Imagine a mixer interface applied to a real instrument, and you’ve got the Vestax Faderboard, a “keyboard-like sampling / modular instrument that operates exclusively on faders.” shing02 (Shingo Annen), the designer of the Faderboard, writes in to talk about his creation and let us know videos of this unusual instrument are now available on YouTube. Here’s the first of the series:

Vestax Faderboard Demo [YouTube playlist, via shing02]
Faderboard Overview [, shing02’s site]
Vestax Faderboard Technical Specs [Vestax Product Page]
shing02 on MySpace

Some additional details from Shingo:

there are internal sound banks (tones and drums kits) that I selected from a chip that’s the same as KORG EM-1. (it was co-developed by Vestax and Korg)

mostly, like in the video, I play long sampled tones in C that I mic’ed from analog synths and organs.

Shingo says he’s largely a producer/MC, but does play “more free jazz style in a trio called Kosmic Renaissance.” (Sounds and video of the band at MySpace.)

Old news (2003), but interesting nonetheless; I’d somehow never come across this instrument. Other examples of playing via faders? Send them in!

  • dead_red_eyes

    Wow … that was really sweet. What a interesting idea. Makes me want to try one out.

  • te2rx

    oh ok… this Vestax thing is a lot less interesting in action than I thought it would be. I've made similar setups in the past using some regular MIDI faders hooked up to some DAW software (or anything I guess). Shing02 would get a far better result if he learned how to play the organ/keyboard for real. There's nothing that he did in this vid that you couldn't do with a MIDI keyboard with a mod wheel/fader controlling the amp level, or with some aftertouch pads e.g. TriggerFinger.

  • dead_red_eyes

    very true te2rx. it's still an interesting idea, but i whole heartedly agree … he should just use a midi keyboard or an organ. i still think there's got to be more possibilities for using the thing, rather than what he was using it for.

  • Chris M

    I don't know what's cooler: the instrument or the fact that shing02 reads the site. He's definitely one of the better Japanese hip-hop artists out there.

  • Chris M

    I don't know what's cooler: the instrument or the fact that shing02 reads the site (my assumption). He's one of the better Japanese hip-hop artists out there.

  • jake

    i think this product is probably marketed towards djs getting into production, who would be more comfortable with faders. they'd still be better off getting a midi keyboard though. i can't imagine it would take too long to outgrow that thing (changing chords would be a bitch).

  • erik

    that's a great idea!

    there is definitely a new lot of possiblities in doing that compared to a midi keyboard, like the pseudo-delay parts. i myself can't collect my thoughts into so few faders, though, but i love the idea.

  • The polarization on this issue to me is interesting in itself. Faders are clearly less *practical* than a keyboard … and yet that's as appealing to some as it is repulsive to others. Fascinating.

  • bliss

    That's wack!

  • anon

    Nice idea… Where's the advantage over existing systems again?

  • te2rx

    the advantages…

    you can control each note individually (in terms of amplitude). Like I've said I've made similar "instruments" before with a generic MIDI fader board — more specifically I made some choir pads. You can fade notes in and out and balance them in a more specific way than you can with a keyboard, so a fader instrument is a pretty neat and controlled way to do slooowww pads. I can't talk specifically about the Vestax Faderboard since I've never used it, and Shing02 in the youtube vid obviously doesn't demonstrate anything like that. Jazzy keyboard solos are better left to keyboards IMO.

  • Hi All,

    thanks Peter for posting and all who gave comments! Granted people got around to watching past the first video, here's my 2 cents:

    The main physical advantage of having faders is that from the long history of scratching and mixing, DJs and hiphop-oriented musicians have applied the fader to create percussive sounds (i.e. scratching can even be expressed as notation). The faderboard provides durable DJ-quality faders that can take the abuse that normal faders on mixing and MIDI consoles probably aren't designed for.

    Secondly, the reason for demonstrating playing melodies etc, is to show that the faderboard is capable of setting a root key and a certain scale. Therefore, once you're locked in the scale, you can't fall off, which is great for beginners who are lost in front of a keyboard layout. If you're a seasoned musician, that may seem like a curse.

    Lastly, the interface isn't meant to replace any other technology, it's there for people who want to try new methods (aka have fun). Most kids who try it end up doing ambient / experimental things with sampled loops etc, not just simple melodies and beat juggling.

    There are many features that didn't make it on the first model. We hope to put together an upgraded version in the near future.



  • 12bitter

    Looks quite similar to playing with a SP1200 in tune mode, when every slider affects its sample tuning.

  • He should just "get a midi keyboard"? I see so with a midi keyboard you can dynamically control the amplitude envelopes for each key individually and add varying degrees of vibrato and other amplitude effects simultaneously on a key by key basis? Last time I checked, a midi keyboard had a set amount of vibrato which was applied to all keys simultaneously via the mod wheel. Aftertouch is generally useless on many keyboards (like my korg prophecy) in that you have to push pretty hard and it's so ineffective it's basically on or off. Even if it did work, it's monophonic aftertouch for nearly every keyboard except the yamaha cs-80 or an esq-80 and a few others.

    This thing is genius for a number of reasons. It's got just enough faders for two parts on a pentatonic scale or one part spanning two octaves (although 12 faders would have been better) and you can not only control the amplitude envelopes and others functions from the built in sampler, but also control other equipment via midi. (watch the videos on his youtube playlist.. he throws down hip hop beats with the faderbox connected to an mpc.)

    In many respects, using faders would allow for more realism in the performance than any midi keyboard ever will, at least for parts that aren't just variations on a piano. You can vary the attack and release on a note by note basis and simultaneously add varying degrees and rates of vibrato and tremolo for each one. More like a violin or a trumpet than a piano. Not to mention all the other possible uses for the faders for creative individuals.

    With regards to chord changes, on the second video he throws down some jazz chord changes without any problems. Frankly, if you can hit three notes on a keyboard, you should be able to slide the same three fingers up and down on faders with an equal amount of dexterity.

    Something like this is far from "a beginners" instrument. A grand piano has 658416 possible 3-note chord combinations, 10 faders gives you 720 combinations. I would actually be more inclined to pick the latter.. it significantly narrows the choices you have to contend with and 720 combinations is more than anyone really needs in a lifetime. If you get bored you can just load new samples re-tuned to a different scale.. whole tone, micro-tuning.. whatever.

    Plus it's looks like a hell of a lot of fun.

  • something else I forgot to add.. on this unit you can change the scale on the fly to any major or minor scale, and some kind of arabic, blue and gypsy tunings and you can transpose it up or down, change the fader curves and the start and end points of the samples from from the front panel while you're playing.

  • thanks, shing02, for the explanation. i think the polarization in the comments might spring from the fact that the video doesn't really show everything the device is capable of. it demonstrates that you can do the sort of thing you can do on a keyboard, and i think it kind of shows off the performers skills, too. 🙂

    but the cool thing about a different interface is that it suggests different creative possibilities. "suggests" is an important word here. there's more to an instrument than what it can and can't do. compositions and performances take advantage of what's *easy* to do with the tool. that's even true with classic instruments.

    it's kind of hard to judge how an instrument will affect the compositional process without having it in hand, though. i think most of us would enjoy fooling around with the thing.

    maybe the clearest negative i can see about the device is that it has to be at least pretty expensive. the components, like faders, are more expensive than keys. a 20 fader version would cost a whole lot more than a 10, whereas adding an extra octave or two on a keyboard is not such a big deal. any idea on what this thing costs or is expected to cost?

  • Michael Una

    Way cool. Any interface that allows you to express musical ideas intuitively and gesturally deserves to be built and explored.

    There have been many discussions in the forums about using "x0x"-style trackers and gameboy sequencers, and I see this as being a similar interface.

    Sometimes, having limitations can make your ideas more robust- you think in different ways than you would otherwise.

  • te2rx

    Peter Kearney — Please make a video so we can watch someone "dynamically control the amplitude envelopes for each key individually and add varying degrees of vibrato and other amplitude effects simultaneously on a key by key basis". I agree it sounds great on paper but I've seen nothing like that demonstrated in the videos. He didn't even need the faderboard to do the MPC part. If you own this thing and have an intimate knowledge of its capabilities, show us!

    this is getting off the subject but for that MIDI keyboard you're looking for with real polyphonic aftertouch, vibrato, and "mod wheel" (basically a full 3D polyphonic controller), there's the Continuum Fingerboard —
    very expensive built-to-order instrument though.

  • wow the fingerboard does look crazy!

    thanks te2rx!

  • eS

    Several months ago I had the chance to try a Faderboard but, while I still think it's a pretty cool and expressive instrument, I admit the only thing I successfully managed to to was "look like a jerk" 😀

    (but…Yes, it's definitely worth trying out if you're a little more familiar with faders than me!) 😉

  • monkfish

    I agree with Shing02 100%. DJ's and many electronic producers prefer switchs and faders and pots to make music. Also thet have trained themselves to use them creatively/dynamically.

    I think it has been shown time and again that the keyboard does not suit a whole lot of people. Some like it but more are put off music because of it. The sooner interaction with music software moves away from ubiquitious keyboard control the better. I see so many students disheartened towards making music because they are faced with a keyboard everytime they sit down to make music. Many students have no interest in equal tempered scales and much prefer tone, texture or drive but then the idea of the keyboard worms its way into their minds and begins to limit their musical aspirations.

    I'd prefer to give them some faders and buttons and a joystick and let them see what they come up with. I bet it would be more interesting and they would get a greater sense of satisfaction from it.

  • it's a sampler right?

    then that means this statement is the best comment:


    Looks quite similar to playing with a SP1200 in tune mode, when every slider affects its sample tuning."

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