It’s a strange and wonderful sampling instrument and live rig, capable of mangling and remixing live, synced to tempo. It’s proof that live computer performance doesn’t have to be in only one tool, or use one technique. It’s a ready-to-play, affordable instrument you can pick up and use. It’s a Reaktor patch gurus can pick apart and learn from, along with other resources from one of Reaktor’s masters. It’s a new blog and an opportunity to talk about live performance. It’s an EP release.

It’s actually all of these things – a tool, but more than a tool. The Finger, a US$79 / EUR 69 instrument, is a product, first and foremost, created by master live electronic performer and hacker Tim Exile. Tim is such a dedicated Reaktor user that he once managed to give himself a repetitive stress injury from connecting patch cords. (Not recommended.) You can run this thing out of the box using the free Kore Player, or get in deeper with a full version of Kore, or get into the patch itself with a copy of Reaktor 5 (also included in Komplete 5 and 6). It’s quite a product, too. I could try to explain it, but I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as Tim does in the video.

I’m not sure I agree with the marketing material’s claim that this is “a new type of live performance and remix effect.” In fact, Reaktor, Max/MSP, and other tools have led to all sorts of similar, original performance tools. Unlike going into a gig with just an Ableton Live set (something I’m doing in, literally, fifteen minutes), having a custom tool means focusing on performance techniques. And “new” hardly matters – Tim is a ninja at working with Reaktor’s deep sound DSP layer, Core (not to be confused with Kore). Whether it’s new or not, this is the ultimate patch from one of Reaktor’s masters. Along with Reaktor creator Stephan Schmitt’s Spark, it’s proof that sound packs from NI – or anyone else for that matter – don’t have to be limited to stock presets.

More than that, though, The Finger is connected to a music release by Tim, and is already triggering discussion of live performance and sound design – issues that go beyond any one tool. Tim has started a new blog to talk about his own take on live performance, starting with more info on his EP and some tracks you can hear:

Other folks I know have picked up The Finger and started to play with it, including the underlying Reaktor patch. Most notably, see Richard Devine transform The Finger from a Sound-Like-Tim-Exile machine into a Richard-Devine-Sonic-Insanity-Generator. (See, just because you use someone else’s tool doesn’t have to mean you need to sound like them.) With Max for Live coming, hackers getting smarter and slicker with open source tools like Processing, ChucK, SoundCollider, and Pd, and techno-literacy again on the rise – more connected than ever by these Interwebs – I think we could be in store for a really wonderful age of creativity, in which people make part of the craft of music making the craft of tool making, as well. Designing a tool, after all, is designing a system, in the same way that composition (in any medium) is about designing a system. Finally, instead of keeping that to ourselves, we can actually share the whole process.

In the meantime, let’s watch those videos, on Reaktor, The Finger, and more.

Richard Devine takes on The Finger:

Native Instruments The Finger vs Richard Devine from Richard Devine on Vimeo.

Tim Exile performing in Reaktor:

Tim shows his Reaktor-based setup – not just The Finger, but beyond:

Related tools:

Updated based on feedback in comments See also…

Sugar Bytes Artillery2, which focuses more on effects – and offers a whopping amount of effects variety, from step-sequenced buffer scratchers to vocoding. As with The Finger, the idea is to map effects to keys.

Rekkerd notes that Sugar Bytes has just discounted Artillery2 to 50% through October. Devoted loop manglers will buy both. I’m going to wait for a Richard Devine video in which he routes Artillery2, Lucifer, and The Finger together in one chain, then randomizes all the settings – your move, Richard.

The Lucifer plug-in is now discontinued, but Devine Machine offer a range of related looper/performance tools – from the practical tools to the manglers.

The basic ideas here I think are worth copying: making use of the keyboard to control things live rather than having modulation all running automatically, routing different effects together for mangled results, and loop recording and effects that are synced it time are all useful concepts to combine. I’d love to see people push those concepts in various directions, and the exact combination of ingredients you want is likely to be personal, so it’s well-suited to DIY concoctions, too.

  • Wallace Winfrey

    The approach (keys assigned to different effects, multiple keys == multiple effects) and the glitched-out sound reminds me alot of Steve Duda's Lucifer (which Steve continues to release updates for to registered users).

    Looks pretty cool though.

  • Mitchell Kehoe

    The whole thing kind of strikes me as a less intuitive, less polished, but cheaper and heavier on the granular version of sugar-bytes artillery, frankly. I think I'd rather grab that just to avoid the whole "having to run it in reaktor or kore" thing.

  • This is very cool. This would be a clever and (and easy) workflow to implement in SuperCollider.

    Also, if your getting an RSI from your synthesis environment, it's probably time to stop playing with graphical patchers.

  • @Bjorn – or (cough) implement segmented patch cords.

    It's definitely not new conceptually, but at the same time, I think Tim's implementation is really sharp. And I'd love to see more ideas along these lines.

  • Designing a tool, after all, is designing a system, in the same way that composition (in any medium) is about designing a system

    I have been thinking about this concept, too. A programmed music system is similar to jazz a tune, because they both present a set of constraints aand possibilities. The same goes for designing musical instruments, musical theories, musical software, games, etc. A composition is actually just a specific path down a branching structure. Improvisation is the act of traveling through this structure or network.


  • Love this. Am buiding this as a Reason Combinator.

  • derHa

    "I think we could be in store for a really wonderful age of creativity, in which people make part of the craft of music making the craft of tool making, as well."

    if people would finally do this at all!

    i see just another beatslicer-multi-fx here; another multitouch table there; and oh, sure, over there, there's another ableton live add-on. and don't start talking about iphone apps, i am talking about making music.

    but something new? i can't see it.

    i really would love to see new tools, pushing creativity to a new level, but all i see is just the same cooking recipe that others cooked during the last half decade.

    okay to be honest, i know there are new things. especially in the wide field of musical toys; but the breakthrough studio and or live tool, the new revolution (the one that would be comparable to the revolution in computer music that happened when ableton showed up all these years ago – it's been so long already!) is yet missing, isn't it?

    i don't want to diminish the finger, which seems to be a good bang for the buck (since e.g. sugarbytes' plugins are slightly more expensive), and i like the idea of NI coming up with "smaller" products again (though i dislike the idea of being fixed to the kore player). but your remark about the new age of creativity is what i'm thinking about for months now, and i feel that i need to add my thoughts, rather than criticize yours.

    so in short words: yes, we are at the edge of a wonderful age of creativity, but imo we need more tools (more than live, beatslicing and multitouch), and it's not anyones cup of tea to craft new tools themselves in max or pd. i see the industry in the duty of trying something new too!

    (where is the live playable spectral delay of 2009? 😉 )

  • What i most like about this tool is how Tim uses it, you can really see in his videos how he "lives" music

    very nice tool, i guess its also a bit inspired by the access virus atomizer, which can do similar stuff, but not as complex

  • buffer

    im going to get this purely from richard devines vid. looks to me like he's hooked it up to his lemur and let it go ballistic. time to the same:)

  • And why nobody mentioned Sugar Bytes Artillery2?!

  • buffer

    ok been playing around with this thing for that last few hours and my 2 cents, this thing sounds (better) and seems more playable than Artillery2 IMO. I own both but this thing is pretty fun…..and probably a little more adventuress as well.

  • elmech

    @m-clis. check like… the first post. but i agree. seems to be EXACTLY the same tool. Give behringer hell for aping a website design, but drop all sorts of love on ni for ripping off one of the best tools from one of the only really innovative plugin makers out there. It don't make no sense.

  • +1 on Sugar Bytes Artillery2 that does this since a long time.

    Now someone should really do a VST-based effect chainer using this concept, support plugin preset recall and intelligent mapping.

  • diversgens

    i just modify the blackbox to control the four "Twist" knob of The Finger inside Kore … very easy and funny

  • I'm a big fan of the developers of Lucifer; note that they have moved on to bigger and better things:

    Look, the basic idea here is to hook looping and modulation together into a live keyboard input. I would think that concept likely predates any of these tools in some form – in someone's Max patch somewhere, etc.

    The thing about Tim's work in Reaktor is that he does quite a lot to make it highly efficient. Doing that in a patching environment is a challenge.

  • Also, someone correct me if I'm wrong – I'm familiar with those tools, but not intimately so – I don't believe the routing of modulation here is quite the same, which makes a big difference.

  • (Fixed the second video, which I had not embedded – had the first video twice!)

  • Its a really interesting debate… the new era of music technology… of instrument-maker-musicians. I think it's here, and I think there are lots of different ways of going about it. My opinion is that the era of the one big do-it-all app might be on its way out. There's a lot to be said for being able to integrate different apps in much closer ways, which at the moment the plugin interfaces available don't allow… but then Max for Live is on its way. Everyone's waiting excitedly to see what happens there.

    From my perspective the main thing to focus on is the music and its performance. It's already possible to do all manner of things that people dream of doing with music tech.. it has been for years. What's waiting to happen is the explosion of new, tech-savvy musician-performers who are up for getting up there on stage and making technology the platform to present their music, rather than the other way round.

    This is hard to do… I've been trying it for years but I still don't feel like I've succeeded. If you're passionate about tech, it's all too easy for your musical ideas to melt limply into second place.

    Thanks for the article, Peter, and for all the kind comments. Hope you all enjoy The Finger 🙂

  • Artistic Creativity is always in the Eye of the Beholder.

    and even Einstein said Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration

  • I don't care who came up with it first, it's a real breath of fresh air to me.

    It's that age-old trade-off between making something "intuitive" or "powerful".

    When I build a effect/trick with various controls, I always get creatively constipated by trying to choose how many/which parameter to give tie to actual knobs/controllers, and which to leave set.

    "None" makes a pretty convincing answer.

  • Also…

    It's hilarious that, in the "finger" video, he explains how it works at about 1:30… In his analogy, the first effect he plugs into is a TUNER !

  • apoclypse

    I got this over the weekend and decided to rout Maschine through. It was really impressive and my cpu didn't go over 40% on my MBP. I was using both in Kore. I think this Live and Maschine all running together would be perfect. I'm more interested in it as a producer than a live performer, I can see some interesting beat looping and granulation with this. The only thing I have to mention is that the output from The finger compared to maschine wasn't as loud. It could be due to a difference in sound engine in Reaktor.

  • > Einstein said Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration

    Umm… that was Thomas Edison.

  • Bad news for PPC owners though…

    ""after our Reaktor developers have investigated the crash of the Reaktor

    ensemble provided with The Finger on PowerPC, it became obvious that its cause

    is located very deep within the low level program code of Reaktor and

    therefore can not be solved in a short term. We are sorry for the

    inconveniences and would like to offer you a full refund for your purchase.

    Please let us know if you prefer a refund or if you want to continue using

    this product on another computer (the product runs fine on all IntelMac based

    computers), or if you would like to choose a different product in the same

    price category for exchange."

  • @RichardL / @Christian K.: indeed, Edison, mis-attributed to Einstein (though maybe Einstein quoted Edison?)

    Einstein apparently did say: "When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity."

    …which actually doesn't make his Theory of Relativity any easier to understand, but…

  • And an hour of switching patch cables will seem like a lifetime of repetitive stress injury.

  • @Bjorn Westergard "Also, if your getting an RSI from your synthesis environment, it’s probably time to stop playing with graphical patchers."

    Agreed. The attraction with reaktor is the wealth of pre-built synthesis and sampling objects. It's a question of balancing reinventing the wheel (with a text based programming language) vs RSI (graphical patching that doesn't scale).

    re. Artillery2, from the website I didn't spot any signs that it has the same dynamic routing structure as Finger has. It's a comparable, but different tool.

    I think that the broader subject of pursuing greater transparency in EM performance is a very interesting one; this is what i take 'the now wave' meme to be about. I'm giving a short talk and performance related to this idea in Rotterdam this Wednesday:

  • so…we gotta pay for this??

    what happened to the reaktor user library??

    no longer a community of sharing??

    i don't know..i'm a bit surprised that somebody backed by NI wouldn't be generous to just put this out on the library…


  • @Rchard L.: Yes, now that you mention it, Edison sounds correct. Thanks for pointing that out.

    As I hope you were getting from my comments, that creativity isn't always about creating something new from thin air. I'd almost say it rarely, or even never is. I believe it is usually incremental, based on previous knowledge & work, when a new association is sudden visible.

    Some of the greatest innovations in the history of mankind were the result of taking existing ideas & technologies, and putting them together in a new way or sequence. For example, Gutenberg's printing press were all components he didn't invent, he just put them all together in one system, and mankind changed forever.

    What's this 'The Now Wave' about? Most google results seem to jus tpoint to Tim's song.

  • @k1ru: Unlike the Reaktor User Library, people who don't own Reaktor can use this — via Kore Player, for instance. I think if you really want a tool to be free, then you should make it entirely free — e.g., use Pd / SuperCollider / ChucK / Csound, etc., all of which have free licenses. If you want to commercialize your creation, then that's your choice. Tim, for his part, has done quite a lot of sharing of ensembles (including in the User Library), techniques, and the like – I've never known him not to be generous with his knowledge.

  • Tek


    Reaktor has been around longer than the Artiller plugin.

    NI didn't build Tim Exile's Reaktor patch. Tim built Tim's Reaktor patch.

  • quantize

    Lucifer2 is still in private development…Steve sells it on request. It's still the best

    Finger is a now old idea repackaged, Reaktor patches aside (and really, they were hardly as 'friendly' as Lucifer or Artillery)

    Awful bloody name too..

  • TechLo

    Thanks for 3.5 minutes of useless noise, Richard.

  • @ Pete

    you're right…he has given the library quite a few things…didn't mean to come off like that…if anything i feel not for not contributing anything to the library myself…i'm quite behumbled knowing that my creations don't even add up to whatever tim's put on the lib. but i still certainly appreciate the contributions on the lib.

    i'm a reaktor 5 fan…paid my money for it…just want to make sure that it keeps giving back to me…:D:D

  • I love seeing once-obscure methods and controls gain popularity through mass consumer adoption. I wish that could've happened for the (Roland) D-Beam and breath control, but on other fronts, I enjoy knowing accelerometers and multi-touch are accessible via the iPhone and other devices influenced by it.

    In a parallel vein, "effects playable as notes" is an incredibly simple, powerful notion. And closely related, to, say, keyswitching between articulations for orchestral sample sets (and synthies like Melohman). But implementations continue to evolve — so with each tool that brings, shapes it forth in a unique vision (Tim Exile + NI has certainly got cred!), the more innovation can be founded upon this bedrock. I dare not say it'll one day be as ubiquitous as pedal stomp effects, but awareness is growing.

    Power to those who can take a foundation of deep maths and top it with controls suited for realtime performance.

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  • seadnamc

    go on tim. look forward to seeing you at BLOC '10.

  • brian hedges

    its like a horse,it can do clipity clop,some say its impossible,but they are normally farmers

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