April. To access it yourself, follow this link to Google Docs. Revision 1.25 is only three weeks old.

I’m no MIDI expert myself, but that doesn’t stop me from rejoicing at specifications that will allow me to further enjoy Animoog! As usual, don’t hesitate to share additional info in the comments section below. Cheers! — Alex / Satri

Controlling a light sculpture with Animoog

This week Moog Music published a video of Chas Llewellyn showing his large-scale light sculpture controlled by Animoog.

While we previously listed nice alternative controllers for Animoog, this example demonstrates that with Animoog’s MIDI capabilities and programming skills, you can really control anything you want.

From the Moog announcement:

«Sculptor / programmer / interactive interface designer, Chas Llewellyn, explores the form and function of a large-scale light sculpture he designed using Moog Music’s Animoog app as the control source.»

Here’s the video:

Does that inspires you? Enjoy! — Alex / Satri

Alternative Controllers for Animoog

Playing Animoog on the iPad is great, but what if your iPad was a meter wide and 20cm large? Wouldn’t that allow you to better play Animoog with such large touch keys instead of the rather small keys we get on our iPad? That’s what alternative controllers are about, and we have great news today for Animoog players.

A year ago we published an entry on Anicontrol and a custom MIDI controller, which are closer to regular controllers than the alternative ones. Alternative controllers is exactly the topic of this Jordan Rudess entry, keyboardist for Dream Theater, in the Keyboard Magazine.

But wait, does such controllers can be used with Animoog? Yes! Here’s the good news from Moog Developer Geert Bevin shared after the recent release of Animoog 2.2.4:

« An important improvement is that Animoog will now properly handle full-rate MIDI coming from the Eigenharp, LinnStrument, Continuum, … The massive amount of expression messages used to sometimes put Animoog into a weird state. We tracked this bug down and fixed it, making Animoog an excellent choice for any controller that supports polyphonic aftertouch! »

Excited? I am! I encourage you to read Jordan’s entry. Amongst the alternatives controllers Jordan reviews you’ll find:

The Haken Continuum:

The Eigenharp Alpha:

The ROLI Seaboard:

And the LinnStrument:

 

That last one looks the most unusual. The LinnStrument is also currently the less expensive of those alternative controllers, the ROLI Seaboard being the second less expensive. Over a year ago already, Geert posted the following short but insightful video testing Animoog with the LinnStrument.

Options for controlling Animoog have been one of my main interests as soon as I got Animoog in my hands. The proof is my first two entries on the official Moog forum, the first one posted less than three weeks after the launch of Animoog in 2011, were specifically asking about controllers. I was lucky to get answers from the community at the time that pointed to two alternative controllers, the Endeavour EVO and the VAX77 from Infinite Response, but those two controllers don’t seem to be available anymore. Today is a day to rejoice, we now have plenty of excellent alternative controllers available to us and Moog is really spending time to ensure those controllers are well supported by Animoog. Great times ahead!

Are you aware of other alternative controllers suitable for Animoog? If so, let us know in the comments below! Cheers — Alex / Satri

Animoog 2.2.3 Released

See, we’re really getting frequent Animoog updates now. Isn’t that great! Version 2.2.3 released today is mainly targeting bugs, and once the main ones will be squashed, we can hope for interesting new features to be implemented (yes, I’m a natural optimist ;-)).

Meanwhile, the official version 2.2.3 release notes:

  • General MIDI Out fixes
  • IAA Midi and CoreMidi now simultaneously trigger events
  • Audiobus support improvements

Enjoy!

Anicontrol and a Custom Animoog Controller

 

Anicontrol Animoog controller

I’ve known about Anicontrol since March, but this latest post on Discchord showing another custom Animoog controller makes me share their existences with you!

The Synth-Project offers a page on Anicontrol, pictured above, an Animoog controller with the iPad inside. From their description:  “It’s specially designed for Moog’s iOS app. And works as a stand alone synth. The front panel is tiltable, like a Minimoog or Voyage. The controller has a 3 octave keyboard, pitch & modwheel […] there are two knobs for the X and Y pad of Animoog. The main front panel has 31 knobs and 5 switches to control the most important parameters of the Animoog app.”

The second similar project is Vladimir Kolomiets’ Animoog Midi Controller shown in the video below.

I admit I am personally fond of using Animoog directly on the iPad. I tried a few times playing Animoog with a midi keyboard, and I dramatically miss the capability to slide fingers in any direction to modulate Animoog sounds. I guess I’d need a giant touchpad-like controller to fully leverage what I like from Animoog’s expressive capabilities.

That said, I’m not representative myself of Animoog players, and clearly there’s capable people putting lots of Love in building their own Animoog controllers. There’s plenty different ways of enjoying Animoog!